Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

The Old Pal is a classic cocktail with a well-balanced and complex taste. It is a must-try if you like Boulevardiers or Negronis’s strong, spirit-forward character. This simple cocktail features whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth, which you can easily prepare at home. Check the recipe below to make your delicious Old Pal cocktail if you’re in the mood for a well-balanced, classic drink. 

The Old Pal cocktail has a long history in the US that dates back to the Prohibition era. Harry McElhone is the creator of the first publishing of The Old Pal. Harry was born in Scotland and started his career in 1922 at Ciro’sCiro’s bar in London, then moved to the New York Bar in Paris (later renamed Harry’s New York Bar after he took over). 

The cocktail’s name – Old Pal, got inspiration from Harry’s good friend – a sports writer for the New York Herald – William “Sparrow ” Robertson, also a frequent guest in Harry’s bar. The cocktail recipe first appeared in print in Harry McElhone’s The ABC of Mixing Cocktails, published in 1922. It’s a variation of the well-known Negroni cocktail, which combines gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. However, in the version of the Old Pal, the recipe uses gin instead of rye whiskey and dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth, which significantly changed its flavor profile, giving a much drier and more robust flavor.  

The Old Pal is a strong whiskey-based drink with bittersweet nuances and a spicy touch. For those who enjoy Negronis but prefer the rye whiskey’s complexity over gin, give the cocktail a taste for more flavor. With a balanced flavor profile, the Old Pal is a great option for those who enjoy classic and sophisticated cocktail flavors. It is a versatile drink you can enjoy at a formal cocktail party or a more relaxed gathering with friends. 

Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 drink


  • Mixing Glass
  • Bar spoon
  • Jigger
  • Strainer


  • 1 oz Rye whiskey 30 ml
  • 1 oz Campari 30 ml
  • 1 oz Dry vermouth 30 ml
  • Ice cube
  • Lemon twist or orange twist


  • Chill the glass with ice or put it for a few minutes in the fridge.
  • Fill your glass with ice.
    Ice cube
  • Add the measured rye whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth into a mixing glass.
    1 oz Rye whiskey, 1 oz Campari, 1 oz Dry vermouth
  • Stir the cocktail gently and consistently until it's chilled, and ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Strain the cocktail into a chilled glass; this removes the ice and gives you a smooth pour.
  • Garnish with a thin twist of lemon or an orange peel.
    Lemon twist or orange twist



Pro Tips for Success:

  • Some great brand names for rye whiskey you can choose from include Bulleit, Rittenhouse, and Sazerac.
  • For the twist garnish, many bartenders choose the Navel oranges because of their thick skins and fragrant oils, which add a delightful citrus aroma to the cocktail.
  • Chilling the glass first can keep your cocktail cooler longer and refreshing when serving.
  • Do not shake the cocktail; stirring is best for a well-mixed and clear cocktail.
  • If you find it too bitter when done making the cocktail, temper it by adding more whiskey or vermouth.
Keyword Old Pal Cocktail Recipe

What does the Old Pal taste like?

The Old Pal cocktail has a well-balanced flavor of bitterness, dryness, and citrus notes in a strong rye whiskey base. Campari, the Italian bitter aperitif, gives a dominant bitterness flavor to the Old Pal. Rye whiskey has a bold and slightly spicy character, is a strong foundation, and contributes to the complexity and warmth of the drink. Dry vermouth with herbal and slightly floral notes tempered the bitterness of Campari and complemented the whiskey. Last, a lemon or orange twist, served as a garnish, gives subtle citrus aromas that enchant your senses. The layers of these elements work together to create a cocktail that is bold, complex, and not excessively sweet.

The Old Pal is best enjoyed fresh, so after preparation, serve it immediately for the ideal temperature and flavor. A bittersweet and slightly spicy cocktail with a strong whiskey note will give you a great drink experience until the end of the sip. Feel free to adjust the proportions to suit your liking and enjoy its flavors to the fullest.