Between the two great wars when America was dying of thirst, Harry MacElhone, the Irish New Yorker began making his fortune, tending the New York Bar in Paris.

A haven for expats, the New York Bar was a regular hangout spot for William ‘Sparrow’ Robertson – a prodigious drinker and a sports writer working out of the New York Herald-Tribune’s Paris office. According to Harry, during the course of a conversation, Sparrow spoke of a drink he invented when he “fired the pistol the first time at the old Powderhall foot races”.

The diligent Harry noted down the formula, publishing it for the first time in his book ABC of Mixing Cocktails, crediting his ‘old pal’ Robertson for the inspiration. The recipe has gone through many iterations and evolutions, switching dry vermouth for sweet and Canadian rye for bourbon. Dry, light, with a mild peppery finish, you can mix your own Old Pal without much fuss.


  • Rye whiskey – 50ml
  • Dry vermouth – 25ml
  • Campari – 25ml
  • Optional: Club soda – 30ml
  • FOR GARNISH: Orange or lemon peel

The Process

Fill two-thirds of a mixing glass with ice.

Add the rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari and stir well for about 20 seconds.

Strain the mix into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with an orange or lemon peel.

Consider adding club soda when mixing, and just to put a spin on it, swap Campari with Aperol!