Cocktail Legend: The Hennessy Crusta

It’s Hennessy’s 250th Anniversary and to mark the occasion Hennessy are pulling out all the (bottle) stops, literally. We’re talking a new and special blend, a resurrected cocktail from 250 years ago and a mother freakin time machine baby!

The Hennessy Crusta

Ever heard of a Brandy Crusta? (Didn’t think so), well it’s time to start paying attention because this beautiful cocktail from the 1840s is getting a serious shake up. To mark Hennessy’s 250th anniversary (or its quarter-millennial year if you wanna get geeky), Hennessy is taking it over, so if you wanna stay on top of your cocktail game this summer then it’s all about the Hennessy Crusta. Got it?

What’s the story?

The Brandy Crusta was invented way back in the 1840s at the Jewel of the South bar in New Orleans. While not up there with the likes of the Sazerac or the French 75, this cocktail, invented by Joseph Santini, was the first cocktail to use citrus, and so paved the way for a well-known category of drinks called sours (we’ve all been there, right?). Brandy was a brilliant cocktail component and lent its services to many cocktails that have been around for nearly 200 years. It's definitely a spirit that has stood the test of time.

How did it become famous?

It’s basically the God-Father of the Sidecar, and the Great-Uncle of the Old-Fashioned… yeah, that got your attention. With its combination of brandy, curacao, sugar syrup, lemon juice, bitters and lemon rind, it was the first drink that combined citrus, with spirits and sweeteners to create a heady mixture of perfection, and the rest is history.

As we all know, decent drinks are as much about appearance as they are taste, and Santini got to grips with this before most. He served it in a stemmed wine glass and sexed it up with a sugar rim and a large spiral of lemon inside the glass – all pretty innovative for the 1800s. The glass was dipped in lemon juice and the sugar crusted around the rim, which is probably how it got its name.

What happened?

It made it to Prohibition but sadly didn’t make it through. It was a little more complicated to make, and lost centre stage to increasingly popular drinks like the Manhattan and the Sazerac. But all that’s set to change, with the dawning of the new and improved version… The Hennessy Crusta.

Happy Birthday Hennessy

To mark Hennessy’s 250th anniversary (happy birthday to you…) it’s taking over the Brandy Crusta and shaking a bit of life into it. With a good measure of Hennessy, as well as lemon juice, sugar syrup and Maraschino, the ingredients are shaken with ice and double strained into a beautiful stemmed wine glass served with a traditional sugar crusted rim and an elegant lemon twist.

What does it taste like?

It’s got complex flavours of bitter orange and cherry, finished with the rich and subtle character of Hennessy Fine de Cognac, and it gets a big BarChick seal of approval.

Where can you try it?

The Blue Bar at The Berkeley Hotel

Discreet and luxurious (just like BarChick) this is the ultimate place to kick back with a Crusta. Find Swanand, the head bartender, with a larger than life personality and drinks to rival only the very best. After spending plenty of time with Max Helm (Hennessy Brand Ambassador) perfecting the Hennessy Crusta, he shakes it so well we’re convinced he was mates with Joseph Santini (in a former life). With Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Peychaud’s Bitters, fresh lemon juice, Maraschino cherry Luxardo, simple syrup and orange liqueur, it’s a delicious and iconic drink, so come and try one with Swanand and “get merry and dance of tunes of Brandy Crusta with Hennessy Fine de Cognac”, don’t mind if we do!

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Old Tom & English

One of the newer kids on London’s cocktail scene, this slick basement bar will take you right back to the days when Crustas were on everyone’s lips. Seek out Luke, he’s one of the talented guys behind the bar, and is super excited to bring this forgotten drink back to life. He fixed us up with a twist on the Crusta that went a little like this - Hennessey VS infused with hazelnuts and dark cherries, fresh lemon juice, orange liqueur and bitters. Word of warning, one will not be enough so it’s a good job there are mega sharing plates to hand.

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The Booking Office at The St Pancras Hotel

This bar is so good, you’ll happily miss your train for another round or two. The original ticketing hall has been given a pimping, with British Empire inspired cocktails created by Tom Jolly and Hennessy Crustas to boot. Swing by The Hennessy Time Barrel on the concourse to send your 15 second message to the future then relax in here and drink the centuries old recipe.

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Want to have a go at shaking it for yourself? Watch Max Helm, Hennessy's very own UK ambassador make his past, present and future twist on this classic…