The Old Pal is a simple and delicious three-ingredient cocktail. You’ll need whiskey (preferably bourbon), dry vermouth, and Campari. But, the cocktail’s simplicity shouldn’t be mistaken for weakness. It’s a classic that perfectly balances sweet, dry, and bitter flavors.
A Quick Overview
The Old Pal first appeared in 1922 in Harry McElhone’s The ABC of Mixing Cocktails after being invented by Harry MacElhone, the proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Since its inception, the cocktail has been overshadowed by more popular drinks. But that doesn’t mean it’s been fair to do so.
The Old Pal is a dry version of its cousin the Boulevardier. Instead of sweet vermouth, the Old Pal calls for dry. This results in an exceptional flavor that’s a hybrid between the Dry Manhattan and the Negroni. There are three distinct ingredients, each add their own genuine flair to the cocktail.
Old Pal Ingredients
Bourbon or Rye?
The whiskey adds a bold character to the mix. However, depending on the type you choose, the taste of the cocktail will differ greatly. The Old Pal was originally made with rye, which is still a great choice. Even still, I much prefer bourbon. It’s a lot sweeter than rye and isn’t as spicy either. The sweetness helps balance Campari’s bitterness and creates a very nice feel to the drink.
Next, there’s dry vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine that’s differentiated into two main types: dry and sweet. The wine’s considered an apéritif and is made with many different herbs, spices, roots, berries, flowers, and seeds. So, it has a wide range of distinct aromas and flavors making it a great addition to cocktails. In fact, vermouth is a modifier in some of the most popular cocktails in the world. But it can also be enjoyed by itself, either on the rocks or neat.
Dry Vermouth is an important ingredient in the Old Pal because it helps tie everything together. Otherwise, the drink would quite frankly be a bitter mess.
It’s important to remember that vermouth’s not a spirit like a whiskey. Vermouth doesn’t keep the same. After it’s been opened it has a limited shelf-life of 2-4 weeks at room temperature or 2-3 months refrigerated. So don’t let it go to waste and drink up!
Campari is an Italian liqueur known for its bitter taste. The liqueur’s infused with herbs and fruit, making it subtly spicy with a very small amount of sweetness. Campari is an acquired taste and is a bit much if you’re not used to it. If that’s the case, try adding more whiskey to the recipe. That’ll help reduce the bitterness. But don’t worry, I don’t think you’ll need to. The whiskey does a great job of balancing the cocktail already. Regardless, if you’re really not feeling like Campari is for you, no sweat, substitute it with Aperol.
Aperol is an Italian bitter liqueur too but it isn’t as bitter and has less than half the alcohol content. The liqueur’s infused with gentian, cinchona, and rhubarb. So it will still add great flavor but with less of a bite, sorta speak.
Feel free to experiment with different ratios of ingredients to customize the cocktail anyway you like! For example, if you want a deeper taste, add more whiskey: increase the whiskey 1/2 fl oz (2 fl oz total).
Likewise, if you’re not sure about the Campari, reduce it to 3/4 fl oz. Better yet, try kicking things up a notch by adding a few dashes of bitters (i.e. Angostura/Orange)! The possibilities are endless with bitters!
How to Make an Old Pal Cocktail
A classic Old Pal cocktail recipe with bourbon, dry vermouth, and Campari. Learn how to make this easy and delicious cocktail! The drink perfectly balances sweet bourbon with dry/bitter flavors to make a very sippable and sophisticated cocktail.
- 1 1/2 fl oz Whiskey (Bourbon)
- 1 fl oz Dry Vermouth
- 1 fl oz Campari
- Lemon Garnish
- In a mixing glass, combine all liquid ingredients with ice and stir for 20-30 seconds.
- Strain cocktail into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lemon peel or twist.
If the cocktail is too bitter, substitute the Campari with Aperol instead.
- Category: Cocktail
- Serving Size: 1-3
Keywords: Old Pal, Whiskey, Bourbon, Dry Vermouth, Campari, Aperol
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