Wisconsin Drinks: My Grandpa’s Old Fashioned

I grew up with a love for maraschino cherries. Specifically, the cherries that were left to soak in the bottom of the tumblers my family drank from while at my grandpa’s on Milwaukee’s west side — cherries that were all soaked up with boozy Brandy Old Fashioned goodness.

When I finally hit the appropriate age* to drink one of Grandpa Max’s Old Fashioneds myself – I had a sudden understanding of why there was so much laughter around the sheep head table, and such rosy cheeks.

My grandpa’s Old Fashioned recipe is probably not your grandpa’s recipe. It’s not the recipe used by the famed Old Fashioned restaurant in Madison, WI. There will be no orange. There will be no soda. It’s not the Old Fashioned made by beard-wearing cocktail artists/mixologists who care about muddling things or using exotic bitters.

But this is the drink that I will forever compare all other drinks to. It is simply the best.

Grandpa Max’s Old Fashioned

2 shots water

1 sugar cube
Let the sugar dissolve into the water. Tell some jokes to pass the time, or sing if you’re in a really good mood.

1 splash of cherry juice from the jar of maraschino cherries
Like it sweet? Add some more cherry juice when no one is looking.

2 shots Korbel Brandy**
The goal is to have 1 part brandy to 1 part water.

2 shakes / drops bitters (most likely Angostura Aromatic Bitters)

1 maraschino cherry (or more if you’re really into cherries like me)

Add a few ice cubes and stir.



Don’t drive anywhere.


Grandpa passed a few years back, but this drink will always warm my heart. And it still partners nicely with a game of sheep head, cribbage and belly laughing.

Grandpas Old Fashioned

Here’s a double. Mmmmmm.

Variations? Hell no, why change a good thing? OK, after careful thought and consideration:

My uncle drinks his Old Fashioneds using Southern Comfort and less cherry juice. It might be blasphemy, but it is still quite lovely.

Have some sweet vermouth laying around? You could make a Brandy Manhattan.

And yes, a muddled orange and cherry combination with some soda is delicious – particularly if this is your first Brandy Old Fashioned.

*Wisconsin may have a different definition of appropriate age than your state.

**Yes, you can use other brandy, but why would you? Wisconsin consumes ⅓ of the Korbel Brandy produced.