Served up at basement card parties and corner bars for the last 100+ years, the Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet is a Wisconsin classic with an intersting history. It's still the drink of choice of deer hunters and ice fishermen, before and after Packer games, and at supper clubs serving up another Wisconsin classic - the Friday night fish fry.
Growing up, my Polish/German parents and grandparents always had a 1.75L bottle of Korbel brandy on hand. Family gatherings, holidays and celebrations like weddings, anniversary parties and multi-generational reunions always included the matriarchs mixing up big batches of the Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet which they'd fondly refer to as "making soup" when us kids would ask what they were doing? No fancy muddling tool required, a tube of lipstick or a Bic lighter sufficed back in the day.
The drink actually came about when Korbel brandy created and debuted their "American" brandy at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. The (cheap) brandy was brought back to Milwaukee, which has a large German population (Germans love their brandy), and the rest is history. Brandy replaced the Bourbon, the maraschino cherry entered the mix, and lemon-lime soda replaced the water in the recipe making The Old- Fashioned Sweet a milder cocktail and distinctly Wisconsin.
Across the United States you'll see The Old-Fashioned fancied up by substituting Cognac, fancy syrups, flavored bitters and sparkling sodas in the drink, but don't try that here in Wisco. Order up a Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet and every bartender here knows the drill: a cube of sugar topped with three dashes of Angostura bitters, a slice of orange and a marachino cherry - muddled, followed by a heavy pour of Korbel brandy, a lot of ice, and a splash of 7Up. Garnished with a bright red maraschino cherry or two and at the fancier joints, an extra splash of the fluorescent juice that they swim in.