If there’s one cocktail that signifies everything Wisconsin, it’s the Brandy Old-Fashioned. While the old fashioned has been enjoyed throughout the U.S. since it was created during the 19th century, Wisconsin put a twist on the original recipe by using brandy instead of whiskey or bourbon.
Wisconsin’s love of brandy reportedly began in 1893, when the sweet liquor was first introduced to the Midwest at the Chicago World’s Fair.
The recipe for a Wisconsin Old Fashioned typically includes brandy, soda, bitters, sugar, and a garnish like an orange peel and cherry. There are three ways to order a Wisconsin Old Fashioned, which differ depending on the type of soda used. The ways you can order a Wisconsin Old Fashioned include:
- Sweet – brandy mixed with 7-Up or similar lemon-lime soda.
- Sour – brandy mixed with Squirt or our sour mix
- Press – brandy mixed with half club soda and half 7-Up or Squirt
My personal favorite way to order an Old-Fashioned is a “brandy Old-Fashioned sweet press without the added sugar.” (Some bars will pour A LOT of sugar in the glass).
Sept. 23 is the official Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Day.
In July 2023, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers proclaimed Sept. 23, 2023, as the Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Day and September as the official Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Month.
“For generations, Wisconsin’s family-owned supper clubs have worked to perfect the Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned, and thousands of hardworking Wisconsinites—including small business owners and employees—harvest, handcraft, and deliver the ingredients found in this Wisconsin favorite for the enjoyment of folks in our state, coast-to-coast, and around the World,” the proclamation reads.
Where to find the cheapest Wisconsin Old Fashioned?
In August every year, the Cap Times hosts the Madison Old Fashioned Week and polls readers on the best old fashioned in the Madison area. While some old fashioneds may get votes as the “best” cocktails, they are usually pretty pricey. Trendy bars, restaurants and supper clubs can charge between $10 and $15 for the popular cocktail.
If you’re looking for a good, cheap Wisconsin old fashioned, your best bet is at small local restaurants, bars, and so-called “dive” bars. For example, at Silver Eagle in Monona, a Korbel brandy old-fashioned costs $5. And, it’s cheaper during happy hour or if you are okay with rail brandy.
Some other Madison-area restaurants offer cheaper prices on Wisconsin old fashioneds during happy hour. Here’s where you can find cheap Wisconsin old fashioneds on happy hour:
Rare Steakhouse – $6 from 4-6 p.m. Made with Wollersheim Brandy, muddled fruit, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and Luxardo cherries.
Madison’s Downtown – $6.50 from 4 – 7 p.m Tuesday – Friday. Made with Korbel.
Ollie’s in Fitchburg – $4 from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Liberty Station – $5 for Happy Hour daily 4 – 6 p.m.
Get 2-for-1 with the Wisconsin Old Fashioned Passport.
If you’re a real Wisconsin old fashioned aficionado who wants to try cocktails all over the state, you may want to consider buying the Wisconsin Old Fashioned Passport. The passport gives you 2-for-1 old fashioneds in over 100 select bars, restaurants and distilleries across the state.
(FYI – This is not a paid endorsement. I’m just a big fan of these types of discount books that give you discounts.)
The Madison-area establishments included in the 2023 book include:
- The Turn Key
- Cafe CODA
- Old Sugar Distillery
- Tiny’s Tap House
- Settle Down Tavern
- Oz by Oz
- Toby’s Supper Club
- Doundrins Distilling
- Black Bear Inn
- Full Mile Beer Company
- Benvenuto’s Italian Grill West
- Grumpy Troll Brew Pub
- Aftershock Classic Arcade
- Imaginary Factory