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Al_Dente

An Ideal Negroni

293 posts in this topic

Doesn't the Old Pal originally call for Canadian Club whiskey?

I believe the first publication of the Old Pal was in an early version of Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

In my experience, McElhone doesn't call for Canadian Whisky very often. The only cocktail I can find in his "Barflies and Cocktails" that calls for Canadian Club rather than Rye, Bourbon, Scotch, or Irish Whisky is the "Canadian Cocktail".

That said, I don't have an early edition of Harry's ABC to check and the Old Pal was omitted from Barflies and Cocktails.

When Harry Craddock included the Old Pal in the Savoy Cocktail Book, as with most of the cocktails which called for Rye or Bourbon originally, he called for Canadian Club.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Doesn't the Old Pal originally call for Canadian Club whiskey?

I believe the first publication of the Old Pal was in an early version of Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

In my experience, McElhone doesn't call for Canadian Whisky very often. The only cocktail I can find in his "Barflies and Cocktails" that calls for Canadian Club rather than Rye, Bourbon, Scotch, or Irish Whisky is the "Canadian Cocktail".

That said, I don't have an early edition of Harry's ABC to check and the Old Pal was omitted from Barflies and Cocktails.

When Harry Craddock included the Old Pal in the Savoy Cocktail Book, as with most of the cocktails which called for Rye or Bourbon originally, he called for Canadian Club.

In this NYT article on the Boulevardier, Toby Ceccini writes: "The drink is credited to Harry McElhone, the founder and proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and dated to 1927. It is mentioned only glancingly in his book “Barflies and Cocktails,” not in the 300-odd cocktail recipes that make up the bulk of that volume, but rather in a tongue-in-cheek epilogue that follows, recounting the antics of his regular customers. In a brief paragraph, he cites: “Now is the time for all good barflies to come to the aid of the party, since Erskinne Gwynne crashed in with his Boulevardier Cocktail: 1/3 Campari, 1/3 Italian vermouth, 1/3 Bourbon whisky.” McElhone’s earlier volume, “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” has the cocktail listed using Canadian Club as the whisky." (Emphasis mine.) Given the clear relationship between the two drinks, I would imagine the Old Pal was also originally with Canadian Club.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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In this NYT article on the Boulevardier, Toby Ceccini writes: "The drink is credited to Harry McElhone, the founder and proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and dated to 1927. It is mentioned only glancingly in his book “Barflies and Cocktails,” not in the 300-odd cocktail recipes that make up the bulk of that volume, but rather in a tongue-in-cheek epilogue that follows, recounting the antics of his regular customers. In a brief paragraph, he cites: “Now is the time for all good barflies to come to the aid of the party, since Erskinne Gwynne crashed in with his Boulevardier Cocktail: 1/3 Campari, 1/3 Italian vermouth, 1/3 Bourbon whisky.” McElhone’s earlier volume, “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” has the cocktail listed using Canadian Club as the whisky." (Emphasis mine.) Given the clear relationship between the two drinks, I would imagine the Old Pal was also originally with Canadian Club.

Interesting. Well, I can tell you that P.G. Duffy, who tends to be quite anal about reproducing recipes exactly from their earlier sources, calls for Rye Whiskey in the "Old Pal" Cocktail.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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In this NYT article on the Boulevardier, Toby Ceccini writes: "The drink is credited to Harry McElhone, the founder and proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and dated to 1927. It is mentioned only glancingly in his book “Barflies and Cocktails,” not in the 300-odd cocktail recipes that make up the bulk of that volume, but rather in a tongue-in-cheek epilogue that follows, recounting the antics of his regular customers. In a brief paragraph, he cites: “Now is the time for all good barflies to come to the aid of the party, since Erskinne Gwynne crashed in with his Boulevardier Cocktail: 1/3 Campari, 1/3 Italian vermouth, 1/3 Bourbon whisky.” McElhone’s earlier volume, “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” has the cocktail listed using Canadian Club as the whisky." (Emphasis mine.) Given the clear relationship between the two drinks, I would imagine the Old Pal was also originally with Canadian Club.

First known references to the Boulevardier and the Old Pal are in this article I wrote about the Negroni and its variants;

Old Pal first shows in 1922 (Harry’s ABC of Cocktails) and calls for Canadian whiskey. The Savoy later specifies Canadian Club, The Official Mixer's Manual specifies rye.

Boulevardier first shows in 1927 (Barflies and Cocktails) and calls for bourbon.

That said, I don't have an early edition of Harry's ABC to check and the Old Pal was omitted from Barflies and Cocktails.

