Uncle Larry’s Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet

The Open Bar

With the holiday cooking season fast approaching, we thought it the perfect time to cull back through Tin House’s various forays into the culinary world and share some of our favorite recipes.

From our Food & Booze anthology, Sara Roahen’s recipe to make your extended family bearable.


Uncle Larry’s Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet

Most brandy old-fashioned makers I know are partial to a particular brand (Uncle Larry likes Christian Brothers), but any inexpensive brandy will do. It’s essential to make ice in the largest cubes possible; the balance of bitters, brandy, and sweetness is easily diluted, and the kind of nubby ice sold by the bag melts too quickly. Lastly, most store-bought bar syrups are either saccharine-sweet or have a plasticky flavor. After years of empirical research Uncle Larry found one to fit his taste, Sweet 10, but you can also make your own simple syrup by heating equal parts water and sugar on the stovetop and stirring just until the sugar dissolves. For easy access, store the syrup in a squirt bottle or other covered vessel with a pour spout.


Liberal 2 jiggers (3 ounces) brandy

4 or 5 strong dashes Angostura bitters

1 teaspoon simple syrup

½ of one 2-inch cinnamon stick (split it lengthwise)

6 ounces (half a can) cold 7Up

Maraschino cherries to taste

Fill a 12-ounce tumbler to the top with ice cubes and pour in brandy. Add bitters and simple syrup; stir with cinnamon stick, leaving the stick in the glass. Top off the drink with 7Up and stir again with a long-handled bar spoon. Garnish with maraschino cherries, either floating or skewered on a toothpick.

Sara Roahen, a writer and oral historian, serves on the Board of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Her first book, “Gumbo Tales,” chronicles New Orleans food culture.