Today, I’m packing the last three years of my life into a U-Haul and saying goodbye to a city that’s become a part of me. I’ll have tissue in one hand and a Brandy Old Fashioned in the other.
I’m not entirely sure how or when I became obsessed with Madison, only that it snuck up on me. Perhaps it had something to do with:
- Weekly trips to the largest producers-only farmers market in the country (conveniently located two minutes from our front door)
- Endless baskets of fried cheese curds (scroll to the bottom of this post for my favorite Madison bars, restaurants and sights)
- More Friday fish fries than I can count (especially if I include those made at home using this Fish and Chips recipe)
- Morning runs that look like this
- Picture-perfect sunsets off the lake
- Writing MANY blog posts on our apartment building’s rooftop, with a favorite cocktail in hand
Madison is also the city that introduced me to the old fashioned. Something which I will forever be grateful for.
5 Star Review
“Thanks for sharing your brandy old fashioned recipe.”— Toby —
About Brandy Old Fashioneds
An old fashioned is a cocktail that has been around since the 19th century but was tragically missing from my life (as were these Peach Margaritas) until I moved to Wisconsin.
While I can’t speak for the rest of the state, in Madison, old fashioneds are a big deal. No matter which bar you enter, chances are that they pour a good one.
While there are a few ways to order an old fashioned, most begin with:
- A sugar cube muddled with bitters, maraschino cherries, and orange
- Splash of soda (regular soda water, Sprite or Squirt are most common depending on if you like your old fashioned sweet, sour or somewhere in between)
- AND a generous pour of booze (whiskey is traditional, but here in Wisconsin, the classic recipe is with brandy)
How to Make a Brandy Old Fashioned
Today’s brandy old fashioned recipe is based on the Madison bar I believe pours the very best, a restaurant appropriately named “The Old Fashioned.”
I’ve watched (and sipped) many brandy old fashioneds here, and after a good amount of at-home experimentation, I believe I’ve nailed their version (they have many on their menu) of an old fashioned press with Korbel.
- Raw Sugar Cube. Helps the orange slices and cherries release their juices. Feel free to use raw turbinado sugar if you don’t keep sugar cubes stocked.
- Maraschino Cherries. Gives the drink a subtle, sweet cherry taste.
- Orange Slices. Gives the cocktail a burst of refreshing citrus.
- Bitters. Balances, enhances and marries all of the flavors together.
- Brandy. Korbel to be exact. It adds such a warm, buttery taste and feel to the cocktail.
- Soda Water. For just a little fizz.
- Lemon-Lime Soda. Adds some extra sweetness to the drink.
- Ice. Because a warm old fashioned is just sad.
- In the bottom of a rock glass, add a sugar cube and sprinkle with bitters. Then, top with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
- Add ice to each glass and then top with brandy, and a splash of lemon-lime soda and club soda.
- Stir to combine and garnish with an orange slice and cherry. ENJOY!
To Madison: the city where I fell in love with Wisconsin, converted 50% of my wardrobe to plaid, realized I feel more complete near water, began my marriage (and a food blog), and made dear friends I’ll cherish you for the rest of my life. Cheers!
Brandy Old Fashioned
- 1 raw sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon raw turbinado sugar
- 6 quick dashes bitters
- 2 orange slices divided
- 2 maraschino cherries divided
- 2 ounces brandy
- 1 splash lemon-lime soda
- 1 splash club soda or additional lemon-lime soda
- Place sugar cube in the bottom of serving glass a rocks glass is traditional and feels cool. Sprinkle with bitters, then add an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.
- Add a few ice cubes to each glass, then top with brandy and a splash of lemon-lime soda and club soda. Stir gently to combine, then garnish with remaining orange slice and cherry. Enjoy immediately.
- A true “press” style cocktail is 1/2 lemon-lime, 1/2 regular soda, but for simplicity, all lemon-lime soda (my preference) or all club soda can be used.
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If you are ever in Madison, these are a few of our favorite places and spaces.
- The Old Fashioned. Home of the city’s best fried cheese curds (order the paprika and tiger blue dipping sauces), best old fashioned, and honest Wisconsin fare (the #35 is my regular pick. #41 is Ben’s). They have a mighty beer list, 100% of which hail from WI.