The Old Pal is found in the appendix also calling for Canadian whiskey, and from the above blog;

...oddly, in 1927 Arthur Moss credits the drink to one 'Sparrow' Robertson, Sporting Editor of the 'New York Tribune'

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So... interesting. If the original recipes called for Canadian whiskey, then I suppose it settles the question in favor of the style of vermouth being the original difference between the two drinks.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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McElhone’s earlier volume, “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” has the cocktail listed using Canadian Club as the whisky." (Emphasis mine.) Given the clear relationship between the two drinks, I would imagine the Old Pal was also originally with Canadian Club.

Does today's Canadian Club resemble yesterdays?


Edited by haresfur (log)

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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So... interesting. If the original recipes called for Canadian whiskey, then I suppose it settles the question in favor of the style of vermouth being the original difference between the two drinks.

Again I'd say it's not just the vermouth, it's both*. The various Old Pal recipes from around that period call for Canadian Whiskey or Rye (with dry vermouth), and the Boulevardier is/was Bourbon (with sweet vermouth). Like other drinks I'd fully expect their to have been some form of evolution or change across different books but every one I own or have access to detail these specifics (with these same ratios). Possibly a bigger difference between Canadian and bourbon at that time?


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Hadn't noticed the Old Pal recipe in the appendix for Barflies and Cocktails, thanks for pointing that out:

I remember way back in 1878, on the 30th of February to be exact, when the Writer was discussing this subject with my old pal "Sparrow" Robertson and he said to yours truly, "get away with that stuff, my old pal, here's the drink I invented when I fired the pistol the first time at the old Powderhall foot races and you can't go wrong if you put a bet down on 1/3 Canadian Club, 1/3 Eyetalian Vermouth, and 1/3 Campari." and then he told the Writer that he would dedicate this cocktail to me and call it, My Old Pal.

Uh, wait, Adam: "Eyetalian Vermouth"?

Anyway, I quite enjoy the idea that an Old Pal made with Rye and Gran Classico is doubly transgressive for the true cocktail geek. If only I could do something about the Dry Vermouth. Imbue or Sutton Cellars, perhaps?

Regarding the historic character of Canadian Whisky, Darcy O'Neil has published some articles. I suspect it was more like the juice Whiskey Pig and some of the other "negotiants" are currently selling as "Rye", than the "Canadian Club" of today.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Hadn't noticed the Old Pal recipe in the appendix for Barflies and Cocktails, thanks for pointing that out:

No problem. The full quote is extremely interesting (and something I have been looking into) as it suggests to me the Old Pal dates back to 1878 and pre-dates the Negroni by quite some time?!?

Uh, wait, Adam: "Eyetalian Vermouth"?

Haha. At a guess, and judging by the tone of the appendix, the spelling is a humorous stab at his pronunciation of Italian.

Regarding the historic character of Canadian Whisky, Darcy O'Neil has published some articles. I suspect it was more like the juice Whiskey Pig and some of the other "negotiants" are currently selling as "Rye", than the "Canadian Club" of today.

It certainly makes sense as there are too many recipes calling for either Canadian or bourbon for them to have been very close in taste/flavour.


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Uh, wait, Adam: "Eyetalian Vermouth"?

Haha. At a guess, and judging by the tone of the appendix, the spelling is a humorous stab at his pronunciation of Italian.

Right I think that's Erik's point: Italian vermouth is normally understood as red/sweet, which not the orthodoxy for the Old Pal.


Andy Arrington

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So... interesting. If the original recipes called for Canadian whiskey, then I suppose it settles the question in favor of the style of vermouth being the original difference between the two drinks.

Again I'd say it's not just the vermouth, it's both*. The various Old Pal recipes from around that period call for Canadian Whiskey or Rye (with dry vermouth), and the Boulevardier is/was Bourbon (with sweet vermouth). Like other drinks I'd fully expect their to have been some form of evolution or change across different books but every one I own or have access to detail these specifics (with these same ratios). Possibly a bigger difference between Canadian and bourbon at that time?

Is Toby mistaken that the earliest recipe for the Boulevardier in Harry's ABC called for Canadian whiskey?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Right I think that's Erik's point: Italian vermouth is normally understood as red/sweet, which not the orthodoxy for the Old Pal.

I got that, I was responding to the spelling. Anyways, the 1922 Old Pal recipe pre-dates this mention and specifies dry vermouth. Whether there's something older that contradicts this, and goes back closer to 1878 (as alluded to in Barflies & Cocktails) has yet to ascertained however let's say for argument's sake it did (and I'm beginning to think there may be something in this) it would make sense the Old Pal first called for sweet vermouth and later evolved to dry vermouth similar to drinks such as the Martini and Martinez.

Some key dates worth considering to fit the pieces together;

1878 - Old Pal alleged to have been created by Sparrow Robertson at the Old Powderhall Foot Races (see 1927)

1887 - New York Herald in Paris founded on 4th October

1890 - Harry MacElhone born in Dundee, Scotland

1911 - Harry MacElhone opens Harry's New York Bar in Paris

1921 - William Harrison "Sparrow" Robertson joins the NY Herald in Paris

1922 - Oldest known recorded recipe for the Old Pal found in Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails along with this line, "The drink was created by "Sparrow" Robertson, the Sporting Editor of the New York Herald in Paris."

