Harry MacElhone, famed proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, is the creator of the Old Pal cocktail, which is a drier, slightly brighter variation of a classic Boulevardier (also popularized at Harry’s New York Bar). This cocktail resides in what we would call the “Negroni” family – a group of drinks that all contain equal parts of a spirit (like gin or whiskey), a bitter aperitif (like Campari), and a vermouth (either French or Italian). Like the other members of the Negroni family, the Old Pal is a stirred drink that is served either up or on the rocks and is often garnished with a citrus twist.
The cocktail is named in honor of MacElhone’s friend William “Sparrow” Robertson, the sports editor for the Paris New York Times in the 1920s. It is supposed that the barkeep took inspiration from another equal-parts cocktail, the Boulevardier, which was popularized in his bar by American-born writer and socialite Erskine Gwynne. By swapping out the sweet vermouth in the Boulevardier for dry vermouth in the Old Pal, MacElhone had a drink that was discernably and technically different enough to justify its own name.