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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 12/31/2010

Cocktails that complete me: Old Pal and Algonquin

By Jason Wilson

Last week, I officially launched my campaign to fill in the holes of my cocktail repertoire, beginning with the El Diablo, one of the 17 classic drinks that I had yet to try from the original list of 100 published by Dirty Kitchen Adventures.

The first one turned out to be pretty good, despite El Diablo's odd mix of tequila, lime, creme de cassis and ginger beer. This week, I am tackling two cocktails that call for rye whiskey and dry vermouth -- though the similarities end there.

Recipe Included

The first, Old Pal, is yet another twist on my old favorite, the Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth, Campari). It's quite similar to the excellent variation, the Boulevardier (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari). The Old Pal's twist is replacing the gin/bourbon with rye and subbing out the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. The Campari stays in the picture, of course.

Old Pal is widely credited to the 1922 edition of "Harry's ABC's of Cocktails" (Souvenir Press, 2011) by the head bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. It's one of first Campari recipes published in English. This version is a tweak of Harry's recipe, with more whiskey in the mix. Either way, it's inspired, and perfectly robust for the winter. I really enjoyed it.

The second recipe comes from the same era, but from New York instead of Paris. The Algonquin was a favorite, of course, of the famed Algonquin Round Table, the "vicious circle" of Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Harold Ross, George S. Kaufman and other writers and critics. When I first read the Algonquin's ingredients -- rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and pineapple juice...honestly, my first thought was, ugh.

But then I opened a bottle of Michter's rye, and my first whiff of the whiskey was, strangely, that of pineapple. In fact, this concoction is genius, and I think it would be a great way to bring rye-squeamish souls to the spirit. I had a fresh pineapple on hand, so I juiced it in the blender. Beautiful. But I think it will work well enough with canned pineapple juice, too.

People don't really consume the literary output of the Algonquin Round Table writers as they once did, but I would encourage you to give their cocktail a try.

Old Pal

1 serving

This is a variation on the Boulevardier (which calls for bourbon), which is itself a variation on the Negroni (which calls for gin; see related recipes). Note that this cocktail calls for dry -- and not sweet -- vermouth, like the other drinks.

Adapted from a recipe by Seattle cocktail blogger Paul Clarke, on SeriousEats.

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Campari (may substitute Gran Classico Bitter or Luxardo)

Combine the rye whiskey, vermouth and Campari in a mixing glass, then fill halfway with ice. Stir vigorously, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.


1 serving

This drink dates to the famed Algonquin Round Table of New York writers in the 1920s such as Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker.

Adapted from "Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to the Zombie," by Ted Haigh (Quarry Books, 2004).

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce pineapple juice, preferably fresh
3/4 ounce dry vermouth

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the rye whiskey, pineapple juice and vermouth. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.

Jason Wilson is the author of "Boozehound" (Ten Speed Press, 2011). Follow him at

By Jason Wilson  | December 31, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes, Spirits  | Tags:  Cocktails That Complete Me, Jason Wilson  
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