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Think of this as the Negroni's Canadian cousin.
I’m equal parts elated and stymied over how Western Canadians have embraced the Negroni over the parts few years. I’m elated because in the pantheon of classic, it’s tough to get much higher than the Negroni: simple, elegant, classic, refined. It’s everything you could ask for in a cocktail. But I admit to be (pleasantly) stymied by the popularity: the Negroni is a serious wallop of liquor with no mixers for respite and a slap of bitter—courtesy of the Campari—across the face to boot. I suppose the answer lies in the public’s increasing desire for a flavour profile that swings toward the bracing.
But summer is over, friends—and while Negroni can sing all year long, it’s best to treat it like a linen suit or dress and save it for the warm weather. So what is the substitute drink for when it gets chilly? The obvious answer is the Boulevardier—a pure Negroni riff that sees bourbon take the place of gin, and keeps pretty much everything else the same. It’s a fine drink. But if you want to skew a bit this side of obvious, can I suggest The Old Pal?
Like the Boulevardier, the Old Pal is a variation on the Negroni, but it’s one that has it’s own distinguished legacy. It’s credit to Harry MacElhone, the legendary barkeep of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris (it’s where Hemingway tossed ’em back during the city’s liberation from the Nazis) and it first made its appearance in the late 1920s. Here we see the Negroni’s gin drop out in favour of Canadian Whisky, the sweet vermouth drop out in favour of dry vermouth and the Campari…well, no one touches the Campari. It makes for a fantastically interesting drink and if polishing off a Negroni means your palate has a Master’s degree in booze, well then an Old Pal is a PhD.
A couple of notes. Don’t succumb to using bourbon over Canadian whiskey. Also don’t succumb to subbing in American craft rye either—this drink was made with our national brown spirit in mind and let’s keep it that way. And while the classic recipe is the simple 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, I might suggest you tinker a bit with adding a touch more whisky to beat back the personality of the vermouth.
1/3 Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat gives a Parisian nod)
1/3 Forty Creek Whisky
Put all ingredients into a large mixing glass 1/2 full of ice and stir well. Strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with lemon twist.
Originally published October 2020
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