Wisconsin regularly tops the list as America’s “Drunkest State”, and UW-Madison routinely ranks among the top party schools in the US. Simply put: Wisconsinites know and love their alcohol.
The Badger State has a few signature cocktails, and even in the small dive bars, Badger State bartenders know how to put their own spin on the classics. Here are some of Wisconsin’s most popular cocktails and where you can enjoy them.
Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned
Wisconsin’s state beverage is milk, but if there was such a thing as a state cocktail, it would surely be the Brandy Old Fashioned. If you order an Old Fashioned in any other state, you’ll get a cocktail made with whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters. However, a Wisconsin Old Fashioned is completely different. First, it is sacrilege to use whiskey in an Old Fashioned; all Wisconsin Old Fashioneds use brandy. Second, a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned can be served one of three ways: sweet with 7-up, sour with Squirt, or press with half 7-Up and half club soda.
Finally, muddled fruit sets Wisconsin’s version apart from the rest. The cocktail comes with a mixture of muddled maraschino cherries, orange slices, sugar, bitters, and sometimes other garnishes, too. You can find great Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioneds in almost any bar, tavern, restaurant, or pub throughout the state. But, for a simple, reliable version head to–where else– but THE Old Fashioned in Madison.
Is it a chaser, a beer back, or a snit? Whatever you call it, the little beer that accompanies Wisconsin’s Bloody Marys is what sets ours apart from the rest. In most parts of the state, servers and bartenders will ask you if you want a beer chaser or a beer back with your drink. However, the slang snit is a Minnesota thing, so if you order a Bloody Mary in La Crosse, Hudson, Superior, or another city near the border, be prepared for the unique terminology.
Wisconsinites love their Bloody Marys, especially during a leisurely weekend brunch. Some taverns even have build-your-own Bloody Mary bars with everything from olives, celery, and string cheese to pepperoni sticks, mushrooms, and pickled Brussels sprouts. The most over-the-top Bloody Marys come with full meals on top– cheeseburgers, onion rings, and pickled eggs. Stop by Sobelman’s Pub and Grill in Milwaukee, which gets credit for the first Bloody Mary bar, for a delicious experience.
Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, so leave it to us to add alcohol to our ice cream. The Pink Squirrel, a pink, slightly almond flavor ice cream drink, was invented in Wisconsin. Invented in 1938, it consists of vanilla ice cream with almond and white chocolate liqueur.
Ice cream drinks are hard to come by at the average pub, but you can almost always find them at a supper club. Try a Pink Squirrel at Sullivan’s Supper Club in Trempealeau or The English Inn in Green Bay or Fish Creek. However, you might not get the exact original invented at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee: that recipe is kept under lock and key.
Although it wasn’t invented here, Wisconsin made its mark on the Grasshopper. The glowing cream cocktail, made with cream, crème de cacao, and crème de menthe, also comes with ice cream at many supper clubs in the Badger State. Depending on where you try a Grasshopper, it can be made with either vanilla or mint chocolate chip ice cream and garnished with chocolate shavings or chocolate syrup.
Like other ice cream cocktails, the Grasshopper is popular in supper clubs. Try one at Wissota High Shores Supper Club in Chippewa Falls, The Branding Iron Supper Club in Wisconsin Rapids, Hotel Seymour Supper Club in Seymour, or Buckatabon Tavern & Supper Club in Wauwatosa.