- Graze. My favorite restaurant for every birthday and anniversary. Order the spicy bibimbap, smashing $21 burger (worth it), fried pickles (mandatory) and any one of their constantly changing craft cocktails.
- Sardine. French bistro with the best mussels + fries in the city, lake view, and a fabulous brunch too. Also, I just feel fancy when I eat here.
- Salvatores Tomatoes Pies. Best pizza I have ever eaten outside of Italy. Tucked away in a suburban strip mall, this place defines hidden gem.
- Brasserie V. Killer Belgian beer list, some of which hit nearly 11% ABV.
- Tipsy Cow. Monday night 1/2-price truffle fries are a regular fixture in our lives. Always excellent beer list.
- The Cooper’s Tavern. More good beer, excellent soft pretzels with beer cheese, and hearty Irish fare with a gourmet twist.
- Jacs Dining and Tap House. Again, I love the beer here (believe it or not, all of these places offer a little something different). Ben’s favorite burger (the Bourbon Burger).
- Alchemy. Incredible sweet potato fries and my favorite burger (the Tinshack Smokehouse Bison Burger).
- Fresco. Feel fancy sipping your cocktail with a rooftop view of the city. The gnocchi rocks my socks and is discounted on Thursday night.
- The Dane County (Downtown Madison) Farmers Market. My heaven on earth.
- Madison Sourdough. I will mourn no longer having this treasure in my neighborhood.
- Batch Bakehouse. City’s best croissants. I treat myself to two every birthday.
- Underground Butcher. Their house-cured sausages are why I can never be a vegetarian.
- Michael’s Frozen Custard. Order one of their classic sundaes in at least a medium size. You’ll thank me later.
- The Memorial Union Terrace. So many memories.
I’m a native Sconnie who’s now living in Raleigh after 13 years in Salt Lake City. I’m a fairly experienced old fashioned drinker (yes, the rest of the state makes/drinks them – we’re from Stevens Point) and have had BOF orders met with: the utter lack/knowledge of the liquor we call brandy (Utah) and “You must be from Wisconsin” (North Carolina).
I stumbled upon your post after searching for proof of the existence of a brandy old fashioned (Here in Carolina, whiskey is the only old fashioned) and it made us homesick. Then I went outside, where it’s currently 52, and I got better.
Quick note: Your preferred OF is called “sweet”, which exists in addition to “press”, and “sour”, which is made with sour mix (lemon juice, sugar, and water) or, a lot of people just use Squirt.
Chris, it’s great to hear from a fellow brandy old-fashioned devotee! The bar I modeled my recipe from used a mix of soda and sprite for the press, but that’s interesting that you have a different definition. If I wander outside the state, I’ll know to specify. Thanks for your note and wishing you all the best! Please send some warmth to our way :-)
So here I am, in lovely Madison, Wisconsin on the Northside near the airport… I’ve always loved Old Fashions (duh, I’m from Wisconsin), but I’m embarassed to say I HAVE NEVER MADE AN OLD FASHIONED! Top search result? Brandy Old Fashioned – An Ode to Madison, Wisconsin… I think I found my recipe book :) Going to Copps on Aberg to get the necessary ingredients and give this a shot!
Kyle, this is one of my favorite comments I’ve gotten in a long time. I hope your old fashioned was out of this world!
I’m from Green Bay, and we have a few twists on the Ol Fashioned that you might be interested in. First, we serve the OF in a pint glass. Second, we NEVER use orange peel (I remain convinced to this day that the orange peel has been snuck in by cocktail hipsters). Third, we usually don’t muddle the cherries, and instead eat them whole after the drink has been drunk. Fourthly, 2 oz of brandy is if you’ve had a good day; 4-6 oz is totally alright. Finally (and most importantly), we have the option of sweet (Sprite) or sour (50/50 or grapefruit soda). I highly encourange you to try the sour.
I love the idea of making this with grapefruit soda Anthony! Thanks so much for the tutorial. Cheers!
Awww I know the feeling of leaving the place that have been a part of you is really heart breaking. Just think that it will be a new beginning for you and just think that this is not a forever goodbye. You should always think that you can come back to this place if not very soon, someday in your busy life. Btw thanks for sharing your Brandy old fashioned recipe.
Thanks for your kind words Toby (and I love returning to Madison!)