Friday Musings: Sometimes there just really isn’t more than meets the eye.

Friday Musings: Sometimes there just really isn’t more than meets the eye.


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, it has always marked the beginning of the Christmas season, that quiet moment before we all descend into the madness of decorating, baking, shopping, and wrapping. It’s a holiday of reflection, a time to take stock. What has the last year been like for us? What have we gained? What have we lost? What are we thankful for? It’s as if we push a reset button when we answer these questions. We get back in touch with who we are, and with what’s important to us, and with what we hope for in the year to come. Something momentous happened to me last Thanksgiving that marked the start of an emotional rollercoaster ride where I was yanked and pulled in all directions, until the car finally flew off the tracks this past summer. It was a situation that I tried to give my best to, but even my best wasn’t enough. It was doomed to fail, and so it did. I should have known better, but I didn’t see that until it was too late. Now that the year has come full circle, I see it clearly and it’s time to move on. I’m finally ready to close this brief chapter in my life and be open to the profound happiness that’s waiting just around the corner.

And so how does a cocktail go along with this story?? Let me explain. There is a classic cocktail called the Old Pal whose recipe first turned up in print back in 1927 in Harry McElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails book. I liked the name of the drink; there was something nice and simple about it. Who doesn’t like thinking about a cocktail named after an old friend? I was also drawn to its ingredients: rye whiskey, Campari, and dry vermouth. They reminded me of what goes in a Negroni or in its close cousin, the Boulevardier, and that was the taste I was expecting. As it turns out, neither one of those things was true. The cocktail was named after a sportswriter named “Sparrow” Robertson, not because he was McElhone’s old friend, but because he called everyone “old pal” even if he’d just met them. And the taste of the drink was nothing like a Negroni, quite possibly because there was very little sweetness in this cocktail to counter the Campari’s bitterness and rye’s spice. Rather than being a smooth drink, this one came across as more of a bracing drink, not unenjoyable by any means, but definitely different. So in both cases what I believed and expected turned out not to be true, much like my roller coaster ride. And suddenly I had my Friday Musings post.

Old Pal

1 1/2 oz rye whisky (I used Redemption)
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 ox Dolin Blanc dry vermouth
Lemon twist for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except for the lemon twist into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long handled bar spoon until very cold (about 30 – 45 seconds). Strain using a julep strainer, and pour into a Nick and Nora glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink to express some of the oils and then rub it along the rim of the glass before garnishing. Enjoy!

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and your reflections were happy ones. Here’s to a spectacular holiday season and a bright year ahead!

I’ll be at Gorshin’s Trading Post in Haddonfield tonight pouring cocktails from 5 till closing. Stop by for a drink!


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