Libations – The Wisconsin Old Fashioned: A Case For Tasty Mistaken Identity

The Old Fashioned drink. Depending on where you live, this drink is a different thing to different people.

In Wisconsin, this drink has been a Friday night staple since Chicago’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893 when a Madison based journalist named Jerry Minnich introduced Wisconsin to Korbel brandy. Ever the rugged individuals, turn of the century Wisconsinites created their own version of the Old Fashioned featuring brandy, a cube of sugar and bitters poured over muddled orange slices and maraschino cherries.

As a transplant and adopted son of the great state of Wisconsin via Nebraska, I had never drank an Old Fashioned prior to relocating to south central Wisconsin in 2000. As they say… When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do. Enjoying an Old Fashioned while waiting to be seated for Friday night fish fry became a tradition.

Fish Fry? If you are not a native of Wisconsin, that will be a subject for another post.

We began to have Old Fashioned withdrawal symptoms shortly after the pandemic lock downs started and dining indoors was not possible. We simply had to learn how to make this drink. So off to The Google we went to find a recipe for Old Fashioned drinks. This turned out to be more difficult than one would think.

It is common for a Wisconsinite to lament that bartenders outside of Wisconsin can’t make a real Old Fashioned. Which, is not true. The truth is no one in Wisconsin makes a real Old Fashioned, we make Wisconsin Old Fashions. All of the recipes in web searches were for the REAL Old Fashioned, not the Wisconsin version.

If you are not familiar with this potent potable, it dates back to the early 1800s and is to most of the USA a bourbon drink with simple syrup, bitters and a twist of orange peel.

Prior to the current popularity of bourbon most people in the USA did not know what this drink is. Thanks to the surge in bourbon consumption and now several YouTube Whiskey celebrities the Old Fashioned and many other whiskey drinks have been reintroduced to the imbibing public.

How did we resolve the need for this drink and our inability to find the local version on the internet? What we love to do, we made up our own version. Based upon what we remembered from watching local bartenders make them, the recipes we found on line and how my father made Whiskey Sour we came up with our own recipe.

We love the recipe so much that we now consume almost all of our Old Fashioned drinks at home now. When Beth’s folks are with us, we make Helen’s Old Fashioned with Korbel brandy and Sprite.

We do have one local exception. The Char House in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin makes our favorite local Old Fashioned.

Our Old Fashioned recipe? It is similar to the Wisconsin version except with bourbon and Clyde’s sour soda.

R Dub’s Old Fashioned


2 oz Bourbon

3 dashes Argostura Bitters

1 tsp Marachino Cherry Juice

4 oz Squirt

2 Maraschino Cherries

2 Orange Slices


Muddle the orange slices and cherries in an Old Fashioned glass.

Pour in bourbon, cherry juice, Squirt and bitters.

Stir, fill remainder of glass with ice.

Stir again and enjoy!

This batch and all of our batches are for a couple. We make a double batch in a Pyrex beaker and pour from there!


Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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