The Old Pal is a classic that dates back to the cocktail’s golden age. In the cocktail family tree, the Old Pal is a sibling to the Boulevardier and a not-so-distant relative to the Negroni. It swaps out Negroni’s gin for rye whiskey, and the sweet vermouth for dry vermouth. The exact time and place of its creation is murky, but credit generally goes to Harry MacElhone of the famed Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1927. Legend has it that the Old Pal is named in honor of William Harrison “Sparrow” Robertson, a writer for the New York Herald Tribune and a regular at Harry’s Bar. Robertson had a habit of using the moniker “old pal” much as the titular character in The Great Gatsby uses “old sport,” meaning you’re an old pal, your friend is an old pal, everyone is an old pal. Robertson’s relentless “old pals” just stuck to the drink and that’s how it was known ever after.
Old Pal Recipe
The first written recipe of the Old Pal can be found in the appendix of MacElhone’s book Barflies and Cocktails. That version used sweet vermouth rather than dry, but by 1929, the drink was recorded in its modern recipe of equal parts rye, dry vermouth and Campari in an updated reprint of MacElhone’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails. If you’re fans of either the Boulevardier or the Negroni, there’s a good chance you’ll like the Old Pal as well. It’s strong and dry, with the dry vermouth giving the cocktail a more bitter finish compared to the Boulevardier’s sweeter touch.
- Stir all ingredients with ice.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with a twist of lemon for rye whiskey, and an orange twist for bourbon.