Wisconsin's Best Old Fashioned co*cktail (2024)

Bourbon or brandy? Sour or sweet? Those are the million dollar questions.

If you’re ordering an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin, brandy sweet is the correct answer. That’s because the Brandy Old Fashioned is the (un)official co*cktail of Wisconsin. Nationally, Old Fashioneds are typically made with rye or bourbon whiskey, but the true Wisconsin Old Fashioned is made with brandy -- Korbel by tradition.

The Old Fashioned co*cktail dates back to the 1800s when the bartender would give you the bottle of whiskey, rum, gin or whatever to fill your own glass after he prepared the sugar, bitters and water, and it was originally called the Whiskey co*cktail.

Over time, bartenders put their own twist on the Whiskey co*cktail. They added new liqueurs and absinthe, which made a “fancy” and “improved” co*cktail, but nostalgia set in and many craved the unimproved, simple old-fashioned drink. And so, the Whiskey co*cktail became known as the Old Fashioned.

You may be wondering how brandy entered the scene when most people were drinking whiskey.

Take a trip back to the World’s Fair Chicago in 1893. Industry was booming and Chicago and Milwaukee were developing at rapid rates while boasting incredible potential. The World’s Fair was the coolest, most exciting thing to happen to the region, so naturally a lot of Wisconsinites attended. (It’s important to note that Wisconsin was highly populated with Germans at this time.)

Korbel launched their brandy and sold it at the World’s Fair, where said German Wisconsinites were in attendance. Given Germans’ cultural preference for brandy over whiskey, they bought Korbel brandy by the case at the World’s Fair and took it home to Wisconsin. To this day Wisconsin buys copious amounts -- roughly a third of the brandy Korbel produces every year goes to Wisconsin.

Now, if you remember, the liquor in the Whiskey co*cktail/Old Fashioned was interchangeable, so those brandy-loving Wisconsinites swapped out whiskey for brandy and the Brandy Old Fashioned was born. And that was that. America had its Old Fashioned, Wisconsin had its Brandy Old Fashioned.

The Wisconsin way to make a Brandy Old Fashioned is to add the sugar, bitters, oranges and cherries to the glass and muddle until the sugar dissolves. Add ice, brandy and Sprite, 7Up, Squirt, sour mix or seltzer depending on whether you want sweet, sour or seltzer. The Wisconsin default is sweet, so add Sprite or 7Up and you know it’ll be good.

Today, Wisconsin is still committed to the co*cktail and it’s seen throughout the state. Starting this season, there are Brandy Old Fashioneds on tap at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Brandy Old Fashioneds. On tap. Commitment. You can also get one at pretty much every bar or restaurant in the state. More commitment. In a state laced with tradition, the Wisconsin Old Fashioned stands to remain a brandy co*cktail made the old-fashioned way.

So, when you go to another state and order a Brandy Old Fashioned, and the bartender asks, “Are you from Wisconsin?” You can proudly smile and nod because that’s your co*cktail and everyone knows it. But beware, it probably won’t be as good as an Old Fashioned you can get in the cheese state.

Or you can visit your favorite steak joint in Wisconsin and we’ll make it right every time.

Wisconsin's Best Old Fashioned co*cktail (2024)


What is a famous Wisconsin co*cktail? ›

Wisconsin crowns the brandy old fashioned as the official state co*cktail Lawmakers in Wisconsin have passed a resolution declaring the state's official co*cktail: the brandy old fashioned.

What is the difference between an Old Fashioned and an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin? ›

For the unfamiliar, the old fashioned co*cktail in just about every place other than Wisconsin is traditionally made with a whiskey, like bourbon, sugar and bitters. But in Wisconsin, brandy usually replaces whiskey — and it's most often poured over a mixture of muddled cherries, orange slices, sugar and bitters.

What is the state drink of Wisconsin old fashioned? ›

a wisconsin old fashioned is not your typical old fashioned; it muddles sugar, bitters and orange with brandy and finishes with a crisp pour of soda for a sparkling version of a classic.

How do you order an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin? ›

If you're ordering an Old Fashioned in Wisconsin, brandy sweet is the correct answer. That's because the Brandy Old Fashioned is the (un)official co*cktail of Wisconsin.

