Homemade Classic Old Pal Cocktail with lemon twist for garnish
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Old Pal Cocktail

If you like classic drinks like the Negroni or the Boulevardier but would like something a little less sweet, look no further than the Old Pal. It’s based on these classic drinks but takes away the mildness of sweet vermouth and packs a powerful, sippable punch. With just three ingredients, this cocktail is as easy to make as it is delicious and memorable.

The History of the Old Pal

Created in the New York City Bar of Paris, France, the Old Pal is known for its pungency and drinkability. On a cold winter’s night (or a warm summer one), you can find a friend in the Old Pal’s simplicity. 

You can’t discuss the Old Pal without talking about the classic cocktail, the Negroni, made from gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. One of the original variations of the Negroni, the Boulevardier, substituted bourbon whiskey for gin for a bit more of a kick. These two cocktails gave birth to our new friend, the Old Pal. 

When Harry MacElhone decided to switch out whiskey in a Negroni for gin, he invented the Boulevardier. However, he made one further change to the recipe. MacElhone swapped the sweet vermouth for dry vermouth, taking away most of the sweetness and adding to the spice of the drink. 

From there, the Old Pal was born. Harry MacElhone named it after the sports editor from the Paris office of the New York Herald, who was (you guessed it) an old friend of his. The Old Pal has been a classic ever since, ranking in popularity with the Boulevardier and other twists on the Negroni cocktail. 

The Old Pal is a strong drink with three equally robust flavors. The whiskey provides a steady base for the zest of the Campari, and both are balanced out by dry vermouth. The drink is very dry and packs a kick of spice and bitterness. It’s not for the faint of heart or mouth, and it’ll wake up your taste buds. 

How to Make an Old Pal

An Old Pal, like its close counterpart the Boulevardier, is remarkably easy to make. It’s a three-ingredient cocktail that you can make however you choose and play around with the amounts until you have the perfect drink. 


  • 1 ½ ounces rye whiskey 
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth 
  • 1 ounce Campari 
  • Lemon twist or wedge for garnish


  1. Mix all three ingredients in a mixing cup with ice until thoroughly chilled. 
  2. Pour through a strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. 
  3. Garnish and enjoy! 


  • You can use bourbon whiskey instead of rye if you prefer the flavor. 
  • For a more potent drink, decrease the amounts of vermouth and Campari to ¾ of an ounce. 
  • The ideal cocktail glass is the coupe, but this drink will work well in a martini glass as well. 

Final Thoughts 

If you love a dry, warm drink, you’ll immediately make friends with the Old Pal. Its fire and spice will keep you coming back for more, and the exciting red color is sure to impress your drinking friends. Now that you can make an Old Pal, you won’t be wondering what to drink for cocktail hour. 

My Bartender

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