5 of the Best Wisconsin-Distilled Liquors, Plus a Little Moonshine

Including apple brandy, dark chocolate brandy and aged bourbon.

Suds may be Wisconsin’s claim to fame, but locally made spirits have now multiplied to the point where they’re bumping up against imports on store shelves. Local options range from cranberry liqueur to apple brandy and an organic dark rum, as well as bourbon made from heirloom red corn and dark-chocolate brandy inspired by Kohler’s chocolates.

Good Land Cranberry Liqueur with Spices

Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Distillery

This bottle, which debuted in October, folds in state-grown cranberry with cardamom, lemon and cinnamon. It’s designed to simply uncap and pour, or you can heat it up for a mulled-wine-like concoction.

AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery

Wisconsin Apple Brandy

From the Burlington maker, a brandy aged in Wisconsin white-oak barrels that’s perfect for making Old-Fashioneds. Owners Charles and Melissa McGonegal also recommend using it as part of a Champagne cocktail.

Twisted Path Distillery

Organic Dark Rum

An ideal spirit for mixing Tiki drinks (hello, Painkillers!) on a chilly winter night. No need to source rum from far-flung producers in Barbados or Puerto Rico, buy this one from Milwaukee.

Central Standard

Kohler Dark Chocolate Brandy

Central Standard shifted its Walker’s Point headquarters to Milwaukee’s near West Side in September, while maintaining its commitment to small-batch production. And a penchant for partnering with other Wisconsin companies led to this liquor blending Kohler’s chocolate line with accents of fruits and nuts.

J Henry & Sons

5-Year Bourbon

Bourbon is often equated with Tennessee, not Wisconsin. And yet a farm in the tiny town of Dane, just south of Madison, is home to this world-class producer. Heirloom red corn first grown on the farm in 1939 lies at the heart of what makes this mash so remarkable.

Bonus Round: Moonshine

It’s back. What you can buy from The Shinery in Cedarburg is basically unaged whiskey, the flavor of which has evolved greatly. “[Moonshine] used to be known as having no flavor, high proof and lots of burn,” says Lisa Reissman, co-owner of the store. Now, The Shinery sells 65 different moonshines, including some from Sugarlands Distilling Company (in Tennessee) and five of its own flavors, such as Butter Pecan (which is just begging for an ice-cream drink) and Maple Bacon. The Cedarburg store, and their branch in Neenah, also sell barbecue sauces, jars of salsa and even candles laced with firewater, the liquid form of which you can sample on Saturdays.



A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.