The old fashioned cocktail: A Wisconsin tradition

Old Fashioned at Mark's East Side on Friday, May 19, 2017. (WLUK/Mike Moon)

APPLETON (WLUK) -- It's a comeback story that earned plenty of backlash from people in Wisconsin.

The website 'Business Insider' recently published an article about the Old Fashioned. The article said the drink, said to have originated in Louisville, Kentucky 136 years ago, was regaining popularity across the country. While that may be true, Wisconsinites, bristling at that notion, argue it never left.

The flavor is difficult to describe.

"It's kind of a spicy, aromatic flavor," said Mark Dougherty the owner of Mark's East Side, an Appleton supper club.

The color varies.

"Some people like that dark, dark color," described Cassandra Igel, the bar manager at Mark's East Side.

The recipe changes, depending on who's ordering.

"Sometimes they want rye, sometimes they want bourbon, sometimes they want brandy," Igel told FOX 11 News.

But what never changes, at least in Wisconsin, is the Old Fashioned's place at the top of any bar menu.

"When you sit down and you look down the bar and you look and you go, 'everybody's drinking an Old Fashioned, I'll have one too!'" said Dougherty.

At Mark's East Side the cocktail is a staple.

"We sell a lot of Old Fashioneds," Dougherty told us.

The bar tenders mix hundreds, literally hundreds, weekly.

"We are selling just shy of 350 every week give or take," Igel said.

That elusive mix of bitters, soda and booze has been a favorite in this establishment and this state for decades.

"We've been using this recipe for old fashioned mix for 50 years and we take a lot of pride in that," explained Igel.

"We were voted number one old fashioned in the city!" added Dougherty.

The Old Fashioned lovers here have their favorite method to the mix...from the traditional to the, let's say, new fashioned.

"I'm kind of a bourbon guy and not as sweet. So I go with bourbon, seltzer and I do like the fruit, described Dougherty.

"Southern Comfort, diet sweet, extra bitters and olives," said patron, Pat Walbrun.

"Whiskey, diet sweet, heavy, heavy bitters, with olives," said Pat's son Steve Walbrun.

"Actually, last week I made one with rum!" exclaimed Igel.

"They don't know how to make them when you go south or out west," lamented Pat Walbrun.

Reading the article from the Business Insider, one might think everyone stopped drinking Old Fashioneds after 1969, but Wisconsinites beg to differ.

"That kind of caught me off, because I don't think it ever left," Dougherty told FOX 11.

"Never went away! This is what we are, this is who we are, this is what we drink," added Igel emphatically.

The cocktail isn't having a comeback. It never left the Badger State, at least, and seems to be getting better with age.

"I think it gets passed down from generation to generation," said Steve Walbrun.

But why do people like it so much?

"It's a unique taste that you really don't get anywhere else," said Steve.

"The booze...yeah, that would do it!" Pat exclaimed, laughing.

Can't argue with that logic.

We did reach out to the writer of the Business Insider article. She declined an interview for our story.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off