By Kristina LeVan
The craft cocktail scene is shining a spotlight on a Wisconsin classic: the Old Fashioned. From a chocolatey interpretation to a version infused with exotic spices, restaurants across the state are pushing the Old Fashioned envelop with delicious results. While it may be hard to steer yourself away from the original recipe, these new takes on Wisconsin’s favorite mixed drink are worth a try.
If you’re looking for an upscale experience, head to Hotel Madrid’s Vermuteria 600. The bar offers seasonal interpretations of classic cocktails common in the era of Ernest Hemingway, as well as house-made sangria. As for Vermuteria 600’s interpretation of an Old Fashioned, it’s made with a Peruvian brandy-style spirit called Pisco, spiced apple cider, bitters, cinnamon and smoked gala apple. Staying true to the hotel’s Spain-meets-Wisconsin theme, complete your culinary adventure with the Manchego Mac n’ Cheese, a Wisco staple made with Tetilla cheese from Spain’s northwestern region.
You won’t find an extensive wine or beer list at Proof. Here, it’s all about the craft cocktails. Like their small-but-mighty food menu that changes with the seasons, Proof’s cocktails also incorporate fresh ingredients. When it comes to the Old Fashioned, their Family Money hits the jackpot. This version starts with the classic Korbel brandy but takes off with the addition of vermouth, cinnamon syrup and bitters. The combination gives the drink a flavor that evokes sweet baking spices. Pair it with something truly sweet, Proof’s chocolate mousse, for a perfect dessert-drink combination.
For a splash of flavor, head to Bandung. Madison's only Indonesian restaurant serves up authentic dishes and a spice-filled take on the Old Fashioned. The restaurant’s Nutty Bar concocted their version with a focus on a native Indonesian spice: the clove. The drink starts with muddled orange and dry clove, followed by clove-infused simple syrup, orange bitters and rye bourbon. It’s finished with half soda water, half lemon-lime soda and a cherry and orange slice. Round out the visit with a hefty serving of the restaurant’s classic and delicious Pad Thai.
If music is your thing, then The Lakely is a must-visit. The restaurant-bar-music venue serves locally-sourced food, great tunes and clever cocktails. The Great Grampa, as the name suggests, was created as homage to a friend’s grandpa who made a simple yet memorable Old Fashioned using just three ingredients: rye whisky, a lemon-lime soda and bitters. The Lakely’s version stays true to the original recipe’s simplicity, but swaps out the lemon-lime soda for a house-made brown sugar and lemon simple syrup. The final product is served over ice and garnished with a cherry and orange. Enjoy with a side of live jazz for the complete Lakely experience.
Chocolate lovers, get ready to be wowed by the Kohler Dark Chocolate Brandy Old Fashioned. The popular cocktail has been revamped to evoke flavors of the famous handmade KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates. This luxurious twist is made with muddled cherries, bitters and a splash of water, blood orange liqueur and KOHLER Original Recipe Chocolates Dark Chocolate Brandy, topped with club soda and garnished with, what else, a cherry and orange. Guests can enjoy the treat at most Kohler restaurants and bars, but may want to sip on one at The Winery Bar, where it was debuted by Head Mixologist Peter Kalleward.
After you're done with your new old fashioned, check out a few more craft cocktails worth sipping.