MILWAUKEE — This may not be a surprise to some, but Wisconsin drinks a lot of brandy. Just how much do Wisconsinites love their brandy?
In 2020, Korbel shipped 58.7% of all their brandy to Wisconsin. That means 167,003 of 284,297 bottles of Korbel brandy were sent to Wisconsin.
“But I think the softness of the brandy pairs nicely with the sweetness of the Wisconsin old fashioneds," Paul Ahvenainen, the master distiller with Korbel, said.
Wisconsin certainly loves a good old fashioned. It's probably the signature cocktail of the state.
Now, people can take their love for brandy and old fashioneds to the next level with a new board game called 'Brandy Land'.
"It started on bar napkins, and then it just grew from that into the board that we have now," Gregg Potter, the CEO of Project Kinect, a marketing firm and co-founder of the game, said.
Brandy Land is similar to Candy Land in many respects. It’s not just a drinking game. It incorporates quintessential parts of Midwest life like the 'Tell your folks I says hey' card. You literally have to call another player's parent and say hello to them. However, there are also more drinking-related cards as well.
It is made in connection with Drink Wisconsinbly, Project Kinect, and 100 Miles Sauce Co. It costs $50 and you only have until April 5 to order it. You can order it here. The board game will arrive in mid-June. If you do order it and have a few old fashioneds during the game, make sure to have a safe way to get home.
Let's back up for a second, though. How did Wisconsin get to love brandy and old fashioneds so much?
There is the 1893 Korbel story about the Korbel brothers bringing brandy to the Chicago World fair in 1893. As legend goes, it was brought back to Wisconsin and the entire state became enamored with the liquor. That's not true, according to local cocktail historian and author, Jeannette Hurt. She said it was gradual, but two things played a big part. One was in 1947, when 30,000 barrels of brandy came flooding into Wisconsin.
“In the 1940s, when suddenly we had all of this good brandy available, at the same time when there were all the other bad spirits around. We self-selected good brandy when there was bad whiskey,” Hurt, who has written a book on Wisconsin cocktails, said.
Then in the 50s and 60s, companies recognized Wisconsin’s taste for brandy. It was Korbel’s clever marketing campaign that put them ahead of everyone else.
“And it went something like, ‘for a nickel more, worth it,' which played on our thrifty sensibilities,” she said.
As to why Wisconsinites still love brandy and old fashioneds?
“This sort of pride. 'We’re in Wisconsin, therefore, we drink the way we drink, and we like being different,'” Hurt said.
The Master Distiller at Korbel has a different thought.
"I think it's just to be said one of those little matches made in heaven," Ahvenainen said.
Returning to the Korbel Brothers story. They weren’t the only ones to showcase their brandy at the world's fair. Multiple different kinds were brought back to Wisconsin where it did remind some of the German population of spirits back in Europe. But brandy wouldn’t gain widespread popularity until about 40 years later, Hurt said.
A few other interesting facts about old fashioneds. Fruit and soda are incorporated in the drink because when they were primarily used with whiskey, the extra ingredients helped mask the cheap spirit taste better.
Hurt also said that a nickname for old fashioneds was a fruit salad.