It’s fully fall. That means it’s time to learn how to make a new cocktail that captures the essence of the weather shifting and the leaves turning all shades of red and gold. This year, we’re going with the Negroni variation the Old Pal as our official cocktail of the season.
The Old Pal is one of those drinks that you may have never heard of, even if you’re a bespoke cocktail fan. It only pops up on cocktail bar menus at spots where they really get into Campari or Italian bitters. At its base level, the Old Pal is a more accessible version of the hefty boulevardier. Whereas the boulevardier is a bourbon or rye whiskey version of the classic Negroni (which is gin-based), the Old Pal keeps the whiskey but adds subtler dry vermouth in place of a sweet one.
This replacement of dry vermouth completely changes the texture and palate of the cocktail. It’s lighter while still holding onto the brighter elements of a boulevardier.
So why are we picking this as our official fall cocktail? Does it heal the sort of existential angst that we all seem to be drowning in? Not quite. We picked it because, for one, we’re still on an Italian bitters kick from summer. There’s just something about Campari that hits a big note on the palate during the pandemic. Plus, the Old Pal is a cocktail that makes you feel like you’re finally getting the art of cocktail mixing. It’s not overly complex — it’s just a matter of mixing three-equal parts together — but it’s a really big cocktail in the flavor department and sure to be a crowd-pleaser this time of year.
Check our recipe below!
The Old Pal
- 1.5-oz. Low-rye bourbon
- 1.5-oz. Campari
- 1.5-oz. Dry vermouth
- Lemon peel
The key to the Negroni variation is the dry vermouth. I’m using Noilly Prat. It’s French and arguably one of the best dry vermouths out there. Plus you can actually find it at pretty much every liquor store. It’s also a little earthier than the other vermouths with a grassy underbelly next to the finer points of fortified white wines. The spices and herbal notes are drawn back behind an almost savory veneer that really helps this vermouth shine.
I’m also forgoing the usual rye whiskey that this recipe was developed with. I find a subtler low-rye bourbon more mixable with the other elements. It’ll add the spice while not overpowering the other ingredients. Also, a really good low-rye bourbon, like Wild Turkey, is almost always a better value for price than any rye whiskey.
- A mixing jug
- A bar spoon
- A cocktail strainer
- Peeler or paring knife
- Coupe glass or Nick and Nora glass
The first step is to chill your coupe. Add a few cubes of ice. By the time you make the drink, the glass will be fully chilled. You can alternatively store your glass in the freezer overnight. But this really takes up a lot of space, especially if you don’t have a big deep-freeze.
Grab a mixing jug — or old jar or pint glass — and add each of the liquids. Top the jug with deeply frozen ice cubes. I generally go with a three-quarter fill with ice.
Stir the drink until the outside of the mixing jug is ice-cold to touch.
Give the ice in your coupe a swirl and then discard, making sure to dump out excess water.
Strain the cocktail into the coupe. The final touch is to spritz the oils from the lemon rind onto the cocktail and then rub the peel around the bowl and stem of the glass.
The Bottom Line:
As you can see from the image above, the lemon oils swirling over the cocktail are the x-factor that make this drink shine. It’s wonderfully chilled. There’s a nice botanical note that’s supported by the more vinous and savory Noilly Prat. The low-rye bourbon adds a familiar twinge with a note of rye spice on the end. Had I used the rye instead of low-rye bourbon, that would be more pronounced. But, I’d argue, unnecessary.
This really is a fantastic cocktail to have in your repertoire. It’s light, easy, and a crowd-pleaser that dials back the edgier notes of the Campari bitters with the softness of dry vermouth and warmth of good bourbon. It’s crisp. And the lemon oils really tie it into a satisfying sipper.
You can easily drink a few of these as the leaves and rain fall and the weather gets crisper. The Old Pal will warm you up, expand your palate, and put a smile on your face. God knows we all deserve that right now.