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The Old Pal Is the Roaring Twenties-Era Rye Whiskey Drink That’s Perfect for 2021

Well, it’s finally 2021. Congrats, we made it. Let’s celebrate another year around the sun with a new old friend, The Old Pal.

The Old Pal is our favorite cocktail of the moment. It’s a bold-yet-smooth whiskey drink that’s perfect for toasting distant friends during this interminable plague winter. Below, we’ll share everything you need to know to create the perfect Old Pal cocktail.

First, here’s what you’ll need.

How To Make Old Pal Cocktails: Recipe & Ingredients

  • 1.5 Ounce Rye
  • 3/4 Ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 Ounce Campari
  • Garnish: Lemon twist

First, fill a mixing glass 2/3 full of ice. Add vermouth, Campari and then rye whiskey. Stir until well chilled for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use as a garnish.

If you’re not familiar with this drink, have no fear. There are bartenders that have either forgotten about it or don’t realize they have the ingredients for it. And that is NOT a dig on your favorite craft cocktail bar, we promise. There are so many classic cocktails it’s hard for one person to remember them all. However, this is one drink that’s sure to impress dinner guests and bartenders alike.

Now, if you want to learn everything you can about how to make the perfect Old Pal (and the champagne-whiskey cocktail, the Old Pal Royale), read on.

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Book Learning

Somehow, The Old Pal managed to slip through the cracks. In fact, it’s incredibly hard to find in most cocktail books. One of the few modern cocktail books that does include the Old Pal recipe is The PDT Cocktail Book.

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If ever there was a comprehensive reference guide to making classic and modern cocktails like a professional, Jim Meehan’s book is it. This is one cocktail guide that should be bought, read and highlighted like an old college textbook. Shortcuts are not encouraged to access the level of delightfulness you will achieve in making a perfect Old Pal.

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Courtesy of Amazon

Rye, Felicia: The Best Rye Whiskey

To make a proper Old Pal, you will need a proper rye whiskey. Three Ryes that fit the bill for this cocktail are Old Forester Rye, Woodford Reserve Rye and High West Rendezvous Rye. Each one adds something special without overpowering the drink.

Old Forester is properly priced so that you will not have to give up Starbucks for a year, but you can also pay a little more for the distiller’s Original Batch Rye Whiskey. In either case, Old Forrester Rye is made with enough care and class to tell you that there is something wonderful in your glass. At 90 proof, this top-shelf rye whiskey is to be enjoyed over a long period of time.

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Courtesy of Reserve Bar

We love Woodford Reserve is perhaps best known for making some of the best bourbons in the world, but they also make a mean rye whiskey. Coming in at both a mid-point in price and a high point in spice, Woodford Reserve Rye is perfect for making Old Pal cocktails. At $40 it hits a sweet spot price-wise and delivers that warm 90 proof Kentucky warmth you’ve been craving.

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Courtesy of Reserve Bar

Finally, if you want a true top-shelf liquor, High West Rendezvous Rye is at the high end of the pricing spectrum at $68 for 750 ml. High West makes a high rye craft whiskey that proves its value with every sip.

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Courtesy of Reserve Bar

It’s Okay to be a Little Fresh

If your home bar is properly stocked, you have a bottle of Dry Vermouth sitting in your refrigerator. Yes, you read that correctly. Vermouth is a fortified wine, and it will go bad after a few months, and even faster if you leave it out on your bar cart. Remember: Good drinks require good ingredients, and great cocktails require fresh ingredients. A 750 ml bottle of Dolin will cost you $20. Setting a Google alert to buy a new bottle in two months – priceless.

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Red Is the New Black

If your home bar is properly stocked, then you probably do NOT have a bottle of Campari sitting in your fridge. This versatile and valiantly colored Italian liqueur can be kept at room temperature and is a key element in most classic and modern cocktails. Be warned, Campari is both bitter and delightful, so let your taste buds be your guide. For $35 a 750ml bottle will outlast most of the fruit in your fridge. Bonus Feature: The bright Red bottle is as sexy as a Maserati MC20 and will elevate the look of your home bar.

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Popping Bottles

Since its inception in 1922, most new cocktail books either do not mention The Old Pal or reference it only in passing. But we firmly believe this is a cocktail that should be mentioned and made frequently. The Old Pal might not be as sexy as a Boulevardier or a Negroni, but it is easy to make as a Negroni or a Boulevardier. And if you are looking to upgrade this classic, nothing improves a cocktail like a champagne topper.

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Making the Old Pal Royale

The Old Pal Royale adds a little bit of champagne instead of a lemon twist. While whiskey and champagne may not seem like natural companions, you’ll have to trust us on this one.

To make The Old Pal Royale you’ll need:

  • 1 Ounce Rye
  • 3/4 Ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 Ounce Campari
  • Top with Champagne

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Add dry vermouth, Campari and bourbon into a mixing glass then add ice
  • Stir until well chilled for 20 seconds
  • Strain into a chilled coupe
  • Top with a light slow pour of champagne and let the good times roll

Using medium-dry champagne as a topper to the Old Pal works on so many levels. First, a champagne top turns a plain drink into a fancy cocktail. #PinkiesOut. Second, nothing announces to a (socially distanced) crowd that the good times are about to begin like popping open a bottle of the bubbles. Third, adding layers of delicate nuttiness and grilled sweetness to this cocktail will show friends and potentials that your drink skills are at peak adult levels.