A Cocktail Twist

I grew up in various parts of Wisconsin. I was born in a suburb of Milwaukee and have very faint memories of urban life. However, I was transplanted to rural living in the middle of the state quite early and have fond memories of playing in the barn on giant stacks of baled hay, running through fields of alfalfa until my feet were green, and making many a mud cake for my family — complete with pretty swirls drawn into the top with a stick found under the pine trees. And I recall evenings on the weekend when my parents, grandparents, and some of my aunts and uncles (I come from a family that can be objectively described as vast) would gather to play cards. Inevitably, there would be drinks offered and enjoyed and more than a few of them were Brandy Old Fashioneds. This Wisconsin tradition has a sentimental place in my heart and is one of my favorite cocktails now that I'm an adult and delightfully nested in Madison, Wisconsin. That, however, does not mean I am above tweaking it a bit:

Recently, I did not have the traditional clear soda that usually graces an old fashioned. I did, however, have a can of my favorite ginger ale and figured I'd give that a try. After all, I really like pairing brandy and ginger in other drinks, so I figured it would be okay.

It was more than okay.

I enjoyed the pairing so much that it's now my go-to soda for my sentimental cocktail. Just a little heat gets included in this otherwise fairly sweet drink. You can, of course, use the traditional clear soda in the recipe below if you're a purist. I like to think of my tweak as giving a nod to the history of Wisconsin's signature cocktail. After all, order an old fashioned anywhere else in the country and your bartender is likely to reach for whiskey. Try not to take it too personally. Not everyone is as lucky as Wisconsinites when cocktail hour rolls around!

Ginger Old Fashioned

  • 1 sugar cube (or 3/4 tsp. granulated sugar)
  • 2-3 dashes bitters
  • Ginger ale
  • 1-2 orange slice(s)
  • 2 maraschino cherries
  • Ice
  • 2 oz. brandy

Place the sugar cube in a short cocktail glass and splash it with the bitters. Add a dash of ginger ale (just enough to dissolve the sugar), an orange slice, and a cherry. Gently muddle to crush the fruit but not pulverize it. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add the brandy. Garnish with an additional orange slice and cherry, if desired.

  • Yields: 1 cocktail
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

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