It’s Friday night, time for fish fry and an old fashioned to end your long week. So you head down to your favorite spot for fish, and you decide to have a drink at the bar first. You’ve been ordering them the same way since you can remember: brandy old fashioned sweet with olives. Your bartender creates your cocktail with the finesse you’ve come to expect, and you go about your evening as if nothing is amiss. In an alternate universe, you are visiting somewhere on the coast, let’s say New York City, and it’s Friday, so that means fish and an old fashioned right? You find somewhere with a good seafood selection, and you decide to have a drink before your meal. You order an old fashioned, but before you can specify your usual, the bartender whisks away and is whipping up something across the way. When they come back, what is put down before you is most definitely not what your alternate is enjoying back home. What gives?
The old fashioned has been around almost as long as the term “cocktail” and has evolved many times over. However, Wisconsin has one of the most unique recipes for old fashioneds. Here in Wisconsin, and especially at MJ’s By The Lake, when you order an old fashioned, a couple of questions come up: would you like brandy or whiskey; sweet or sour; what would you like for a garnish? We begin by muddling an orange wedge, a maraschino cherry, Angostura bitters, and simple syrup – the ultimate basis for your libation. We then follow with ice and your choice of alcohol, the most popular by far being Korbel brandy, and top it off with a wash of your choice – white soda for sweet and sour mix for sour. A plethora of garnish choices follow, including but not limited to maraschino cherries, olives, and pickled mushrooms, among others. It’s a perfect companion to your perch fish fry. Elsewhere, you would be getting a sugar cube muddled with the same Angostura bitters and a dash of water, minimal ice, and a serving of rye whiskey topped with a large orange twist. This version of the cocktail was established and solidified in the early 1900s and is considered an “Unforgettable” by the International Bartenders Association. Regardless of its origin, it’s a cocktail enjoyed by many wide over; make sure when you cross state lines, you know what you may be getting into!