Level up the sophistication of your Old Fashioned with a brandy base to make a Brandy Old Fashioned.
If the name “Brandy Old Fashioned” doesn’t ring a bell, how about the “Wisconsin Old Fashioned?” Better? Not surprising. As it turns out, this take on the classic Old Fashioned has ties to the Badger State and is even considered its official drink. To map its history, we first have to chart the origins of the classic Old Fashioned. To do that, we need to look back at Prohibition-era America, when the more enterprising of us, while they still managed to get their hands on alcohol, couldn’t guarantee anything of decent quality. So, fruit and sugar were added to mask the inferior taste. As for how brandy entered the picture, it was imported by the Europeans who settled in Wisconsin. The Brandy Old Fashioned, then, is a drink that combines the best of the new and old worlds.
It also features lemon-lime soda (7-Up/Sprite), which perhaps has made it more palatable for those hesitant to try such a strong concoction as the Old Fashioned, and Angostura bitters, which give the drink that sharpness. Because of its accessibility of flavor, the cocktail, despite its brandy base, can be enjoyed casually before dinner, as an afternoon drink, or out by the pool—a Wisconsin pool, obviously.
What is Brandy?
Brandy is made from fermented fruit juices. The traditional recipe uses grapes, though you can now find brandies based on cherry, apple, pear, or plum. Once the juice has been fermented and the sugar converted into alcohol, it is stored in barrels, usually oak, where it takes on a warmth and earthiness—not to mention, its amber color. Many people wonder about the difference between brandy and, say, cognac. Well, cognac is a brandy, but a brandy isn’t necessarily a cognac. That’s because cognac is a type of brandy that is made from the Cognac region of France (yes, like Champagne). There is also Armagnac, made from the Gascony region, Calvados, an apple brandy from Normandy, and Pisco, an outlier in that it is made in South America.
- 2 oz. brandy
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- orange slice
- maraschino cherry
- splash club soda
- ice cubes
- Place the sugar cube, bitters, orange slice and cherry in an old-fashioned glass and muddle until the sugar dissolves. Add a splash of water to help dissolve the sugar, if necessary.
- Pour in the brandy and add ice to fill the glass.
- Top with a splash of club soda or 7-Up/Sprite and stir gently. Garnish with a fresh orange slice and cherry.
Tips & Tricks to Making a Perfect Brandy Old Fashioned
- If you have in your possession a really nice cognac, use it. As noted above, it is a variety of brandy, and may bear a subtlety you will appreciate more.
- Stir, don’t shake.
- Don’t overwork the orange peel. Muddle it, along with the other ingredients, into a thick paste, and don’t pulverize it.
- Don’t have any sugar cubes on hand? Use a teaspoon of simple syrup (1:1 mix of granulated sugar and water).
- Dilute the drink by crushing the ice cubes and letting them melt. This may forgo the need for soda, depending on how strong you like your cocktails.
- If you have already included the orange peel and cherry in the drink, don’t feel obligated to add them as garnish.
Brandy Old Fashioned Variations
Whiskey Old Fashioned: Use whiskey (bourbon, traditionally) as you would for a regular Old Fashioned but keep the soda.
Rum Old Fashioned: Use rum instead of brandy.
Tequila Old Fashioned: Use tequila instead of brandy.
Gin Old Fashioned: Use gin instead of brandy.
Vodka Old Fashioned: (You know what to do.)
Brandy Old Fashioned Mocktail: Replace the brandy with brandy-flavored syrup or brandy extract and choose aromatic bitters that don’t contain alcohol.
For all these variations, as I note with the first one, it’s up to you whether you want to preserve the soda.