Beer may flow freely through industrial tubes and keg pumps on Wisconsin game days, but after the battle is won at Camp Randall, beer and Solo cups are exchanged for glassware and brandy old fashioneds.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s beloved (and uniquely crafted) cocktail often receives the Don Draper treatment in millennial minds — a heavy concoction stirred in supper clubs and served with a heavy dose of “when I was your age” anecdotes.
For those ambitious Peggy Olsons out there, however, an old fashioned spruces up a drinking routine ridden with Natty Light. With its rich history and infinite variations, it can also be the center of conversation while “Stranger Things” takes forever to buffer.
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From the fairgrounds to Russ Feingold’s hand
A cursory investigation into the old fashioned’s origins is like searching for whoever first put meat in between bread. The United States’ oldest cocktail guide dating back to 1862 hints at recipes resembling an old fashioned — such as the enigmatic “Whiskey Cocktail” — but it wasn’t referred to by name until the late 19th century.
In 1936, definitive evidence of the drink’s popularity was published when a grumpy “old timer” penned a letter to the New York Times. He protested lackluster post-prohibition cocktails, and included a recipe for an “old fashioned,” complete with the usual accompaniments and an entire bottle of bourbon, with which the patron could “pour his own drink.”
While old fashioned cocktails were spreading across the country, some have speculated that German immigrants stumbled upon brandy at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, and kept the party going in the Badger state with what was then the new cocktail of the hour.
While it can be difficult to extract truth from folklore, the stats show Wisconsin continued affinity for brandy. In 2012, Korbel, one of the most popular brands, sold just over 300,000 gallons of brandy to Wisconsin — the largest quantity, by far, of any state — contributing to the 168 cases of brandy sold per 1,000 Sconnies in that year.
Though brandy and the old fashioned’s courtship is extremely prevalent in Wisconsin, the combination perplexes many outsiders, including a reporter who witnessed former State Sen. Russ Feingold throw them back with fervor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“I mean, you go to the supper clubs all over the state and people are drinking brandy, and particularly these brandy old fashioneds,” Feingold said. “We’re a brandy state, amongst other things. Beer, bratwurst, cheese.”
In reality, there is no wrong way to make an old fashioned, as long as it’s strong, drinkable and looks good on a coffee table procured from a Madison curbside.
Don’t forget an ironic cocktail napkin
Here is a recipe, with some tips and tricks, for a college-budget-friendly brandy old fashioned. Ultimately, however, mixology is about attitude rather than ingredients. Everything from tequila to chocolate bitters have been dashed into this classic, so experimentation is encouraged — just don’t forget close-toed shoes.
Most won’t be sipping old fashioneds in a dimly-lit restaurant with steaks costing double the heating bill. Happily, they are equally delicious when consumed while complaining about exam papers and eating a frozen Trader Joe’s burrito.
2 oz. of brandy
Bourbon or rye whiskey are also excellent substitutes — Old Forrester is reasonably priced and works well — and typically compliment citrus flavors better if you’re seeking more orange than Donald Trump’s spray tan.
A few dashes of Angostura bitters
Bitters can be purchased at most liquor stores — especially Angostura, a popular orange variety. But you can always make your own replacement or even toss in some worcestershire sauce if feeling adventurous.
1 sugar cube
Again, sugar cubes may not be lying around the apartment, so granular sugar or simple syrup (a easy mixture of half-parts water and sugar) can be used.
2 orange peels
If looking to make a large batch of old fashioned-esque cocktails for a pregame or night-in, freshly-squeezed orange juice can replicate this citrus en masse, but watch out for the sugar content.
Put it all together!
Place sugar into an old fashioned glass and soak it up with bitters. Add fruit and muddle together, using a wide spoon, until sugar dissolves. Add in liquor, then stir. Add ice, preferably several bigger cubes rather than many small ones. Depending on taste preference — particularly sour or sweet — feel free to add soda water, Sprite, or more bitters. If looking to impress the Tinder date or just feel great about all that was accomplished. garnish with an orange peel.