Earlier this year, we speculated on what each state in the U.S. would be if it were a drink, designating Wisconsin as the Brandy Old Fashioned. If new legislation proposed by two Republican Wisconsin lawmakers passes a floor vote, the Badger State could be the first to actually make the drink its official cocktail.
In an Oct. 18 resolution proposed by Representative Jon Plumer and Senator Cory Tomczyk, the two legislators seek to make the brandy-based Old Fashioned Wisconsin’s official cocktail, claiming that the libation is what makes the state unique.
Not only does the Brandy Old Fashioned see the standard whiskey replaced with the fruit-based spirit, but the cocktail also departs from the original with the addition of muddled maraschino cherries and orange slices. To finish things off, the drink is typically topped with Sprite or soda water.
Brandy has a long held history in Wisconsin that traces back to World War II, though the general idea for the recipe of the Brandy Old Fashioned is even older. During Prohibition, bartenders would often attempt to disguise the taste of the harsh spirits in cocktails by adding in soda and muddled fruits, and the practice lingered in Wisconsin even after the ban on alcohol had been lifted. Eight years after the repeal of Prohibition, the United States entered World War II and a whiskey shortage followed as grain usage was redirected from distilling operations toward the war effort.
As a result, brandy, a fellow dark spirit distilled from fruit, gained traction among drinkers in the U.S., particularly those in Wisconsin. In 1946, Christian Brothers Brandy sent thousands of cases of their spirit to the state, and by the 1960s, the Brandy Old Fashioned was all over the state and remains a staple among Wisconsinites today. In fact, Korbel, a Californian brandy producer, claims Wisconsin accounts for at least half of their annual U.S. sales.
Jeff Franklin, a tour guide at the Barrel House Distilling Company in Lexington, Ky. told the New York Times that he was not shocked by the proposed resolution, pointing out the fact that a number of Wisconsin tourists have visited the distillery and communicated their preference for brandy in Old Fashioneds as opposed to bourbon.
“If you go to any other state in the country and order a brandy anything, they look at you funny,” Plumer said in the interview. “But I just thought, ‘How has this never been done?’ It’s a tongue-in-cheek resolution. And I’ve had a couple of calls from people: ‘Don’t you have more important work to do?’ But I don’t think we do. This is what makes Wisconsin unique.”
Representative Plumer said that the proposed resolution has garnered the attention of several co-sponsors both Republican and Democrat and expects a floor vote to be held in both the state Assembly and Senate next month.
“I just really wanted to give a public high five to one of the things that makes Wisconsin special, and that’s certainly the Brandy Old Fashioned,” he explained.
If the legislation passes, we can’t help but wonder which state might be next in making the case for an official cocktail.
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