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Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

The Old Pal is a boozier version of the Negroni and Boulevardier. It’s also delicious. Craft one at home in just five minutes and find out if the Old Pal will be your new best friend.

Old Pal Cocktail with Black Background

You’re not crazy if you think that our Old Pal cocktail recipe seems familiar.

For one thing, this classic cocktail has been kicking around bars for a century. But that’s probably not the only reason…

This potent potable has boozy buddies (or should we say old pals?) that you probably already know. Those buddies are the Negroni and Boulevardier. We like to say they’re the Old Pal’s friends with boozy benefits.

What Is the Old Pal Cocktail?

Old Pal Cocktail with Black Background from Above
The Old Pal runs in good company. The classic cocktail is in the same category as the Negroni and Boulevardier.

The classic Old Pal cocktail is a boozy beverage originally crafted with equal parts of Canadian Club, Campari and dry vermouth. Over the years, this recipe evolved to replace Canadian Club with rye whiskey. Some mixologists, including us, have chosen to ramp up the rye, essentially changing the recipe’s ratio from 1:1:1 to 2:1:1.

A simple way to describe the Old Pal is a Negroni crafted with gin and dry vermouth. Yet another description is a rye Boulevardier with dry vermouth.

Yes, it would be easy to dismiss the Old Pal as derivative but the same can be said about most cocktails. The better plan is to imbibe an Old Pal while you debate its merits.

History of the Old Pal Cocktail

Old Pal Cocktail with White Background
The Old Pal’s history is no mystery.

We’re not being cute when we say that the Old Pal is good friends with the Boulevardier. After all, both cocktails were created by Harry MacElhone, the iconic mixologist who owned Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and penned the equally iconic Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

Fun Fact
MacElhone didn’t just create the Boulevardier and Old Pal cocktails. He also gets credit for crafting the original Bloody Mary, French 75 and Sidecar cocktails.

But what about Old Pal’s name? Cocktail lore reveals that MacElhone named the cocktail after his ‘old pal’ William Robinson. Robinson must have been a true blue friend to warrant this recognition.

Old Pal Cocktail Ingredients

Old Pal Ingredients
The only ingredients required to craft an Old Pal cocktail are Campari, dry vermouth, rye whiskey and a lemon. Ice is also necessary for mixing.

Following the classic cocktail playbook, the Old Pal has just a handful of ingredients:

  • Campari
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Rye Whiskey
  • Lemon Twist (garnish)
  • Ice Cubes (stirring)
Old Pal Liquors
Campari, sweet vermouth and rye whiskey are the three liquors required to craft a modern Old Pal cocktail.

You’ll notice that the Old Pal’s three main ingredients are all liquor. Once you assemble them, you’ll be minutes away from meeting (i.e. crafting) your new best friend (aside from your dog).

Rye Whiskey

Bottle of Rittenhouse Rye
This bottle of Rittenhouse Rye packs a wallop – not that we’re complaining.

Rye distilled in the USA is similar to American bourbon with one key exception – it must be distilled with at least 51% rye.

Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whisky is our go-to rye whiskey for two reasons. First, although it’s now produced by Heaven Hill in Louisville, Kentucky, its roots are in Philadelphia. Second, its spicy flavor is simultaneously complex and smooth. It has an ABV of 50%.

Campari

Campari Bottle
We’re not bitter that we always seem to have a bottle of Campari in our liquor cabinet.

Campari is a complex liqueur that derives its herbaceous tones from 50+ secret ingredients that include bitter herbs, aromatic plants and fruit. Famous for being the primary Negroni ingredient, Campari is a versatile liqueur used to craft a myriad of cocktails including the Old Pal. It has an ABV of 25%.

Dry Vermouth

Noilly Prat White Vermouth Bottle
Ooh La La! This bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth was produced in the South of France.

Unlike sweet vermouth which is typically ruby red and produced in Italy, dry vermouth is white and has a French heritage. Most people have a bottle of the fortified wine at home since it’s a mandatory martini ingredient and, more often than not, that bottle is Italy’s Martini & Rossi.

