The Five O'Clock Club in Cumberland was the first supper club I ever set foot in. I learned two things that evening 20 years ago: Surf-n-Turf is a spiffy way to describe beef and seafood for dinner and a good Wisconsin bartender needs to know how to make a proper Old Fashioned (and maybe a Brandy Alexander). Lee was the bartender at the Five O'Clock and I looked forward to stopping at her bar for a cocktail every time we went in for dinner. She always remembered our names, asked after Ted's parents and could carry on a conversation peppered with sass and humor. In fact, the New York Times just wrote an article about Northern Wisconsin supper clubs— stiff cocktails and surf-n-turf are cool (again). As they said in the article, "good supper clubs have fine-tuned the rituals of dining and drinking to near perfection".
Over the past four years as a restaurant owner, I have learned countless things— never eat sweet potato fries off a customer's plate, don't gesture wildly in a crowded dining room, calf hair shoes do not belong in a kitchen and how to make a proper Old Fashioned. Brandy is the liquor of choice but an Old Fashioned made with rye whiskey is sublime. The Old Fashioned has four components: an amber-colored liquor, bitters, maraschino cherries and oranges. I know from my adventures in the kitchen, the quality of ingredients matter, a lot, and it is no different behind the bar. Clear Creek brandy or Willett rye, Luxardo maraschino cherries from Italy and Fee Brothers whiskey barrel aged bitters make a mean Old Fashioned. I think Lee would approve.
Good Thyme Old Fashioned
3 ounces brandy or rye
1 ounce simple syrup made with raw sugar
3 dashes of Fee Brothers Bitters
2 Luxardo maraschino cherries
1 quarter of a 1/2 inch slice of orange
7-up or Sprite
Muddle the orange slice and cherries in a glass, add the simple syrup, bitters and ice. Pour the brandy or rye into the glass, top with 7-up and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.