three wisconsin brandy old fashioned cocktails, each topped with an orange slice and different garnish skewer: cherries, olives and pickled mushrooms

We have a lot of unique food traditions here in Wisconsin. From these unconventional brandy old fashioned cocktails to chicken booyah and deep fried cheese curds (which I will attempt to recreate without cheese), there are so many awesome foods I want to teach your about. So I’ve decided to start The Supper Club Series to share classic Wisconsin recipes and recreate them without milk when needed.

overhead shot of three brandy old fashioned cocktails, the front cocktail topped with a skewer of three maraschino cherries, a jigger beside the glasses

The first in the series is Wisconsins’s most classic cocktail: the brandy old fashioned. A traditional old fashioned cocktail uses whiskey, but here, we make them with brandy.

The reasons aren’t really clear, since most of this sort of stuff gets lost to history. Popular theories are that brandy was more familiar to German immigrants and that brandy was more readily available during prohibition times, but I’ll leave the historical internet research to you. Just know that you can order your old fashioned with either brandy or whiskey and no one will think twice about it.

Another thing that makes a Wisconsin old fashioned different than its more widespread counterpart is the “wash”. A wash is basically when you add soda or seltzer to a cocktail after mixing it. I’ve described the different ways we use this wash below, and you can choose whichever option you like best.

More cocktails fun:  ginger saketinis / jam cocktails / pamplemousse fizz

wisconsin brandy old fashioned ingredients
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Here’s what you’ll need to make a brandy old fashioned:

  • Old fashioned glasses
  • Muddler
  • Jigger
  • Cocktail picks
Dairy Free Tip: Not all alcohol is dairy free. Please make sure you’re choosing brands that aren’t processed using milk products. I normally reference this site’s database to see if the product I’m looking for is vegan, or to see if there’s a safe alternative. In this case, Korbel brandy, one of Wisconsin’s more popular brands, isn’t vegan friendly, so I’ve chosen a different option. This is a great please to search for vegan friendly alcohol.
process shot, overhead view of an old fashioned glass with an orange slice, maraschino cherry and sugar cube in the bottom. orange slices and maraschino cherries in separate bowls next to the glass, more empty glasses in the background

How to make a Wisconsin brandy old fashioned

Muddle the flavors. In an old fashioned glass, muddle an orange slice, maraschino cherry with a little bit of grenadine from the jar, sugar cube and a few dashes of bitters. Traditionally, Angostura bitters are used, but you can use another flavor if you want.

Add brandy and ice. On top of your muddled ingredients, add in 1 jigger of brandy (or a little more if you want). Stir the liquor around, and fill your glass with ice.

Top it off and garnish. Read below to find out how we customize and garnish a brandy old fashioned in Wisconsin.

pouring club soda into a wisconsin style brandy old fashioned cocktail (two glasses behind)

Sweet, sour or press: wash it your way

To make this a true Wisconsin style old fashioned, you have a two traditional choices once you muddle your drink, add your liquor and ice. Sweet or sour. If you want to make a brandy old fashioned sweet, you would top your drink with lemon-lime soda like Sprite or 7Up. For a brandy old fashioned sour, you would use grapefruit soda, like 50/50 or Squirt.

But, my favorite way to make this cocktail is a press. Instead of soda, I top my drink with half lemon-lime soda and half seltzer water (or club soda). I order mine like this to cut down on the amount of sugar, but I also think it lets the other flavors in the cocktail shine through.

three wisconsin brandy old fashioned cocktails, the front cocktail topped with a skewer of three maraschino cherries, a jigger and bottle of bitters beside the glasses

Garnish your brandy old fashioned like a Wisconsinite

Regardless of how you like your old fashioned, there’s one thing you don’t want to skip, and that’s the garnish. If you order an old fashioned at a bar in Wisconsin, you’ll be asked what kind of garnish you want. Cherries are an obvious choice (and what I always go with), but lots of people choose olives or pickled mushrooms. Good bars will even stock pickled Brussels sprouts, so you could choose that as well.