1923 - MacElhone takes over ownership of Harry's New York Bar

1927 - Barflies & Cocktails attributes the drink to the same "Sparrow" Robertson with the following description, "I remember way back in 1878, on the 30th of February to be exact, when the Writer was discussing this subject with my old pal "Sparrow" Robertson and he said to yours truly, "get away with that stuff, my old pal, here's the drink I invented when I fired the pistol the first time at the old Powderhall foot races and you can't go wrong if you put a bet down on 1/3 Canadian Club, 1/3 Eyetalian vermouth, and 1/3 Campari." and then he told the Writer that he would dedicate this cocktail to me and call it, My Old Pal."

Anything and everything I've found relating to a Powderhall foot race which dates back to 1870 (now known as the New Year Sprint) relates to a yearly event held in Edinburgh. Taking into account that Campari hadn't made the US in 1878, that this Sparrow chap seems to have been fairly prevalent when it comes to athletics, and given his stature in the sport, would it be right to assume Sparrow a guest at the 1878 race in Edinburgh and that's where it was created? Or was there a similarly named race elsewhere. Must look into this...

I also found this line interesting - "Everyone from Hemingway to The Prince of Wales was "My Old Pal" to Sparrow."


Edited by evo-lution (log)

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The 30th of February reference would seem to indicate that the story is not meant to be a literal account of the drink's creation though. Is any date available for when Campari was first imported into the US?

Someone with a reputation such as Sparrow Robertson seemingly enjoyed--well, it almost goes without saying being a natural bullshitter is endemic to the type. Sounds like quite a character.

Edit to add: Sparrow Robertson's possible proclivity for tall tales notwithstanding, the Old Pal just doesn't feel like an 1870s or even 1880s recipe, wouldn't you say? Dry Vermouth alone (if indeed that was the original version) would seem to place it more in the zeitgeist of the 1890s and later. Where's Dr. Wondrich when you need him?


Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

Andy Arrington

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Some other points to consider:

Sparrow Robertson was born in 1859, making him 19 years old at the time the Old Pal was allegedly invented by him.

The Powderhall Foot Races took place near Edinburgh, Scotland (the place of Robertson's birth).

So, for consideration is whether this seems like an 1870s drink; whether cocktail culture had much of a foothold in 1870s Scotland; and whether any of rye whiskey, vermouth (either French or Italian) and Campari would have been available with sufficient ubiquity to have been combined into a cocktail at a footrace in 1870s Scotland by a 19 year old. This seems rather unlikely to me, but who knows?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Is any date available for when Campari was first imported into the US?

Well after 1927 when the Boulevardier first showed. Seems both the Boulevardier and Old Pal originated in Paris (unless there is something in that 1878 reference and it's not a joke of sorts)...

Where's Dr. Wondrich when you need him?

I've been speaking to Dave on email this afternoon

Some other points to consider:

The Powderhall Foot Races took place near Edinburgh, Scotland (the place of Robertson's birth).

I mentioned that in post 137.

whether cocktail culture had much of a foothold in 1870s Scotland

I think it unlikely it would have been created in Edinburgh but to address this query there was a culture of mixed drinks in and around various parts of Scotland. From what I know it was doubtful to include the likes of Campari though.

I forwarded the above to Wondrich;

Dave - "Everybody liked to joke with Sparrow, or at his expense (see Waverly Root's history of the Paris edition of the Herald, titled The Paris Edition). This is an example."

My reply - "Thanks Dave, it does seem very odd but the pieces did look like they fit together. This quote "Everyone from Hemingway to The Prince of Wales was "My Old Pal" to Sparrow." coupled with what you're saying, may suggest the drink name and its alleged creator was a joke in the direction of Sparrow?"

Dave - "Yeah, that makes sense. Everybody thought he was a comical, almost half-witted character (again, according to Root), but definitely sporty."


Edited by evo-lution (log)

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If the recipes are steadfast, what then do we make of the combinations rye/sweet vermouth/Campari and bourbon/dry vermouth/Campari?

FWIW, Hollinger & Schwartz's Art of the Bar gives a drink with rye, sweet vermouth, Campari and a couple of other minor fillips (dashes of Peychaud's bitters and Herbsaint) that they call the "New Pal." It's such a straightforward substitution that I'm sure it's been given plenty of other names, of course.


Matthew Kayahara

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If the recipes are steadfast, what then do we make of the combinations rye/sweet vermouth/Campari and bourbon/dry vermouth/Campari?

