Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Old Pal

Where did January go? In the hustle of the new year, I have been able to make only one post in the first month. Maybe I will get two in for the second.

Following the train of thought that began with the Boulevardier cocktail, I am posting a slight variation on that delicious drink. By all accounts, this first appeared in Harry McElhone's Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails in 1922. This was actually an earlier version of the Boulevardier, for in 1927 this was no longer written up in McElhone's book (evidently replaced by the Boulevardier).

First of all, while the Boulevardier traditionally calls for bourbon and sweet vermouth, the Old Pal demands rye and dry. It is altogether drier than its sweeter cousin, with the spiciness of the rye at mid-tongue complemented by the full, bitter complexity of Campari. A hint of orange peel, citrus oil, and herbal notes touch against a welcome caramel flavor from the rye, and round out with a gentle, mineral whisper of the dry vermouth. Served up with a lemon twist, it is quite a delight.

A few comments about this, to begin with: I used Old Overholt rye, and the results were very good. However, I think you might do better with a more flavorful, rye-forward bottling (Wild Turkey makes a good 101-proof rye that should not be too difficult to find, or too expensive), especially when standing up to Campari. Today's resurgence in rye whiskey opens the door to many variables; depending on your palate and preferences, there are numerous experiments to be made. For the dry vermouth, I used Dolin, which I think is outstanding. Others have expounded on Vya dry vermouth, but in some ways I find that it competes a bit too much with the other flavors. I am not discouraging you from trying it out, though, as it is truly unique.

Now, before March comes parading along, here is the recipe.

Old Pal Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 3/4 oz Campari
  • Twist
Stir with ice in a mixing glass until very cold, and strain into a cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink, so that the citrus oils spritz across the surface. Use the twist as garnish, if you like.

Bottoms up, old pals!

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