The Old Pal Cocktail Recipe: A Spicy, Smooth Rye Whiskey Cocktail

The Old Pal Cocktail Recipe: A Spicy, Smooth Rye Whiskey Cocktail
A savory cocktail that is perfect for sipping.

The Old Pal is pretty obviously a direct descendant of the Negroni, though it’s been tweaked not only in terms of base liquor, but also in what fortified wine is used to act as a bridge between the hard stuff and the bitter, Italian liqueur Campari. Drier than a Negroni, this cocktail may not be for the faint of heart. If you’re not yet a Campari fan, consider starting with the drink’s older sibling, or swapping out the Campari for Aperol, which has a similar flavor profile without being quite so bitter (I talked about Aperol extensively in my recent article on the Starfire).

Aficionados may also note the Old Pal’s similarity to the Boulevardier. It’s true, they’re quite similar, although again the Boulevardier uses sweet vermouth, and not dry. Both drinks, in fact, appear to have been first chronicled by Harry MacElhone, but the Old Pal’s appearance in the 1922 edition of Harry’s ABCs of Mixing Cocktails (where it’s credited to one mister Sparrow Robertson, Sporting Editor of Paris’s New York Herald) predates the first mention of the Boulevardier, which occurs in 1927’s follow-up, Barflies and Cocktails. Interestingly, MacElhone failed to include the Old Pal in the second book, and it doesn’t show up again until 1930, in Harry Craddock’s seminal drinks tome, The Savoy Cocktail Book [1].

I like this drink a lot. The spicy rye whiskey combines in an interesting manner with the Campari, and the dry vermouth helps smooth things out without making it overly sweet and cloying. It’s a great drink for sipping while sitting out on the deck on a summer evening. In fact, if you want to make it more of a summer cooler, it takes very well to adding a few ice cubes and an ounce or two of club soda.

Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.

[1] Thanks to Wikipedia for this info


The Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

A dry Negroni variant
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Servings 1 Drink




  • Combine all ingredients in a pint glass over ice and stir thoroughly.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.
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Christopher Buecheler

Christopher Buecheler is a novelist, a web developer, an award-winning amateur mixologist, a brewer, a guitarist, a drummer, and an NBA enthusiast. He lives a semi-nomadic life with his wife and two cats, currently residing in Providence, RI. You can learn more at his website,