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I Can Recycle the Jar, but What's an Old Fashioned?

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

In my last post, I shared easy ways to remove the remaining wax from your candle jar, so that you can recycle it and use it as the Double Old-Fashioned glass that it entered this world to be.

For those of you that don't know, the Old Fashioned is Wisconsin's un-official cocktail. I say un-official, because we don't have an official cocktail, but we should and it should be the Old Fashioned. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the reason we call it an Old Fashioned, is because the basic recipe is akin to what was first called a cocktail in the US in 1806. I have to admit this was all news to me. Even after being raised in Wisconsin, learning how to bartend in Wisconsin and living here most of my life. I had no idea that the recipe had its origins as far back as 1806.

Flash forward to 1994. I, Don, have just gotten my first bartending job at a bar in Madison, WI called The New Bar. To say the experience was eye-opening doesn't do it justice. It was my first real encounter with a gay bar or the clientele that frequents them. While I thought I might be gay, it would take my experience at The New Bar to cement that concept in my psyche. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I learned how to make a proper Old Fashioned at The New Bar and that's the recipe I'm here to teach you today. I'd only been working as a bartender for a few weeks when a patron came in and requested an Old Fashioned. Being ever so dutiful, I began to look up the cocktail in the bar's copy of Old Mr. Boston. He promptly stopped me and informed me that I would never find a sufficient recipe in that book. He then proceeded to take me step-by-step through the process of making a proper Old Fashioned.

As a side note, the gentleman that taught me this recipe was also the first drag queen I'd ever met (that I knew of) or seen perform in person. Brian, aka Simply Divine, was among the drag queen royalty at The New Bar. Her shows were phenomenal, and her respect and support were a large part of what I needed as I found my way out of the closet.

And without further ado, here is what he taught me.

Old Fashioned


1/2 slice of orange

1 maraschino cherry

1 cube of sugar

Angostura bitters (or a bitters of your choosing)

1 1/2 oz. of brandy (or whiskey for those non-Wisconsinites)


lemon-lime soda or soda water to fill the glass



In a double Old Fashioned glass drop your 1/2 orange slice and maraschino cherry. Place your sugar cube on top of your bitters bottle and turn it upside down to soak it as thoroughly as you would like. Pro Tip: It's nearly impossible to use too much bitters in this recipe. Now, using a muddler, crush everything in the bottom of the glass together, being careful to avoid the orange rind. This process is a little easier if you either wait for the bitters to start to dissolve the sugar, or you add a splash of the soda that will be added later in the recipe.

Once these have been well and truly muddled at the bottom of your glass, it's time to get down to some real business. First, you want to fill your glass with ice. Then you'll add your brandy, or whiskey.

Finally, you'll top your concoction with one of three options: Brandy Old Fashioned sweet - top with lemon-lime soda

Brandy Old Fashioned sour - top with 50/50 (Squirt)

Brandy Old Fashioned press - top with 1/2 seltzer & 1/2 lemon-lime soda

That, my friend is the standard Old Fashioned recipe served in establishments across the state of Wisconsin. There are, of course, 100,000 variations on this recipe and you're encouraged to find the one you like best. But, honestly, you really should start with the classic and branch out from there. Enjoy,


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Unknown member
Apr 29, 2021

This is the only recipe I use! I had sugar cubes in my house for years because of this cocktail. Though we use Squirt or 50/50 (if you can find it) or Fresca (lower sugar) in our family. Let the variations begin...and enjoy!

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