We purchased a bottle of Noilly Prat dry vermouth since it’s from France instead of Italy. As a bonus, this dry vermouth’s recipe has 14 botanicals. It has an ABV of 18%.

Buy bottles of RyeWhiskey, Campari and/or dry Vermouth from Drizly or Total Wine if you live in the US.

How To Craft an Old Pal Cocktail

Old Pal Cocktail Mise en Place
We were mere moments from cocktail bliss once we organized the Old Pal ingredients and a few basic bar tools.

You don’t need any fancy bar tools to craft an Old Pal cocktail. We recommend using the following bar basics:

Don’t worry if you don’t have any or all of these tools. Each is inexpensive and you can improvise in a pinch if you don’t already own them.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

The first step is to measure the rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth and pour each directly into a mixing glass. We like to use a Japanese jigger to ensure accurate measurements and make clean pours. Another option is to use a small angled measuring cup.

Buy a Japanese jigger if you don’t have a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Add ice and stir with a bar spoon until the three liquors are combined and chilled. This step should take about 20 seconds.

Mixing an Old Pal Cocktail
Mixing an Old Pal is when the mixology magic happens with this particular cocktail.

Next, strain the cocktail into a coupe glass.

Straining an Old Pal Cocktail
Is it just us or is the Old Pal’s color gorgeous?

The final step is to garnish with a lemon twist.

Garnishing an Old Pal Cocktail
This fragrant lemon twist transformed our Old Pal to best friend status.

It’s now time to discover if the Old Pal is your new best friend too.

Old Pal Cocktail Variations

Crafted Old Pal Cocktail with Bottles and Lemon
It’s always good to craft new cocktail friends like the Old Pal cocktail

We think you’re going to like our Old Pal recipe. However, we won’t be insulted if you want to broaden your cocktail circle by trying the following Old Pal variations:

  • Go old school and modify the rye whiskey / Campari / dry vermouth ratio to 1:1:1.
  • Replace the rye whiskey with bourbon and the dry vermouth with sweet vermouth to craft a Boulevardier.
  • Replace the rye whiskey with club soda and the dry vermouth with sweet vermouth to craft an Americano.
  • Replace the rye whiskey with gin and the dry vermouth with sweet vermouth to craft a Negroni.
  • Replace the rye whiskey with Prosecco and the dry vermouth with sweet vermouth to craft a Negroni Sbagliato.

Old Pal Cocktail FAQs

What is the Old Pal cocktail?

The Old Pal is a classic cocktail crafted with rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth. It’s typically garnished with a lemon twist.

How is the Old Pal cocktail different from a Negroni?

The Old Pal is crafted with rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth while a Negroni is crafted with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth.

How is the Old Pal cocktail different from a Boulevardier?

The Old Pal is crafted with rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth while a Boulevardier is crafted with bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth.

Where was the Old Pal cocktail invented?

The Old Pal cocktail was invented at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

What are the ingredients in an Old Pal cocktail?

Rye Whiskey, Campari, Dry Vermouth, Ice Cubes (for stirring) and Lemon Peel (garnish)

Is the Old Pal cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Old Pal cocktail is stirred, not shaken.

What type of glass is best for the Old Pal cocktail?

We like to serve this cocktail in a coupe glass but you could use a small martini glass instead.

Will the Old Pal cocktail be your new best friend?

We can’t answer that question. You’ll have to craft and drink the cocktail yourself to answer this question.

Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

Old Pal Cocktail with White Background

Old Pal Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Craft an Old Pal to find out if the classic cocktail will be your new best friend.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces rye whiskey
  • 0.75 ounce Campari
  • 0.75 ounce dry vermouth
  • lemon twist
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Combine rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth in a mixing glass.
  2. Add several ice cubes and stir for 20 seconds or until the liquids are mixed and chilled.
  3. Strain into a coupe glass.
  4. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes

  • You can use a small martini glass instead of a coupe glass.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: December 2, 2022

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