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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 garnish.

3 brandy old fashioned cocktails garnished with olives, mushrooms and cherries

This recipe originally appeared on my other site Simply Whisked.

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Why we love a brandy old fashioned in Wisconsin

From these unconventional brandy old fashioned cocktails to chicken booyah and deep fried cheese curds, there are so many awesome traditions that make our state unique.

A traditional old fashioned cocktail uses whiskey, but in Wisconsin, they’re commonly made with brandy. The reasons aren’t really clear, since most of this sort of stuff gets lost to history.

overhead of a brandy old fashioned garnished with cherries

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.

old fashioned ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

Ingredients & substitutions:

  • Brandy – you can also make this drink with whiskey, and many Wisconsinites do
  • Soda – you’ll be choosing from lemon lime or sour soda (see notes below)
  • Angostura bitters – you can change things up by using other types of bitters, but this is the traditional choice
  • Sugar cube – if you don’t have sugar cubes, you can substitute a teaspoon of sugar or a bit of simple syrup
  • Orange slice
  • Cherries
cherry, sugar cube and cherry in a crystal old fashioned glass

How to make a 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.

adding club soda to a Wisconsin style brandy old fashioned

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.

overhead of three old fashioned cocktails with traditional Wisconsin garnishes - cherries, mushrooms and green olives

Garnish your 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.

closeup of a brandy old fahsioned

More Wisconsin cocktails:

Brandy cocktails you’ll love:


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 garnish.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x
  • Category: Brandy
  • Method: Mixing
  • Cuisine: American


  • 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


  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: brandy cocktail, brandy old fashioned, Wisconsin old fashioned, old fashioned cocktail

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