Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Old Pal Cocktail
1 ounce of rhy
3/4 ounce of dry vermouth
3/4 ounce Campari
Directions: Stir and pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with lemon
Taste (flavor, balance, and clarity): 7
I'm of mixed minds about this drink. If you want a strong but tart drink, this is an excellent choice. The taste is layered with the rhy and Campari coming through and the vermouth laying in the background. On the other hand, it is not balanced. That might not always be a bad thing though. While I typically don't prefer drinks with multiple sweet or bitter taste (the vermouth and Campari are both pretty bitter, as is the lemon), the drink has a very coherent flavor profile, which I appreciate. While I'm usually not a fan of putting ice in drinks, I think it really helped the Old Pal. Because the drink is so strong, it lends itself to sipping. Further, I think the ice took away the "sharpness" of the vermouth so that as the 20 or so minutes that I drank the the Old Pal wore on, the flavors blended better and the rhy came through a bit more, which was a good thing.
Versatility (when and for who the drinks works): 3
This is a strong drink that one must sit down and savor to enjoy. I don't think of the Old Pal as something I would quaff on my patio while working the grill. This is more a drink that I sip while chatting with friends or reading. This is not a drink for the casual imbiber, such as my wife. Most of my friends shy away from particularly bitter drinks and they don't get too much more bitter than this.
Hassle (cost and time): 9
This drink is really easy to make. Just dump the ingredients in the shaker, stir poor, and garnish. Further, the ingredients, especially with my middling rhy and Martin and Rossie vermouth were quite cheap.
I initially didn't much care for this drink, finding the Campari and dry vermouth redundant, as the drink settled and the ice melted a bit, it really came together though. More than bitter, I would call this drink spicy, with relatively hash notes from the Campari and rhy and accented by the lemon. That said, I think the Old Pal is for a very specific setting and won't work well for most people, hence the low rating - but for the right person and the right time, it can be a low-effort gem.
I like the interplay with the rhy and the Campari, though I might use a tad less of the former, as it's by for the strongest flavor in the drink. My concern is more with the dry vermouth, which feels a little redundant with the Campari and perhaps pushes the Old Pal to be a little bit more bitter than is ideal. I might try replacing it with 1/2 ounce of Contreau. Alternatively, 1/2 ounce of lemoncello would maintain the citrus flavor of the lemon and Campari but sweeten the drink little.
Update: The Orange Pal
I made this cocktail again but substituted 1/2 ounce of Contreau for the vermouth. Although perhaps a little less coherent, I thought the drink had better balance. A friend of mine tried it and though it was an elegant cocktail that was much less challenging than the traditional Old Pal. Though Contreau is a bit pricier than vermouth, I'll bump this cocktail up to a 7.5 because I think it is more balanced and a lot more people would enjoy it than the rather bitter Old Pal.