The Eau Claire Old Fashioned
New York Times cocktail writer mixes brandy-laden tribute to city
A new book by New York Times cocktail writer (and Wisconsin native) Robert Simonson memorializes Eau Claire is a way that local imbibers will appreciate: through the name of a cocktail. The book, 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon, features what Simonson christens “The Eau Claire Old Fashioned.” As a Wisconsinite, Simonson is intimately family with the Badger State’s beloved cocktail; in fact, in 2014 he wrote a book all about it titled The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, With Recipes and Lore.
Dating back the 19th century, the Old Fashioned was originally – and in most places, still is – a whiskey-based cocktail. In fact, it was one of the first cocktails ever concocted. Here in Wisconsin we do things differently: Old Fashioneds are made with brandy and frequently fruit and soda (7-Up or Sprite), making them sweeter than the ones mixed up by bartenders in the other 49 states. As Simonson wrote in The Old Fashioned, a Wisconsin-style Brandy Old Fashioned is a “sweet, fruity soup, devoid of much delicacy. But love it or hate it, you’ve got to pay the old girl some respect.” Wisconsin is responsible for 45 percent of the sales of California-based Korbel brandy, Simonson writes. He also quotes a Milwaukee bar owner who speculates that Wisconsin kept Angostura bitters afloat during the “dark years of cocktails” before the current craft drinking revival.
In 3-Ingredient Cocktails Simonson offers his own simplified recipe for “The Eau Claire Old Fashioned,” a refined take on the Sconnie supper club classic:
• 2 ounces Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac
• 1 bar spoon of simple syrup
• 3 dashes Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters
Simonson advises to stir the ingredients with one large ice cube and to add a twist of orange. (That would be a fourth ingredient, but who’s counting?) “The drink is named after Eau Claire, a mid-sized city in upper Wisconsin founded by French explorers, who would have known their cognac,” Simonson wrote.