Wisconsin Old Fashioned

We get pretty snooty ’round these parts when it comes to the venerated Old Fashioned, the ur-cocktail and the subject of more than a century of ill-thought changes. Everything from muddled fruit to lemon-lime soda seems to end up in an “Old Fashioned” these days, and we here at Cocktail Party are holding the line for the real thing: sugar, bitters, and spirit. Nothing more, nothing less.

But deep in America’s heartland, these Frankenstein-fashioned concoctions took root and began to grow into something truly beloved. Enter the Wisconsin Old Fashioned, the state’s unofficial-official cocktail. It takes all those newfangled substitutions and, with a deft hand, turns them into a balanced, drinkable cocktail. Not a “proper” Old Fashioned, of course, but something genuinely delicious in its own right.

A sugar cube is the classic sweetener, but you can use an equivalent amount of granulated sugar or simple syrup if you prefer. And while 7-Up or Sprite are the traditional toppers, you could use seltzer, club soda, or even a flavored sparkling water like lemon LaCroix (another local Wisconsin treasure).

Place the fruit, bitters, and sugar cube (or granulated sugar, or syrup) in a glass. Add a few drips of soda or water to the cube to help it break down, and muddle everything gently – enough to release the juice from the orange slices and break up the cherries, but not so much that you loosen the bitter white pith of the oranges. Add ice and brandy (or cognac), and top with a splash of soda or sparkling water. Garnish with cherries and an orange slice on a pick.

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