The Northwoods' Cocktail


The drink of choice across the cheese state is almost as synonymous as fish fry on Friday nights and Wisconsin's Northwoods is no exception to that. The old fashioned cocktail, dating back to the 1800's originally was made with gin, before evolving to be made with brandy or whiskey. The cocktail can be made many ways, such as - whiskey or brandy for the liquor; sugar, bitters, and cherries and/or oranges muddled together; sweet (sweet soda), sour (sour soda), or press (equal parts 7-up/soda water); and lastly, garnished with cherries, olives, or another type of fruit. However, the traditional Wisconsin version of the old fashioned is a lump of sugar muddled in a lowball glass with Angostura bitters and cherries + an orange slice, Korbel brandy, made sweet with lemon-lime soda, and garnished with cherries or olives.

Across the Northwoods, we've found establishments dressing up the craft cocktail by making an ice cream version, adding Fireball, muddling maple sugar, and even lighting a flame on top (yes, I wrote flame!). Make your way through our list to find a new stool in a hole in the wall bar as you discover a new favorite version of the cocktail. If staying in with guests is more your style, skip to the bottom to pick up a few essentials at our favorite, Ann Marie's in Minocqua.  


The Traditional

the Guide's inn 

If you haven't found a favorite restaurant to celebrate milestones with a drink at the bar or a 4-course meal, this is your place. The Guide's Inn is known for their cocktails, served in the historic Boulder Junction landmark. Go traditional here - order a brandy old fashioned, muddled preciously with sugar, real fruit, and garnished with olives.

Northerly suggests ordering battered mushrooms + baked French onion soup to enjoy as you sip your cocktail.  


Little Bohemia Lodge

Something about sipping a cocktail alongside gangster history just makes the drink that much better. Little Bohemia's old fashioned is muddled to order - sweet, sour, or press - by bartender Kyle. Splurge here, order a top shelf spirit to upgrade your cocktail, garnished with either cherries or olives.  

Northerly suggests taking a Dillinger tour to see the remnants of the 1930's shootout.


Norwood pines Supper Club 

Norwood Pines Supper Club is a northern Wisconsin classic and that is a huge compliment. The restaurant + bar, located in Minocqua, is housed in a historic gangster dining spot. Stop in to order the classic cocktail made with whiskey or brandy, garnished with fruit, olives, or even mushrooms. If you're hungry, enjoy a drink alongside their traditional Friday Night Fish Fry or Saturday Night Prime Rib. Read more about Norwood Pines here.   

Northerly suggests staying for dessert - order an ice cream drink and ask for extra spoons to share.  


A New Spin 

the Twilight Supper club + sandman lounge

The best cocktails are worth the drive. The Twilight Supper Club, in Land O'Lakes, is famous for their spin on Wisconsin's tradition; the campfire old fashioned - complete with a flame to toast your marshmallow. Other speciality flavors include ginger, citralicious, cranberry, and pumpkin spice. Even better, try their famous ice cream drink, the Frozen Twilight Old Fashioned.

Northerly suggests watching the Chain Skimmers Ski Show, just a few miles down the road. Held in the summer months on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights.


Aurora Borealis Restaurant 

Fireball seems to be all the rage lately, and at this bar + restaurant, that holds true. Visit bartender Tammy at Aurora Borealis Restaurant in Manitowish Waters for a fireball old fashioned cocktail to wet your whistle. Made sweet or sour, with real fruit + bitters, the brandy or whiskey choice is substituted for cinnamon flavored, Fireball whisky. If you're a cinnamon lover - this is for you - cinnamon stick included.

Northerly suggests ordering the fish tacos + sweet pea bruschetta at the bar for dinner. Both are Northerly favorites.      


Chico's North of the Border

You wouldn't expect to head to a Mexican joint in the Northwoods, let alone head to a Mexican joint for a typical supper club style cocktail - but boy does Chico's, in Springstead, make a delicious old fashioned. Using the traditional method of cherries + oranges muddled together, bartender Mina throws a curve ball by adding maple sugar into the mix. The small-but-mighty addition does the trick. If margaritas + chimichangas are your thing, Chico's North of the Border is also the perfect place for that!  

Northerly suggests stopping into the neighboring bar, The Birches Resort, for a pizza. Overlooking a small lake, we (shockingly) advise you to order another old fashioned. 


Turn Back Time

voss' birchwood lodge

Take a step back in time at Voss' Birchwood Lodge as you belly up to their bar, overlooking Spider Lake in Manitowish Waters. The clock seems to slow as you walk through the front door and reminisce among their historic decor. At the bar, order a brandy old fashioned however you like it - you'll watch them add in Angostura orange bitters, which seems to make all the difference.

Northerly suggests arriving by boat and sitting in the chairs atop the boathouse to sip as the sun sets.  


Hintz's North Star Lodge

History runs deep at Hintz's North Star Lodge in Star Lake, near Sayner. Find a stool at the small bar and order a Korbel brandy old fashioned sour with olives. Hintz's, built in 1895, was originally the prestigious Oliver Lodge in the early 1900's and served as the last stop for the Pullman cars on the train north. As you sip your Wisconsin cocktail, ask the server for a few bits on the history of the place. A great story makes a good cocktail even better. 

Northerly suggests wandering the historic property + staying for dinner, the dining room overlooks Star Lake. 


Smokey's supper club 

An evening at a Northwoods supper club is many things: relaxing, enjoyable, + delightful. Smokey's Supper Club, in Manitowish Waters, known for their warm ambiance and delicious food, has a bar that is a hidden gem. As you nibble on the spiced nuts the bartender placed in front of you, order an old fashioned whatever style you like it. Be sure to ask for blue cheese stuffed olives as your garnish.  

Northerly suggests visiting on a Friday or Saturday night to enjoy live piano music.


From Your Cabin's Wet Bar


Woodford Reserve bourbon soaked cherries (purchase at Ann Marie's)
Sugared cranberries (recipe here
Candied citrus peel (recipe here


IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ingredients 

Impress your guests by using Bittermilk's Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned Handcrafted Cocktail Mixer as your cocktail's base. To add a new flare, try their Oaxacan flavor or the New Orleans style. 
Bitters have been the quintessential ingredient in cocktails since the early 1800's, keep the trend alive by using Woodford Reserve Bitters, available in flavors like Spiced Cherry, Sassafras + Sorghum, and Aromatic.
Cocktails have been served in lowball tumblers for ages - it's time to upgrade. Hand your guest a copper mug filled to the brim with a craft cocktail and you'll be the favorite hostess on the lake. All products are available at Ann Marie's in downtown Minocqua. 

Northerly suggests picking up a few bits for your cheese + charcuterie board - like bourbon spiced pecans, fig jam, + chocolate covered espresso beans - because alcohol and snacks go hand-in-hand. Tell the folks at Ann Marie's we say hi. They are lovely.  

Wisconsin's New Old Fashioned Cocktail

2 oz. Korbel or other light-bodied brandy
2 dashes bitters (try Woodford Reserve Bitters, available at Ann Marie's)  
1 sugar cube
2 orange slices
2 maraschino cherries
soda (sweet soda, sour soda, 7 up or seltzer water) 

Place the sugar cube in the base of your old-fashioned lowball glass and dash the bitters onto it. Add the cherries + orange slices and muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add brandy or other alcohol and stir to combine. Add ice, preferably one large chunk of ice, and top with soda of your choice or keep it simple with nothing at all. Garnish as desired.




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