So you’re at a fancy party and you approach the bartender. You mend a tie and look for an old-fashioned one. The charismatic bartender smiles knowingly and reaches for his finest bourbon. But no, you interrupt. Would love it with brandy.
Or you are A. the opposite. B. wrong. or C. of Wisconsin.
If the answer is C, do we have a solution for you.
Two Wisconsin Republican state legislators, Representative Jon Plumer and Senator Cory Tomczyk, introduced a resolution on October 18 making the old-fashioned brandy-based cocktail the official state cocktail of Wisconsin. (This should not be confused Wisconsin’s official state drink: milk.)
“If you go to any other state in the country and order brandy or anything, they look at you funny,” Mr. Plumer said in an interview. “But I just thought, ‘How has this never been done?’ It’s a cheeky resolution. I’ve had a few calls from people: ‘Don’t you have more important work to do?’ But I don’t think we know. That’s what makes Wisconsin unique.”
The classic, more popular version of the Old Fashioned has a base of bourbon, rye or another type of whiskey. (We’ve all seen that classic “Mad Men” scene where Don Draper smoothly makes one for Conrad Hilton. Is that right?) The cocktail itself is making a comeback by the early 1800salthough it is Pendennis Club in Louisville, Ky.claims that at least his version was created in second half of the century.
Old-fashioned brandy has a long history in Wisconsin, according to the resolution. The state pays the bills at least half annual sales of brandy producer Korbel in the United States.
Cocktail historian and author Jeanette Hurt wrote that the history of brandy in the country dates back to back to World War II, when whiskey was rationed during the war. Whiskey is made from grain, which was needed for the war effort. Brandy is a fruit-based drink.
In 1946, Christian brothers, a religious order who also made brandy, sent tens of thousands of cases to Wisconsin and established a foothold there. Thus began the movement of Wisconsinites who drank brandy instead of other drinks.
Now Wisconsin, of course, is about an eight-hour drive from Kentucky, where whiskey is a key part of the state’s identity. Kentucky distilleries have long claimed to produce most of the world’s bourbon, made from a blend that contains at least 51 percent corn mash, among other specifications.
Surely Kentuckians, with their finely honed senses of liquorice superiority, would have a problem with a brandy-based Old Fashioned, given how Old Fashioneds are widely prepared. (Speaking of which, guess what Kentucky’s official state drink is? Also milk.)
Jessica Kruer, head bartender at Doc Crow’s, a restaurant in Louisville, said an Old Fashioned made with bourbon is significantly better than one made with brandy.
“It’s just a balance of flavors, especially with orange zest and bitter and depending on the sugar you use,” Ms. Kruer said. “Here we make the Great Old Fashioned. That’s what we call it. We use a different type of sugar and different types of bitters. But it’s always bourbon. It was always bourbon. It will always be bourbon.”
But the brandy one?
“I don’t know if that would be considered old-fashioned,” Kruer said. “I mean, you could take vodka and put sugar and bitters in it and it still wouldn’t be old fashioned.”
Jeff Franklin, a tour guide at Barrel House Distilling Company in Lexington, Ky., said he was not surprised by Mr. Plumer and Mr. Tomczyk’s decision, citing Wisconsin tourists who told him they preferred brandy.
“But I personally prefer bourbon,” Franklin said, calling it “more authentic.”
Ugh. But others from Kentucky were more generous, like Angel Tet, marketing director of Angel’s Envy, a Louisville whiskey distillery. (Ms. Tete’s first name has no relation to the brand’s namesake.)
“I don’t think I’m angry or anything like that,” said Mrs. Teta. “I think it’s a big world out there and there are plenty of opportunities to drink whatever you want.”
She added, “It’s so regionally specific to Wisconsin. They should be proud of that. It’s a cool thing.”
Brandon O’Daniel, lead distiller for Copper & Kings, also in Louisville, said he thought it was a “fantastic” idea.
“Brandy was actually the first official spirit distilled here in the United States before bourbon,” Mr. O’Daniel said. He would know: his distillery mainly produces brandy in bourbon. Wisconsin, he said, became his “second home” as a result.
“We are definitely the odd man out here in Kentucky making American brandy instead of traditional bourbon,” he said. “But that’s okay. In this business, you have to stand out to stand out.”
Mr. Plumer said his resolution attracted several co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. He expects a vote in the Assembly and the Senate next month.
“I just really wanted to give a public high-five to one of the things that makes Wisconsin special,” he said, “and that’s definitely vintage brandy.”