COCK­TAILS

Milwaukee Magazine - - Content - BY ROBERT SI­MON­SON

Wel­come our new im­bib­ing col­umn, “Notes From Brandy­land.”

A Bad­ger-turned-New Yorker comes home to share his

drink­ing wis­dom. Hint: It’s old fash­ioned.

AS WITH MANY prodi­gal sons, my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for my birth­place did not be­gin un­til years af­ter I’d up­rooted my­self. In 1988, I left Wis­con­sin for New York City to make my mark as a jour­nal­ist, first writ­ing about theater and then set­tling into my cur­rent role on the drinks and spir­its beat at The New York Times.

I no­ticed that most of the bars, bar­tenders and cock­tails that have been my fo­cus hail from en­dur­ing drink­ing cap­i­tals like Lon­don, San Fran­cisco, New Or­leans and New York. Wis­con­sin, whose tip­pling habits I thought I un­der­stood, wasn’t much on my mind.

That changed as I dug fur­ther into Amer­ica’s drink­ing his­tory. (One of my fa­vorite ques­tions when trav­el­ing is, “What do you drink here that they don’t drink any­where else?”) This re­search led me to con­clude that my home state has more cock­tail char­ac­ter and tav­ern tra­di­tions than any other five states put to­gether. Now, fol­low­ing years of fool­ishly try­ing to seek out the best Saz­erac in Mil­wau­kee, I be­gin each visit to Wis­con­sin by mak­ing a bee­line to the most time­worn saloon I can find and rev­el­ing in the age-old tra­di­tion of a pre-din­ner brandy old fash­ioned (“sour,” or­ange and cherry gar­nish).

I’m not alone. Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the De­cem­ber 2016 Play­boy fore­cast­ing 2017 drink­ing trends, the “Wis­con­sin Old Fash­ioned” – known to you and me sim­ply as the brandy old fash­ioned – is poised to sweep the na­tion. The re­porter noted sight­ings of the drink in bars as far away as Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco. I’ve seen a few Bad­ger-style old fash­ioneds be­yond state lines my­self. So, too, have I caught glimpses of Tom & Jer­rys – my first cock­tail ex­pe­ri­ence, la­dled out by my par­ents dur­ing the hol­i­days – be­ing sipped be­yond the Snow­belt.

With this new col­umn, I will monthly ex­plore in greater depth the tip­pling tra­di­tions that make Wis­con­sin the great­est drink­ing state in the repub­lic. Grab your bar dice and join me.

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