Wisconsin Old Fashioned
The Wisconsin Old Fashioned is a regional variation of the classic cocktail, the Old Fashioned, which is traditionally made with whiskey or bourbon, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus. The Wisconsin version of this cocktail has a unique twist that substitutes brandy as the base spirit instead of whiskey, making it an iconic drink in the state.
While the traditional Old Fashioned remains popular worldwide, the Wisconsin Old Fashioned is a testament to how regional variations of cocktails can develop and become part of a local culture's identity. So whether you're from Wisconsin and simply call it an "Old Fashioned", or are just now discovering a different way to enjoy an old favorite, you can raise your glass to the spirit of ingenuity.
(Originally published 10/6/23)
1 Sugar cube (1 teaspoon sugar)
4 Dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. Brandy
Lemon lime soda
Muddle the sugar cube, bitters, orange slice, and a cherry in your Hybrid Cocktail Glass.
Add the brandy and swirl to combine. Add ice.
Top off the glass with lemon lime soda. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
You can use different sodas to compliment the taste you are going for. While a traditional Wisconsin Old Fashioned calls for lemon lime soda which yields a sweeter flavor, you can also try grapefruit soda for a sour variation, a 50/50 split of soda water and lemon lime soda to create a press, or plain soda water which allows the brandy more room to shine.
Some recipes call for brown sugar cubes.
History of the Wisconsin Old Fashioned
While the history of a cocktail can be difficult to trace, some suggest that the cocktail first became popular in Wisconsin after the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, IL where Californians Francis Korbel and his brothers showcased their brandy and the German immigrants who traveled from Milwaukee for the World’s Fair were delighted to bring back the spirit to the Badger State.
However, a story published in the Milwaukee Journal the following year suggested that the most popular cocktail in Milwaukee in 1894 was the Old Fashioned made with whiskey. It is believed that brandy’s big entrance into Wisconsin did not happen until around 1940 when Wisconsin liquor distributors purchased large quantities of brandy from California.
According to TravelWisconsin.com, Wisconsinites consume more than half the world’s brandy.
Do You Have What it Takes?
Visit Nielsen’s Hall in Washington Island, WI to join the legendary Bitters Club by drinking a full shot of Angostura bitters.