This Years Honorees Include a 96-Year-Old & Her Tavern Co-Owning Son; A Lake Geneva Mother of 3; Cocktail-Crafting Newlyweds & A Former Wisconsinite Spreading the Lore & Love of Old Fashioneds in Illinois
Today Co-Founders Pat and Evan unveiled this year’s inductees into the Milwaukee-based Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame. “We were incredibly impressed by all the nominations,” Pat said. “Reviewing the submissions reminded us of the passion that everyday Wisconsinites and folks from across the country have for our state’s favorite cocktail.”
The 2023 Slate of Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame inductees includes:
- Tim Okonek (from Muskego, Wisc.) received a record 36 nominations, which is triple the number of any previous nominee. In one nomination, a regular at Wegner’s St. Martin’s Inn wrote of the part-time bartender “Tim makes the best Brandy Old Fashioned. People from all over the state travel to the restaurant just to try it.”
- Greg Sopa (from Champaign, Ill.) is a Wisconsin transplant to Central Illinois where he is spreading the love of the Brandy Old Fashioned one handcrafted cocktail at a time during pre-college football game tailgates, holiday parties and beyond.
- Lauren Sivak (from Lake Geneva, Wisc.) is a second-year nominee who received 18 nominations in 2023. In her spare time, the working mother of three – Tommy (age 4), David (2) and Ellie (1) –travels to supper clubs with her husband Brian to learn more about the cocktail and hone her locally famous recipe.
- Bryce & Kelli Butenhof (from Menomonee Falls, Wisc.), who were married in Hawaii in April, are a welcome addition to any and of their friends’ parties for Bryce’s legendary Brandy Old-Fashioned recipe and Kelli’s ever-growing collection of “Call Me Old Fashioned” T-shirts.
- Thomas De Guelle (from Hortonville, Wisc.) received five nominations and is known for carrying his own traveling Old Fashioned kit and muddling every Old Fashioned he makes no matter the location.
- And, 96-year-old Valencia Grunenwald and her son Mike Grunenwald (from Merrill, Wisc.) who co-own the Beacon, which is part restaurant, catering, discount liquor, tavern and gifts all in one. The Grunenwalds have owned the Beacon since 1960 and according to Mike’s nomination “my 96-year-old mother still helps out daily and is a spitfire with an extreme passion for serving her customers.”
“These inductees embody what the Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame is all about,” Hughes said. “It was designed to honor everyday folks who truly love and love serving our state’s unofficial cocktail.”
Fame, Free Brandy & So Much More
Each inductee will receive a year’s supply of Central Standard’s North Wisconsin brandy; two custom bottles of North Wisconsin brandy with their photo on it; lifetime VIP status at the Central Standard Crafthouse & Kitchen at 320 E. Clybourn St. in downtown Milwaukee; and recognition in the Brandy Old Fashioned Hall of Fame, which is housed at the Crafthouse & Kitchen.
Starting September 1 as part of Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned month, Pat & Evan again asked folks from across the state and country to nominate individuals deserving of Hall of Fame status. Anyone could nominate a potential hall of famer by going online and explaining his or her worthiness in 50 words or less. Nominations were accepted through Sept. 30, and a panel of judges selected the inductees based on the strength of their nominations and their Brandy Old Fashioned stories. The 2023 honorees will be official inducted into the hall of fame in a special ceremony in February in Milwaukee.
Last year, the Hall of Fame inducted six folks from across the state and beyond into its inaugural class including a 90-year-old grandfather nicknamed Old Fashioned; the owner of a state-fair winning Old-Fashioned recipe; and an out-of-stater who travels home as she just can’t find a quality Old Fashioned cocktail outside Wisconsin.
“Brandy Old Fashioned month and the hall of fame were both created to connect Wisconsinites with the great local distilleries we have here in the state,” said Evan, who is also a board member of the Wisconsin Distillers Guild. “The spirits industry in Wisconsin supports more than 39,000 jobs from family farmers and truck drivers to glass-bottle makers and those in the hospitality industries. In all, Wisconsin distilleries impact billions of dollars in economic activity every year in our state and beyond.”