If you’re making these drinks at home, cherries and olives are a great start. If you like and will use the pickled mushrooms, get those, too.

overhead shot of three wisconsin brandy old fashioned cocktails, each topped with an orange slice and different garnish skewer: cherries, olives and pickled mushrooms

More Wisconsin inspired recipes:

Print

Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned

Skip the supper club and make this classic cocktail at home. This Wisconsin brandy old fashioned recipe can be made sweet or sour. Swap whiskey if you want, just don’t forget the cherries.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
  • Category: Cocktail

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 maraschino cherry + 1 teaspoon cherry juice
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 46 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 1/2 ounces brandy
  • Ice
  • Lemon-lime, grapefruit soda or seltzer water

Instructions

  1. In an old fashioned glass, muddle orange slice, cherry, cherry juice, sugar cube and bitters.
  2. Add brandy and fill glass with ice.
  3. Top with soda of choice.

Keywords: old fashioned, brandy, Wisconsin, cocktail

Last Updated on November 5, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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21 Comments

  1. Ninety-Eight percent of all brandy old fashioneds made at a bar, supper club or at home in Wisconsin are a brandy old fashioned sweet with 7 Up. Cherry and orange as a garnish are traditional. I like to muddle in the same way and use Bittercup Orange Bitters, a blood orange along with a cognac or a nice brandy. Currently I am using Torres 10 from Spain in my brandy old fashioneds. I am certainly okay with V.O., Christian Brothers, Korbel that you get at a bar or supper club yet I enjoy my twist to Wisconsin in a glass. I just love a good brandy old fashioned, especially in the company of friends and family.

  2. May aunt born and raised in Oconto county made her brandy Old Fashioned with home made pickled green beans….the only way to fly!!

  3. I am from Wisconsin and my family has made brandy old fashioned for years. Never heard of concerning myself with “Dairy” free brandy – being from the Dairy State. The pickled garnish options are good. However please proofread your site: this site might be a good “place” to search though it’s definitely not a “please to search”. And I always drink mine in a glass unless I use a plastic cup out at the cabin – aka – a shack – as they call them in Cheesehead territory.

    1. Agreed. The author seems much more concerned with being “politically correct” than actually correct. Maybe that flies in Bayview and The People’s Republic of Madistan, but it REEEEEEALLY grates on the rest of us in the State. 👎🏻

      1. I’m sorry, but “the author” is a person who was raised in Green Bay and still lives here. I think I am more than qualified to write about Wisconsin cocktails. There’s no need to be rude and mock the political correctness of my article. It’s intent was to teach people who don’t live in our state how to make this unique old fashioned cocktail. I’m sorry if it bothers you that we have a dairy allergy in our family, but you don’t have to be here.

      2. You know what grates on the actual rest of the state? Idiots like you who are such a special snowflake that you get offended that someone has a dairy allergy.

    2. Sorry, but I was actually raised in Green Bay and still live here. I’m not sure why it bothers you that I wrote this article for people who don’t live in Wisconsin, but I’m curious as to why you are looking up a recipe if you are such an expert.

      As for the dairy free alcohol, this website is a dairy free site, and my husband is allergic to dairy so we have to go out of our way to find safe liquor since allergens aren’t required to be labeled in alcohol.

      Either way, I hope you enjoy your old fashioned no matter how you make them, and please keep your rude comments to yourself.

  4. My mom makes them with apricot brandy and simple syrup (instead of the sugar cube). They are AMAZING!

  5. Thanks for the article, giving me different ideas for making my old fashioned, love the garnishes!

  6. To the pits of hell with the hater Karens. Great article and good recipe too! I recently moved back to Wisconsin and am happy to be where folks treasure the Old Fashion Drink from the north woods! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. My best friend I’d from and lives in WI, and the first time I visited, we went out for fish fry Friday and my very first Brandy Old Fashioned sweet. And I’m hooked, that’s all I drank for a week, still drinking them. Mmmmm

  8. No self respecting Wisconsinite would be caught serving a brandy old fashioned sweet with Aristocrat brandy. Real Wisconsinites use Korbel brandy. Just saying.

  9. Love this recipe! It’s exactly what you’ll get in a traditional Wisconsin supper club. We visited Walworth County last summer to check out all the beautiful display gardens and after a day of hiking, a brandy fashioned and fish fry hit the spot!