Call Us Old-Fashioned
Right up there with beer, cheese curds, supper clubs, and the Packers, the Old-Fashioned (Wisconsin’s unofficial state cocktail) is one of those things that is basically synonymous with Wisconsin.
This cocktail is served all over the nation and has enjoyed a renewed popularity with other handcrafted, vintage-cool cocktails in recent years. But the Old-Fashioned is a completely different cocktail here in Wisconsin than virtually anywhere else in the United States.
The Old-Fashioned’s Simple Beginnings
The cocktail’s origins trace back to the 1800s, when the Whiskey Cocktail became popular as a morning restorative to hunters. It consisted of spirits, bitters, sugar, and water. Simple and elegant, this was, perhaps, the original “craft cocktail.” Over time, creative bartenders added their own special touches to the drink, with various flavorings and liqueurs. Eventually, nostalgic folks, wistfully recalling the hair-of-the-dog of their youth, began to request “an old-fashioned cocktail.” And that’s when the simple Whiskey Cocktail became known as the Old-Fashioned.
Wisconsin’s Preference for Brandy
It is hypothesized that the Wisconsin Old-Fashioned divergent path stemmed in part from Wisconsin’s large German population and their historical preference for sweet liqueurs and wines over whiskey. The use of brandy in Old-Fashioneds in this region completely took off when the affordable Korbel brandy was featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which was extremely well attended by Wisconsinites.
Prohibition-Era Spirits Call for Creative Improvements
A couple of decades later, during the Prohibition, spirit-loving Wisconsinites faced the challenge of finding alcohol that they could actually afford. It was either outrageously priced or of dubious quality. Supper clubs added fruits, juices, and syrups to Old-Fashioneds in order to make them palatable.
Enjoying an Old-Fashioned in the Northwoods Today
One hundred years later, the love of Wisconsin supper clubs and brandy Old-Fashioneds still burns bright. Whether you prefer it sweet or sour, you’ll find innumerable classic supper clubs and corner bars in the Northwoods where you can enjoy an amazing Old-Fashioned, the Wisconsin way. For example, Twilight Supper Club, in Land O’ Lakes, is famous for its flavored Old-Fashioneds. Try the signature Twilight Old-Fashioned, infused with ginger and topped with a candied ginger garnish. Or opt for the Famous Flaming Old-Fashioned, complete with a mini marshmallow garnish for toasting. Other Northwoods establishments famous for their Old-Fashioneds include Lanny’s Fireside (Conover), Buckshot’s Saloon and Eatery (Eagle River), Gateway Lodge (Land O’ Lakes), and Redman Supper Club (Land O’ Lakes). What Northwoods supper club serves your favorite Old-Fashioned?
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