Alchemy’s Brandy Old Fashioned

At the intersection of tradition and innovation: brandy meets ginger beer

Much has been written about Wisconsin’s love affair with the brandy old-fashioned, our state cocktail in all but name. The drink supposedly originated in Kentucky and typically is made with rye, bourbon or Scotch, but in the Badger State, only brandy will do. (Korbel has the receipts to prove it: Wisconsin accounted for nearly half of the winery’s brandy sales last year.)

Surely, then, we don’t need another old-fashioned recipe. Or do we? Alchemy Café’s version is noteworthy because it strikes a balance between novelty and tradition. The cocktail veers off script with ginger beer (instead of lemon-lime or club soda) but honors local custom with house-infused cherry brandy and boozy Door County cherries. The result is unorthodox but tasty enough to appeal to sticklers. Bartender Justin Schmitz even offered one to his father, an Appleton native and die-hard old-fashioned acolyte. Initially skeptical, his dad “tried it and loved it,” Schmitz says. “Using ginger beer and cherry brandy—all I hear is praise.”

RECIPE: Cherry Brandy Old-Fashioned

To make the brandy, mix 2/3 cup dried cherries with one 750-millimeter bottle of brandy. Cover and let sit two weeks, unrefrigerated.
Orange wedge
3 dashes Angostura bitters
5 brandy-soaked cherries
2 1/4 oz. cherry-infused brandy
Gosling’s ginger beer
Muddle first four ingredients in old-fashioned glass. Add ice and top with ginger beer. Transfer to shaker. Shake; pour back into glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.

Recipe courtesy of Alchemy Café, 1980 Atwood Ave., 204-7644,

Find more Hip Sips recipes here

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