A brandy old fashioned sweet is a classic Wisconsin Supper Club cocktail. Made with maraschino cherries, oranges, sugar, bitters, brandy, and lemon-lime soda, this vintage cocktail recipe is a must-try!
Is it too early to have a guest writer? Since my husband is “Mr. Wisconsin”, this drink is near and dear to his heart. He had a lot he wanted me to tell you about this classic cocktail recipe…so he guest-wrote the below introduction on making the PERFECT Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet.
Every stage of life has its own drink. When you’re in your early 20s, you might have gone with cheap beer, party mixers like Jack & Coke, and Trader Joe’s ‘Two Buck Chuck’ because, frankly, it was all you could afford! By your late 20s, you maybe earn a bit more money and some of your debts are paid off, so you’ve moved on to nice craft beer and *gasp* a $15 bottle of wine! By the time you reach your 30s (if you’re me, at least!), a nice cocktail is the only way to go. Perhaps spurred on by hits like ‘Mad Men’, classic cocktails have been in vogue for the past few years; in particular, the Old Fashioned is back in a big way.
The truth is, though, in Wisconsin, we never stopped drinking them. It’s not back in style because it never fell out of style here! That being said, if Don Draper walked into Wisconsin supper club and ordered an Old Fashioned, he’d be a bit surprised by what the barkeep would hand him.
The Wisconsin Old Fashioned has characteristics that set it apart from a classic Old Fashioned. First, the muddled fruit/sugar cube. Every Wisconsin Old Fashioned starts this way. Second, BRANDY. In Wisconsin, unless you say otherwise, it’s assumed you want your Old Fashioned made with brandy (instead of a spirit like whiskey). And third, soda. Every Wisconsin Old Fashioned cocktail recipe will have a healthy splash of soda (7Up if you want it sweet, or Squirt if you want it sour). Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry and you’re done!
All of these extras (muddled fruit, soda, garnish, etc.) are remnants of Prohibition. When making and selling alcohol was illegal, that certainly didn’t stop people from drinking. They would just make the stuff themselves or purchase it from a bootlegger. But the booze they may have made in their basements wasn’t up to the same quality assurance standards as the old distilleries; so, to cut the harsh taste of their homemade hooch, it became common practice to add things like sugar and fruit to mask the taste. Turns out, these additions are still enjoyed today, even with the good stuff!
Tell Me About The Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate. Making the perfect Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet isn’t difficult, but if you don’t have basic cocktail gear (like a muddler and a jigger), you’ll have to improvise a bit.
Flavor: Two main flavors shine through this classic cocktail: boozy brandy and sweet fruit.
Texture: Smooth with a crisp fizz from the lemon-lime soda.
Time: From start-to-finish, it will take you approximately five minutes to mix up this Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned recipe.
Brandy: A nice brandy will be smooth, sweet, and have a mild bite. Korbel is the go-to brandy for this drink.
Bitters: You might think that, since it’s only a few dashes, you can skip the bitters. Bitters are wonderfully aromatic, though, and since so much of our sense of taste is really our sense of smell in disguise, this cocktail is at it’s best when you use bitters. Angostura bitters is the most common for this drink.
Sugar: You know I’m a huge fan of homemade simple syrup (like my chai simple syrup recipe here), but it wouldn’t be a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned if you didn’t muddle the fruit into sugar. While a sugar cube (or granulated sugar in a pinch) is the classic way to make this cocktail recipe, I use brown sugar because it takes this drink to the next level.
Lemon-Lime Soda: The Wisconsin supper club version of the classic old fashioned is topped with a splash of lemon-lime soda. This cocktail recipe just wouldn’t be the same without it!
Fruit: Muddled cherries and an orange slice are staples in every Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet. You can definitely go for a fancier cherry if you want (Luxardo brand cherries are my favorite), but a standard maraschino cherry will do just fine!
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
- Place the sugar, cherry, orange slice and bitters into your glass and muddle for about 10 seconds.
- Add ice and top with brandy and soda of your choosing. Stir to combine.
- Garnish with cherry and an orange slice.
What do I do if I don’t have a muddler? I’d encourage you to find a muddler at your local liquor store if you don’t already have one. This common bar tool is not expensive, and you’ll release the most flavor from your fruit if they’re properly muddled. But, in a pinch, you can use the back of a sturdy spoon (one that won’t bend) to crush the cherry, orange, and sugar in step one of this classic cocktail recipe.
What is the best brandy to use for this cocktail recipe? Why, Korbel of course! And why Korbel? In 1893, just as the classic Old Fashioned was experiencing a resurgence in popularity, the World’s Fair in Chicago brought Korbel brandy to the midwest. Wisconsinites tried brandy in their Old Fashioned cocktail recipes then and never went back! To this day, according to the Korbel Company, Wisconsin alone drinks more than half of all the brandy they sell worldwide.
I don’t have brandy, what liquor should I use instead? While brandy is very common in Wisconsin, I know that isn’t the case everywhere. In fact, most restaurants and bars outside of Wisconsin will serve you an Old Fashioned made with whiskey! Your favorite whiskey or bourbon are great options for this cocktail recipe.
If I’d prefer a less-sweet cocktail, how can I modify this recipe? If you’re not into the sweetness that comes along with this version of the Brandy Old Fashioned, you can change it to a Brandy Old Fashioned Sour by swapping out the lemon-lime soda for Squirt or 50/50. Less common, but another option, is to make a Brandy Old Fashioned Press, which is done by using half 7Up and half soda water in lieu of only lemon-lime soda.
Old Fashioned Glass: also knowns as a lowball glass, or rocks glass. These lowball glasses are similar to the ones shown in the photos and have a classic old fashioned glass design
Muddler: you’ll need this to crush the fruit at the beginning – this is a great muddler.
Jigger (or shot glass): measuring your liquor helps give you a consistently great cocktail – this jigger is my favorite!
Cocktail Picks: for skewering the cherry and orange slice to garnish – we have and love this set of cocktail picks.
A traditional old fashioned cocktail is made with bourbon or whiskey. The Wisconsin old fashioned is made with brandy (typically Korbel).
The brandy old fashioned. In Wisconsin, you can get your brandy old fashioned sweet, sour, or press.
Brandy old fashioned sweet tops the cocktail with lemon-lime soda (like 7up or sprite).
Brandy old fashioned sour tops the cocktail with grapefruit soda (like squirt or 50/50) or pre-made sour mix.
Brandy old fashioned press tops the cocktail with half lemon-lime soda and half soda water (club soda).
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Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar*
- 2-3 orange slices
- 2-3 maraschino cherries
- 4-5 dashes Angostura bitters
- ice cubes
- 1, 1.5 oz jigger of Brandy (I recommend Korbel)
- lemon-lime soda to top (I recommend 7-Up)
- Place sugar, 1 orange slice, and 1 cherry in your glass. Shake in bitters, and muddle
- Add ice on top of muddled ingredients
- Add brandy and top with soda
- Stir to combine
- Garnish with a cherry and orange slice
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