Ten Unique Old Fashioneds
Everyone knows and loves the standard Wisconsin-style old fashioned, made with muddled fruit, brandy and bitters. You probably have a preference as to ordering it “sweet” or “sour,” and maybe even “press” once in a while. Many bars around Milwaukee like to shake up the standard old fashioned and put their own spins on it. Here are 10 unique old fashioneds that deviate from the standard.
Boone & Crockett
2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Though you will undoubtedly be tempted by the seasonal cocktail board, an old fashioned is the thing to order at cozy Boone & Crockett in Bay View. There are two types, one with Korbel brandy, and one with Old Forester bourbon, but both are batched and aged in wood barrels hanging above the bar for a smooth, mellow flavor. When you order one, the liquor comes cascading down, and then it’s topped with soda, sour mix or, for the purists, served on the rocks.
As you might expect at a bar themed around the up north cabin life, there’s an entire old fashioned menu at Camp Bar. There’s a speakeasy Prohibition version for purists, but it’s hard to resist the more unique options. The Southern Belle mixes it up with Southern Comfort and peach bitters for sweet drink lovers, a maple version with Cabin Fever maple whisky to make you feel like you’re in Canada, and one made with ginger brandy for a little more bite. All taste wonderful under a canoe of taxidermy raccoons.
360 E. Erie St.
There is an old fashioned at DanDan that you’ve definitely never had before: bubble tea. The Asian drink, usually made with fruit, gets its “bubbles” from large, chewy tapioca pearls. At modern Chinese American DanDan, bubble tea and old fashioneds are combined into a playful mix, complete with plastic domed cup and giant straw for sucking up the tapioca pearls. There’s nothing childish about the ingredients though, including Sacred Bond brandy, Luxardo and homemade sour mix.
722 N. Milwaukee St.
Distil touts itself as “Milwaukee’s House of Bourbon,” so it’s no surprise that their house old fashioned is a simple affair. There is no muddled fruit or soda, which is certainly unusual for an old fashioned in Wisconsin, even though that’s the classic preparation. The spirit rotates, but you can assume it’ll be made with great bourbon, along with turbinado sugar and two types of bitters for complexity. Those who prefer to let the spirit shine in their old fashioned should seek this one out.
Drink Wisconsinbly Pub
135 E. National Ave.
Do not be confused when you walk into the Drink Wisconsinbly Pub: You have not been magically transported to your favorite tavern up north; it just looks like you have. Like all good Wisconsin taverns worth their salt, this spot serves up a couple different versions of old fashioneds. The “Old School” version includes Korbel and muddled fruit, but look to the Bubbler for something unique. Instead of water, it squirts SoulBoxer, a commercial ready-to-drink old fashioned. And like many taverns up north, both versions are topped with a squeaky cheese curd garnish.
Great Lakes Distillery
616 W. Virginia St.
While you can order an old fashioned any time at the tasting bar inside Great Lakes Distillery, the best time for an old fashioned here is fall. That’s when the new batch of the annual Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit is released, and it makes for a wonderful, unique cocktail. The spirit is distilled from Lakefront Brewery’s Pumpkin Lager, keeping sweetness in check and with a bit of clove and nutmeg. Besides a drink mixed at the bar, be on the lookout for their barrel-aged pumpkin old fashioneds as well.
524 S. Second St.
Movida puts a Spanish spin on their Vasco old fashioned. The cocktail menu states the drink’s origins as “Basque + Wisconsin + Grandparents” which seems like a pretty good mix. Lustau Reserva Spanish brandy is the base of this drink, along with Bittercube and Angostura bitters and seltzer. Instead of the usual orange and cherry, however, they utilize lemon, strawberry and chili pepper. It’s an unusual combination that makes for a super refreshing cocktail.
703 S. Second St.
Though you’ve probably heard that Tin Widow is MKE’s best gin bar, this dimly lit haven is hiding one of the city’s best old fashioneds in plain view. Instead of the usual brandy, they opt for Old Forester bourbon. They muddle orange and use Angostura bitters and sour soda, which is all pretty standard around here. What’s different is what they call “love juice,” a reduction of red wine and cola, that adds deep complexity. It’s topped with a Luxardo-soaked cocktail cherry.
2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Bay View’s sausage emporium has a number of cocktails on draft for consistency and quick service, including two different old fashioneds. The signature old fashioned utilizes brandy and Luxardo maraschino liqueur for an extra cherry kick. Bourbon lovers have an option too, made with Wild Turkey 101, homemade sour mix and three types of bitters. Both cocktails are garnished with fresh citrus zest, giving them a zingy finish and aroma.
600 S. Sixth St.
The bar inside Hotel Madrid is a surprisingly playful spot. Many cocktails are served in kitschy containers, or with little hula dancers, or under a glass dome filled with aromatic smoke. The old fashioned changes seasonally, and has included Peruvian pisco, spiced apple cider and smoked apples in the past. They currently serve an old fashioned made with single barrel and blackstrap rum, Bittercube bitters and a molasses beer syrup. The latter is served in the beer bottle the syrup is made with, along with a toasted marshmallow to complement the molasses in the drink.