You may be familiar with the old fashioned cocktail, typically made with either bourbon or rye, plus sugar, bitters, and an orange-slice-and-cherry garnish. But in Milwaukee, brandy is the spirit of choice in the popular cocktail. Why?
Thank (or blame?) the 1893 World’s Fair, which was held in Milwaukee and featured a new brandy from California-based distiller Korbel. Wisconsin fairgoers loved the Korbel, so much so that Wisconsin bars rushed to stock up on the stuff. The old fashioned cocktails popular in big cities like New York were just starting to gain popularity in the Midwest and bartenders weren’t beholden to a specific recipe (the first official recipe for an old fashioned wasn’t printed until 1895), so they took liberties and swapped out the traditional whiskey for brandy, thus creating what would eventually become the unofficial official cocktail of Milwaukee.
Considering brandy’s relative unpopularity among younger drinkers these days, you’re unlikely to find brandy old fashioneds at the city’s modern craft cocktail bars. But, if you look, you can still find plenty of Milwaukee restaurants proudly serving the drink to die-hard fans. Hint: look for it in the supper clubs and the dive bars.
Everyone screams for ice cream… except in Wisconsin, where they clamor for a different type of treat: frozen custard. Made with a higher butter-fat content and a whole lot of egg yolks, frozen custard has a richer, silkier texture than ice cream, somewhere between gelato and soft serve.
This spot has been a Milwaukee institution since 1942 and is actually considered a landmark in the city. The menu only includes three flavors (vanilla, chocolate, and butter pecan), but there are infinite ways to customize your custard, from adding syrups and toppings, to whipping it into a shake or malt.
Milwaukee is a city that loves its beer, as evidenced by the fact that it named its baseball team the “Brewers”. In fact, you can pretty much throw a rock anywhere in this city and expect to at least get close to hitting a brewery. So which ones are worth a visit? Here are our picks for the best Milwaukee breweries:
Did you know Milwaukee has its own signature style of pizza? While it may not be as famous as the fold-n-go slices of New York or the deep-dish monstrosities of Chicago, Milwaukee pizza is distinctive and much-loved throughout the city. Expect a cracker-thin crust on your party cut (that’s squares, for the uninitiated) pie, plus cheese and toppings that are applied with an extra-heavy hand.