What is Wisconsin's signature drink? ›

Wisconsin's Twist on a Classic — The Brandy Old Fashioned

Did you know Wisconsin consumes the most brandy per capita in the country? Part of the reason is due to our official state co*cktail, the Brandy Old Fashioned. It's the Old Fashioned co*cktail you know and love, with brandy in place of whiskey.

What alcohol is only sold in Wisconsin? ›

Let's take a look at the history, and why the beer is only sold in Wisconsin. The origin story: First released in 1993, Edel Pils and Wisconsin Belgian Red were the original beers of New Glarus Brewing. The brewery didn't start to gain its iconic status until the 1997 launch of Spotted Cow.

Why does Wisconsin drink brandy old fashioned? ›

Starting as country road speakeasies during Prohibition, the dance halls turned restaurants are a staple of Wisconsin family life. “Everyone grew up going to supper clubs, and you always drink an Old Fashioned,” says Rob Peterson, marketing director of Door County Distillery.

What alcohol is best for an Old Fashioned? ›

A classic Old Fashioned co*cktail calls for rye whiskey or bourbon. We like to stick with reliable, mid-range bottles. Four Roses is a fantastic everyday choice, especially for the price. Bulleit is popular, too (we've got their 10-year rye right now).

Is bourbon or whiskey better for Old Fashioned? ›

Bourbon or rye whiskey

Consequently, some traditionalists insist an Old-Fashioned should be made with rye, but bourbon is equally correct and the choice of whiskey should be entirely up to the personal taste of the drinker. Bourbon makes a mellow, slightly sweeter drink, while rye adds more spice and kick.

What brandy is best for Wisconsin old fashioned? ›

I like Wisconsin's fun little twists on the classic old fashioned. Just be aware that if you're in the presence of Wisconsinites passionate about their state co*cktail, the only acceptable brandy is Korbel! Easy to make.

Is an old fashioned a girl drink? ›

Similarly, for the past few decades, the old-fashioned has been seen as a man's drink, but after Prohibition, the old-fashioned was one of the most popular drinks ordered by women. Understanding this connection between women and co*cktail culture places women back into a story that popular culture has removed them from.

What drink is Milwaukee known for? ›

Whether it's on tap, in bottles, cans or kegs, beer is what "Made Milwaukee Famous." From legendary German brewers Blatz, Pabst, Schlitz and Miller to modern craft brew masters, Milwaukee's beer heritage and culture continues.

What is the official co*cktail of Wisconsin? ›

State lawmakers are proposing a resolution declaring the Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned the official state co*cktail. If you aren't from Wisconsin, you're probably wondering how an Old Fashioned could be any different in the Badger State compared to any other. It's all because of brandy.

What does ordering an Old Fashioned say about you? ›

Dating back to the 1800s, the Old Fashioned was a popular drink served at Gentlemen's Clubs and is often associated with an aristocratic and more mature drinker. Those who pick an Old Fashioned today are said to enjoy a more traditional way of life but still have an air of risk and challenge to their personality.

What drink is close to an Old Fashioned? ›

Sazerac. The Sazerac is probably the closest drink to an Old Fashioned, that isn't an Old Fashioned. So if you like one, bets are you'll like the other. A traditional Old Fashioned uses bourbon, while a Sazerac uses rye whisky which makes it more peppery.

What is the Wisconsin WAP drink? ›

A mixture of a hard liquor, usually Vodka, and a mix of a fruit drink such as Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch.

What is the state of Wisconsin beverage? ›

VirginiaMilk (state beverage)1982
George Washington's Rye Whiskey (state spirit)2017
WisconsinMilk (state beverage)1987
33 more rows

What is the most popular liquor in Wisconsin? ›

And finally, while they aren't as popular as the other alcoholic drinks above, our data showed that gin is most popular in New York, rum is most popular in Hawaii and Louisiana, and brandy is most popular in Wisconsin.

What drink was invented in Wisconsin? ›

History of the Wisconsin Old Fashioned

It is said that during prohibition, people started making Old Fashioneds with muddled fruit to mask the taste of the bad bourbon. And for some reason, Wisconsinites never stopped after prohibition ended!

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