So you’re at a classy party and you approach the bartender. You adjust your tie and ask for an old-fashioned. The charismatic bartender smiles knowingly and reaches for his finest bourbon. But no, you interrupt. You’d like it with brandy.
You are either A. a contrarian. B. wrong. or C. from Wisconsin.
If the answer is C, do we have the resolution for you.
Two Republican state legislators from Wisconsin, Representative Jon Plumer and Senator Cory Tomczyk, introduced a resolution on Oct. 18 making the brandy-based old-fashioned the official Wisconsin state cocktail. (This is not to be confused with Wisconsin’s official state drink: Milk.)
“If you go to any other state in the country and order brandy anything, they look at you funny,” Mr. Plumer said in an interview. “But I just thought, ‘How has this never been done?’ It’s a tongue-in-cheek resolution. And I’ve had a couple of calls from people: ‘Don’t you have more important work to do?’ But I don’t think we do. This is what makes Wisconsin unique.”
The classic, more popular version of an old-fashioned has a base of bourbon, rye or another type of whiskey. (We all saw that classic “Mad Men” scene where Don Draper smoothly makes one for Conrad Hilton. Right?) The cocktail itself goes back to the early 1800s, though the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Ky., claims it originated at least a version of it in the latter half of the century.
Brandy old-fashioneds have a long history in Wisconsin, the resolution notes. The state accounts for at least half of the brandy maker Korbel’s annual sales in the United States.
The cocktail historian and author Jeanette Hurt wrote that the history of brandy in the state dates back to World War II, when whiskey was rationed during the war. Whiskey is made from grain, which was needed for the war effort. Brandy is a fruit-based drink.
In 1946, Christian Brothers, a religious order that also made brandy, sent tens of thousands of cases to Wisconsin and created a foothold there. Thus began a movement of Wisconsinites subbing in brandy instead of other liquors.
Now Wisconsin, of course, is roughly an eight-hour drive from Kentucky, where whiskey is a core part of the state’s identity. Distillers in Kentucky have long claimed that they produce most of the world’s bourbon, made from a mixture that is at least 51 percent corn mash, among other specifications.
Surely, Kentuckians, with their finely honed senses of liquoristic superiority, would have an issue with an old-fashioned birthed from brandy, given how old-fashioneds are widely prepared. (Speaking of which, guess what Kentucky’s official state drink is? Also milk.)
Jessica Kruer, the lead bartender at Doc Crow’s, a restaurant in Louisville, offered that an old-fashioned made with bourbon is distinctly better than one with brandy.
“It’s just a balance of flavors, especially with the orange zest and the bitters and depending on the sugar you use,” Ms. Kruer said. “We do make the Greatest Old-Fashioned here. It’s what we call it. We use a different type of sugar and different types of bitters. But it’s always bourbon. It’s always been bourbon. It’ll always be bourbon.”
But the brandy one?
“I don’t know if that could be considered an old-fashioned,” Kruer said. “I mean, you could take vodka and stick sugar and bitters in it and it’s still not an old-fashioned.”
Jeff Franklin, a tour guide at the Barrel House Distilling Company in Lexington, Ky., said that he wasn’t surprised at Mr. Plumer and Mr. Tomczyk’s resolution, citing Wisconsin tourists who have told him about their preference for brandy.
“But I myself, I prefer bourbon,” Mr. Franklin said, calling it “more authentic.”
Oof. But others from Kentucky were more magnanimous, like Angel Teta, a marketing executive for Angel’s Envy, a Louisville-based whiskey distillery. (Ms. Teta’s first name has no connection to the namesake of the brand.)
“I don’t think I’m mad or anything,” Ms. Teta said. “I think there’s a big wide world and there’s a lot of opportunity to drink whatever it is you like.”
She added, “It is so regionally specific to Wisconsin. They should be proud of that. It’s a cool thing.”
Brandon O’Daniel, the lead distiller for Copper & Kings, also in Louisville, said that he thought it was a “fantastic” idea.
“Brandy was actually the first official spirit to be distilled here in the United States way before bourbon,” Mr. O’Daniel said. He would know: His distillery produces mostly brandy in a bourbon state. Wisconsin, he said, has become his “second home” as a result.
“We are definitely the odd man out down here in Kentucky making American brandy over traditional bourbon,” he said. “But that’s OK. In this business, you’ve got to stand out to stick out.”
Mr. Plumer said his resolution has attracted several co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Next month, he expects floor votes in both the Assembly and the Senate.
“I just really wanted to give a public high five to one of the things that makes Wisconsin special,” he said, “and that’s certainly the brandy old-fashioned.”