Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 10 min.
In Wisconsin, we do things differently with this classic cocktail. Learn how to make a Badger State brandy old-fashioned to sip wherever you call home.

Updated: Jan. 26, 2024

While Wisconsin’s official state beverage is milk, some might argue that the state’s signature beverage is actually the brandy old-fashioned. This cocktail is served in bars, supper clubs and legion halls from the shores of Lake Superior all the way down to the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

And, no, a brandy old-fashioned isn’t your typical old-fashioned. In the Badger State, we do things a little differently.

What is a brandy old-fashioned?

Whats In A Brandy Old Fashioned GraphicTaste of Home, Getty Images

A standard old-fashioned cocktail is made with whiskey, a splash of aromatic bitters and a bit of sugar. These classic cocktails are usually garnished with an orange peel.

In Wisconsin, however, bartenders swap out the whiskey in exchange for brandy. The cocktail also gets a little sweeter thanks to the addition of muddled orange, maraschino cherries and a splash of the mixer of your choosing.

That’s right: Brandy old-fashioneds are topped off with soda when you order them in America’s Dairyland. Why is that? The origins may be a little muddled, but according to Jeanette Hurt, author of Wisconsin Cocktails, this sweet addition was borne out of Prohibition. Adding a sweetened mixer helped to mask the flavor of the low-quality spirits of the time. Once Prohibition was repealed, Wisconsinites’ taste for sweetened old-fashioneds made with brandy stuck.

Brandy Old-Fashioned Ingredients

How To Make A Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned IngredientsTMB Studio

  • Orange slice
  • Maraschino cherry
  • Maraschino cherry juice
  • Bitters
  • Ice cubes
  • Brandy
  • Water
  • Orange juice
  • Mixer of your choosing (lemon-lime soda for sweet, grapefruit soda for sour or a mix of lemon-lime soda and club soda for press)


Step 1: Muddle

How To Make A Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Step 1TMB Studio

To make a brandy old-fashioned, start by adding an orange slice, cherry, cherry juice and bitters to the bottom of a rocks glass. Then lightly smash the ingredients with a muddler. If you don’t have a muddler, you can use a wooden spoon.

Editor’s Tip: Most Wisconsin bars and supper clubs will make a brandy old-fashioned with bright red maraschino cherries. If you want to add a sophisticated spin to this humble cocktail, try it with Luxardo maraschino cherries.

Step 2: Mix

How To Make A Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Step 2TMB Studio

Next, add ice to the glass. Pour in the brandy, a touch of water and top with the mixer of your choice. Give the cocktail a quick stir and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry or two.

Brandy Old-Fashioned Variations

While this recipe calls for brandy (the classic Wisconsin choice), bourbon or rye whiskey are also delicious options. After you find your spot at the bar and play a few pull tabs, your bartender will ask you how you want your brandy old-fashioned. There are three takes on this drink, though the first two are the most common:

  • Sweet: This means that your drink will be topped up with lemon-lime soda like Sprite or 7 Up.
  • Sour: The brandy old-fashioned is finished off with sour mix or a grapefruit soda like Squirt.
  • Press: This version of the brandy old-fashioned is not as prevalent, but it is an option! A brandy old-fashioned press is finished off with a combination of club soda and lemon-lime soda.

These drinks are typically served with an orange slice and cherries as a garnish. If that sounds too sweet for you, know that green olives and pickled mushrooms are also an option. Note that savory garnishes are more of an acquired taste.

Brandy Old-Fashioned Tips

How To Make A Wisconsin Brandy Old FashionedTMB Studio

What brandy is best for a brandy old-fashioned?

In most bars, these cocktails are made with Korbel brandy. Another good choice is to pick up a bottle of Central Standard North 40 Brandy. This brand is distilled in Milwaukee, where Taste of Home HQ is located.

Can you use flavored bitters in brandy old-fashioneds?

Angostura bitters are the most popular type of bitters for old-fashioneds of all kinds. However, you can experiment with flavored options as well. Orange bitters and cherry bitters are a natural pairing for this fruit-infused drink.

Where can you get a Wisconsin brandy old-fashioned?

In Wisconsin, you can order a brandy old-fashioned anywhere liquor is served. They may not be listed on the menu, but trust us: these drinks are ubiquitous.

Watch how to Make Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet

Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 1 serving.


  • 1 orange slice
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • 1-1/2 ounces maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 teaspoon bitters
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup ice cubes
  • 1-1/2 ounces brandy
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon orange juice
  • 3 ounces lemon-lime soda


  1. In a rocks glass, muddle orange slice, cherry, cherry juice and bitters. Add ice. Pour in brandy, water, orange juice and soda.

Nutrition Facts

1 serving: 277 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 18mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate (17g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein.

The concept of an old-fashioned dates back to the early 1800s and includes whiskey, bitters, cherry juice, sugar and water. This old-fashioned recipe, which is extremely popular in Wisconsin, uses brandy in place of whiskey and lemon-lime soda instead of water for a milder cocktail. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen