The brandy Old Fashioned says “Wisconsin” as much as bubblers, brats, and undying love of the Packers. It’s egalitarian and a relatively easy cocktail created from standard booze and everyday ingredients. Nothing pairs better with prime rib or fried walleye at rural supper clubs while holding its own alongside Pabst at hipster joints in Milwaukee. It’s a drink that warms in the winter and refreshes during the short Wisconsin summer. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done. Here’s all you need to know -- from its origins to the ideal recipe -- about our signature cocktail.
Where did this drink even come from?
According to John Dye, owner of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee and resident booze historian, Korbel owes the Badger State big time.
“Milwaukee had a big role in the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and many of the brandy-thirsty Germans attended,” Dye explains. “One of the exhibitors was a domestic brandy from California named Korbel. Story has it that the Germans in Milwaukee took to Korbel in a big way. As the rest of the country was starting to turn to whiskey, Wisconsin turned to brandy. It makes sense that the Old Fashioned, which was a popular whiskey cocktail at the time, would be made with brandy in Wisconsin. Things here don’t change too quickly, so we just kept making them with brandy.”