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The Brandy Old Fashioned is a supper club cocktail that has become synonymous with Wisconsin. Made with brandy, cherries, orange, and bitters, it can be served sweet (my favorite way), sour, or pressed. This cocktail recipe is very customizable and even more enjoyable!
The Brandy Old Fashioned is a classic Wisconsin recipe that is deeply tied to our food traditions in the Dairy State. It’s often enjoyed with fish fry, while grilling up some beer brats, and at almost every Wisconsin family function.
For example, my grandma, a transplant from Chicago, loved to drink brandy old fashioned so much that at her funeral we all made the drink in her honor. Everyone in attendance toasted to her wonderful life with this wonderful Wisconsin cocktail.
We also used to drink Brandy Slush at her house every Christmas and I still use her recipe to this day.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Brandy – My preference is Korbel, as it’s what most bars and restaurants use in Wisconsin. (In fact, Wisconsin is responsible for drinking over half of Korbel’s brandy production every year!)
- Cherries – The bright red maraschinos are a classic!
- Orange – A slice of fresh orange pairs so well with the cherries.
- Bitters – Angostura bitters are a great aromatic addition to this beloved Midwestern cocktail.
- Sugar Cube – It’s said that the sweetness of this drink was developed in prohibition times to hide the taste of less-than-stellar alcohol.
- Water – Just a dash to help the sugar cube dissolve. (You could also use a teaspoon of simple syrup in a pinch.)
- Soda – Top your drink with a lemon-lime soda, grapefruit soda, or club soda. If it’s not topped with pop, it’s not a true Wisconsin Old Fashioned!
- Garnish – Serve the cocktail with more cherries, olives, or even mushrooms, depending on your preference.
Much like the grasshopper cocktail, pink squirrel (without or made with ice cream), and brandy alexander, the brandy old fashioned is a drink that can be found on almost every bar and supper club menu in Wisconsin. But! It's easy as can be to make at home.
Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Recipe
This is just a brief overview, find detailed instructions in the recipe card below!
- Muddle the fruit. With the sugar cube and water. Then add a few dashes of bitters.
- Add ice and brandy. Then stir to combine.
- Top with pop. To make it sweet, sour, or pressed.
- Garnish and enjoy. There’s nothing like plucking a perfectly red cherry out of a brandy old fashioned sweet.
Sweet, Sour, or Press
The standard way of ordering an old fashioned in Wisconsin goes like this: “Brandy Old Fashioned *fill in the blank*” meaning that you distinguish between sweet, sour, or pressed.
In my experience, the real and true way to serve a brandy old fashioned is sweet. Meaning the drink is topped with lemon-lime soda such as Sprite or 7UP. If it’s not sweet, for me, it’s not an old fashioned.
But! There are also two other serving options that have become popular over the years: sour and press.
To serve a brandy old fashioned sour, it gets topped with a tart, citrus soda such as Squirt instead of sweeter, lemon-lime soda. This is my husband’s favorite way to enjoy the cocktail.
If you don’t want your drink to be sour or sweet, you can top it with plain club soda so that you still get the classic carbonation necessary for it to feel like a real Wisconsin old fashioned.
This is called "press" and is also a great option if you’re looking to cut down on sugar.
Garnishing your cocktail
If you’ve ever been to a bar in Wisconsin or ordered a Bloody Mary here, you know we love to garnish our drinks to high heaven. And this cocktail is no exception.
I like to garnish my brandy old fashioned sweet with an orange slice and a cherry. You can do all cherries if you’d like or just a peel of orange if you’re feeling fancy.
My husband likes to garnish his brandy old fashioned sour with olives or mushrooms, to lean into the tartness of the drink.
Of course, you can mix and match and make it your own, however you prefer.
Other cocktails you may enjoy:
- Grasshopper Cocktail (with and without ice cream!)
- Brandy Slush
- Lillet Rosé Martini
- Raspberry Gin Fizz
Watch the recipe video!
Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned
- Cocktail glass
- Cocktail stirrer (optional)
- 1 sugar cube
- 1 tsp. water
- 1 maraschino cherry
- 1 orange slice
- 3 - 5 dashes bitters
- 2 ounces brandy
- 4 ounces Sprite, Squirt, or club soda to top
- In the bottom of your cocktail glass add 1 sugar cube, 1 tsp. water, 1 maraschino cherry, and 1 orange slice. Muddle with a cocktail muddler or the back of a wooden spoon until sugar cube has dissolved, add a few dashes of aromatic bitters to the glass.
- Add ice to the glass and pour over 2 ounces of your favorite brandy, stirring to combine.
- Top the cocktail with a few ounces of sprite for a brandy old fashioned sweet, squirt for a brandy old fashioned sour, or club soda for a brandy old fashioned press.
- Garnish with more cherries, olives, or cocktail mushrooms, however you prefer.
- Enjoy immediately.
- 1 or 2 teaspoons of simple syrup can be substituted in the recipe if you don’t have sugar cubes.
- Nutritional facts calculated using 4 ounces of Sprite.