Sophie Bolich

Central Standard Creates Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame

You can nominate a winner. First class of six inductees to be announced Oct. 15.

By - Sep 6th, 2022 01:21 pm
Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame. Photo Courtesy of Central Standard Craft Distillery

Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame. Photo Courtesy of Central Standard Craft Distillery

If you’re drinking a proper Wisconsin Old Fashioned, it had better be brandy, and this month, Milwaukee connoisseurs are making a case for using local spirits in the state’s favorite cocktail.

First introduced in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, the Old Fashioned soon took on a Wisconsin flavoring, as residents of this state substituted brandy for the usual ingredient of whiskey. Perfected over generations by mom-and-pop supper clubs, the cocktail has deep Wisconsin roots, and its signature brandy supports a statewide industry and nearly 40,000 related jobs.

The drink’s rich history isn’t lost on Central Standard Craft Distillery co-founders Evan Hughes and Pat McQuillan, who worked with Governor Tony Evers to proclaim September Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Month, with Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned Day on Sept. 22.

Throughout the month, Hughes and McQuillan are encouraging Wisconsinites to choose local spirits, like Central Standard’s North Wisconsin brandy.

“Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned month is all about showcasing and connecting Wisconsinites with great local distilleries,“ said Hughes, who is also a board member of the Wisconsin Distillers Guild. “Here in Wisconsin, the spirits industry supports more than 39,000 jobs from family farmers and truck drivers to glass-bottle makers and those in the hospitality industries. In all, Wisconsin distilleries impact billions of dollars in economic activity each and every year in our state.”

People often order the “same old brandy” out of habit, McQuillan said. But “when they taste ours and others made here in Wisconsin, they’re floored by the flavor.”

As part of the festivities, Hughes and McQuillan are planning to launch a Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame, which would be housed at Central Standard Crafthouse & Kitchen, 320 E. Clybourn St.

The inaugural class of inductees would honor “everyday folks who love and celebrate the brandy old fashioned,” Hughes said.

“We continually hear almost unbelievable brandy old fashioned stories: 88-year-old grandmothers who enjoy one every week, bartenders who’ve perfected their recipe over decades and folks who’ve moved away but return home every month as they just can’t find a quality old fashioned outside Wisconsin,” he said.

Anyone can nominate a possible inductee on the Central Standard website. The online form requests basic contact information, answering a few questions and a paragraph (50 words or less) on why the nominee should be in the hall of fame. And yes, you can nominate yourself.

Nominations are due by Sept. 30. Six inductees will be announced Oct. 15

Inductees will receive two cases of Central Standard brandy — including a custom bottle with their photo on the label, and lifetime VIP status at the Crafthouse, which includes free brandy old fashioneds at every visit. Inductee photos will be displayed in the Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame in the Founders’ Room at the Crafthouse.

Throughout the month of September, Central Standard will offer a specialty old fashioned cocktail menu, including a smoked rosemary rendition, and sell commemorative t-shirts and posters.

Hughes and McQuillan purchased the Crafthouse building, located in Milwaukee’s East Town neighborhood, in 2021. The duo completed a historically sensitive restoration of the formerly vacant, three-story, 11,700-square-foot building. Outfitted with cream city brick, it now contains a tasting room, tour operation, restaurant, private-events space and rooftop patio. Originally built in 1874, the building is one of the oldest in the city.

Central Standard is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m.

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