The Old Pal is an antique, tracing its roots back at least to to 1930, when it was published in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, by Harry MacElhone, proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. It bears a striking resemblance to the Boulevardier, another famous MacElhone classic.
MacElhone’s original recipe – equal parts of Canadian whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari (a bitter citrus apéritif) – comes off a bit acrid to a modern palate. We prefer this updated version from Death & Co, which swaps the Canadian whiskey for spicy American rye whiskey, and nudges up the measure to make it a bit more whiskey-forward.
If you prefer yours a little sweeter, try it with bourbon instead. However, don’t try to replace Campari with a sweeter apéritif like Aperol! Other quite-bitter brands like Luxardo or Gran Classic will do fine, but Aperol is simply too sweet to work here.
The lemon twist is often listed as an optional garnish, but we would argue that it’s a critical ingredient. The lemon oil sitting atop the surface of the drink heightens the aromatic impact of the vermouth, and on the sip it brings out Campari’s glorious citrus notes. Without it, it’s just not an Old Pal.
Stir all ingredients with ice until well-chilled. Strain into a small chilled cocktail glass. Express the lemon peel over the drink and rub around the edge of the glass, then either discard it or drop it in as a garnish.
- Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails by David Kaplan and Nick Fauchald