GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It just isn’t supper in Wisconsin without some conversation, usually over cocktails first.

And on a Sunday afternoon, while waiting for the kitchen to open at River’s Bend Supper Club in Green Bay, Local 5 had a conversation about cocktails and what is a Wisconsin Old Fashioned.

“First, I’m gonna start with brandy,” said the founder of the Wisconsin Supper Club Enthusiasts Facebook Group, Shawn Niemann. “Made with brandy, a flick of the wrist of bitters with an orange and cherry. I don’t mind if it’s not muddled I know some people do. Sweet and sour don’t matter. The key ingredient is brandy.”

Several longtime members of the group also have decades of experience as bartenders and echoed Shawn’s sentiment that brandy is the old-fashioned pick.

Yet, Shawn was the only one among them who was drinking his cocktail with brandy.

The others chose Southern Comfort, Whiskey, and Crown Royal.

River’s Bend Manager Courtney Becerril also had an enlightening piece of information that three to one, their customers request whiskey.

“We don’t have an official stance, we just want to make whatever the customer wants.”

Newspaper accounts from as far back as the 1800s confirm the old-fashioned cocktail was around long before Wisconsinites started drinking it.

“It did originate in New York,” said Niemann. “It was a way to make less quality spirits seem palatable. “

Legends, however, about the brandy connection abound.

“Back during prohibition, I think there was a surplus in brandy, and it started in Kenosha Racine and worked its way up north,” Niemann said his research showed.

Local 5 News decided to get answers from the V.P. of Operations for Korbel in California.

“It’s over 50 percent of our brandy sales are in the state of Wisconsin, which is a relatively small state in terms of population. Yet you guys manage to drink more than 160,000 cases of Korbel Brand a year,” Paul Ahvenainen told Local 5’s, Michele McCormack.

Korbel has its own theories that Wisconsinites brought a whole bunch up from the world exposition in Chicago way back when. Or maybe German settlers just brought it from their home country.

More likely than not, they think it was a great jingle in the 60s.

“Korbel Brandy: a nickel a drink more and worth it,” recalled Ahvenainen. “And for whatever reason, that really resonated in Wisconsin.”

Still, some mixologists say don’t get bogged down in the spirit. What makes a Wisconsin old-fashioned, Wisconsin is the wash.”

“A definitive Wisconsin Old Fashioned includes the soda or the wash,” concluded supper club enthusiast Dan Rehbein. “Which is different than what you’re going to find in other parts of the country.”

Becerril agreed. “The only state, I guess that has the wash in the old fashioned. Typically it’s just going to be the bitters and the spirit.”

River’s Bend has been experimenting and introducing seasonal flavors to old-fashioned cocktails.

The rum version with lavender bitters from the summer has been very popular and is part of a growing trend that’s bringing in a younger consumer.

“There is a huge resurgence in old-fashioned drinkers from gen x to the younger people who are just turning 21,” said Niemann.

“It’s a personal choice,” added fellow enthusiast Charles Clarage of Green Bay. “Even when it comes to the garnish, each person likes it a little differently.”

Niemann says the bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter.

Everybody’s drinking the version they enjoy, and it’s keeping supper clubs open.

“You’re seeing a renaissance of the old-fashioned, definitely.”