My Old Pal, the Old Pal Cocktail

The Old Pal Cocktail is another of those inscrutable Campari drinks. Everything Campari touches turns to bitter gold, and I mean that in a good way. I was first introduced to the Old Pal Cocktail at the Grand Prize bar when I told the bartender that I loved Negronis but wanted something different. He gave me an Old Pal, but I thought he told me it was an Opal, like the gem stone. It was a while later when I came across a recipe that I realized that it was an Old Pal. Stupid, I know.

You don’t have to put with that, though. You can make your own. Combine with ice:

  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

There are two important differences here from the Boulevardier or the Red River Cocktail. One is the dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth, and the second is the addition of the lemon peel. These two differences make the Old Pal distinctive. It has the bitter bite of the rye and Campari, but the dry vermouth doesn’t add any additional sweetness, merely a hint of herbal and a floral bouquet. The bitter taste of the lemon peel comes through, along with the sour smell.

The Old Pal is utterly drinkable, perhaps even more so than the Boulevardier, although not as good as the Red River Rye or the Negroni. It’s a good drink, worth making at home if you want something just a tad different from your usual Campari drink but still need that bitter fix.

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