FWIW, Hollinger & Schwartz's Art of the Bar gives a drink with rye, sweet vermouth, Campari and a couple of other minor fillips (dashes of Peychaud's bitters and Herbsaint) that they call the "New Pal." It's such a straightforward substitution that I'm sure it's been given plenty of other names, of course.

Thanks for the reminder. I have that book, so I should have recalled that one. Interesting, though, that they thought of the combination as a riff on the Old Pal rather than the Boulevardier,.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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I'm sad to say that this thread has ruined me. I am now on a Negroni kick. Thanks a lot.

My wife and I were going out to a cocktail bar here in town, The Patterson House, and I had been reading this thread so I asked for a Negroni. I told the bartender that I had not had one before and he walked me through it. He used equal parts Gin, Campari and Vermouth (honestly, over the night there were a lot of drinks consumed and I don't recall the brands.) I was hooked. I've had them in other bars in town and they have ranged from good to excellent.

This week I went out and bought Campari and some Dolin vermouth. I had a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in my bar so I just used that. What I got was a very passable version. I will probably invest in some Noilly Pratt and maybe pick up a bottle of Beefeater soon to try that combo.

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I tried a lovely Negroni variation last night, the Violet Hour's Autumn Negroni.

With an ingredient list including Campari, Cynar AND Fernet Branca, I was a little worried. And to top things off, it uses orange AND Peychaud's bitters. It could have been a mess. Needless to say, my husband who is already afraid of Campari refused to take a sip.

8123712189_2f5097a631_z.jpg

It was immediately recognizable as a Negroni, with the Fernet and Cynar imparting a caramelized finish. Really great and perfect for fall (I've been doing all sorts of caramelized things this week, which was not intentional. In addition to this excellent cocktail, I made caramelized carrot soup and tarte Tatin...).

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On a Negroni kick... so Friday I made a Nolita Cocktail, a Negroni variation invented by Christian Siglin from Craft & Commerce. It's a typical Negroni where half of the sweet vermouth (recipe calls for Carpano Antica, I used Vya) is replaced with a coffee liquor (recipe calls for Cafe Lolita, I used Kahlua), and with a lemon twist. The recipe called for "bitters" with no further details; I thought that the cardamom notes of the Regan's orange bitters would pair well, so I used that.

8126511977_a87865ca41_z.jpg

Surprisingly tasty. A slightly tamer/deeper flavored Negroni. The coffee was subtle and went very well with the Vya vermouth.

Then on Saturday we decided to have a drink at Craft & Commerce. So I got a Nolita from its creator himself. He used Beefeater too. For the bitters, he used a generous dash of the Bittermens mole bitters which gave the drink a slight kick. It was really great. Finally a use for that bottle of Kahlua that has been gathering dust...

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Another Negroni variation by a local bartender (Jason O’Bryan), the Negroni Primavera.

Equal parts gin, Aperol and Punt e Mes, with an orange zest.

8140303192_efa0fb9254_z.jpg

Plenty of bitter orange flavor thanks to the Aperol + Punt e Mes combo. It feels a little less intense than a regular Negroni, but the Punt e Mes shines through especially in the finish. There aren't enough drinks using Punt e Mes so it was nice to find this one!

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An equal part Negroni last night with Junipero gin, Dolin sweet vermouth, Campari; dash each Regan's and Angostura orange bitters, orange twist.

8409213495_fb2e08b956_z.jpg

I like Dolin in Negronis. It feels fairly dry and lighter than other vermouths maybe, but it has complexity from the spices and herbs, and you can taste that in the final drink. It does not overwhelm the drink the way Carpano Antica does. Also the vanilla notes in the Antica don't necessarily make sense in a Negroni.

I also like how Vya and its intense ripe fruit notes work in that cocktail.

But I know there are plenty of other options out there... For example Martini and Rossi that I haven't had in ages (and never in a Negroni), Cinzano, Cocchi di Torino, etc. At home I rotate between brands of sweet vermouth and pick based on my mood. I love variety so I don't often repeat the same combo of ingredients anyway.

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I don't think M&R works as well as Dolin or Punt e Mes (which, granted, offers the audience something else altogether) in an otherwise standard, equal parts Negroni. To me M&R is a little too sweet, a little too heavy.


Edited by ChrisTaylor (log)

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I don't think M&R works as well as Dolin or Punt e Mes (which, granted, offers the audience something else altogether) in an otherwise standard, equal parts Negroni. To me M&R is a little too sweet, a little too heavy.

Thanks for the info, very useful. I've had M&R on the rocks a loooong time ago, but I could not remember what it tasted like.

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Chris -- try a bit of dry vermouth the next time your favorite sweet is gone. It really helps keep the drink from being too sweet and rich. I had a Lua Bonita (Cachaca Negroni) tonight. Lovely drink. Really wonderful. Made it with Punt e Mes.


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