Raise a Glass

Sugar Baby

The Oyster Society in Marco Island puts a modern, sparkling spin on a 19th-century New Orleans classic.

BY September 1, 2021
Inspired by the Brandy Crusta, this sugar-rimmed cocktail blends Cognac and blood orange liqueur, and is topped with Champagne.
(Photography by Anna Nguyen)

New Orleans is famous for cocktails like the Sazerac, Vieux Carré and Hurricane, and it’s also birthed lesser-known creations, like the Brandy Crusta. Invented in the 19th century by Joseph Santini, owner and bartender at the Jewel of the South bar, the classic drink is still served at a resurrected, French Quarter iteration of the legendary institution. Not long after its creation, bartender and author Jerry Thomas memorialized the cocktail in his seminal Bar-tenders Guide: How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks in 1862. More recently, the team at The Oyster Society in Marco Island got hold of the recipe, tweaked the name and elevated the ingredients.

The so-called Social Crusta is an apt fit for The Oyster Society’s bar program, which emphasizes retro, often-forgotten recipes, as well as modern creations. “I focus on spins of classic cocktails, adding my personal touch,” Francesco Serravalle, the restaurant’s bar director, general manager and co-owner, says. For the Social Crusta cocktail, Serravalle’s team upgraded the brandy to a fine Cognac, replaced the prescribed orange Curaçao with Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur and eliminated the bitters. For a crowning touch, they added a Champagne topper. “Solerno compliments Cognac, blending very well with the vanilla and caramel notes from the oak aging, rounding and softening the spirit,” Serravalle says. “[Bitters are] not needed; the cocktail is already complex.”

As for the name, “Crusta” refers to the sugar coating on the rim. “Social” is, according to Serravalle, “mostly for spin, because we believe it is a perfect cocktail for socializing and mingling.”

Pairing well with the restaurant’s namesake half-shell specialties, the drink is especially refreshing this time of year, Serravalle says: “September is still hot, and the drink works well thanks to acidity from the lemon and crispness from the bubbles.”   

Social Crusta

Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1 ½ ounces Camus Cognac
  • ½ ounce Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
  • ½ ounce Luxardo cherry liqueur
  • Peel and juice of one lemon
  • Dry Champagne to top

Wet the rim and sides of a Champagne glass with lemon juice, then dip in sugar to create an even crust. Using a vegetable peeler, cut a long, continuous twist of lemon from top to bottom. Carefully position the twist on the rim of the prepared glass.

Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until cold, about 15 seconds. Strain into the prepared glass. Top with Champagne to fill glass. 

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