YAKIMA, Wash. -- Not to be confused with the much more famous Old Pal, which was invented at least 90 years ago (and which finally hit the big time in September with its inclusion in this column), the Old Friend is pretty contemporary.
It was invented in 2012 by barman nonpareil Jim Meehan for the menu at The Chef’s Club in Aspen, Colo., and was included in his 2017 “Meehan’s Bartender Manual,” wherein he explains its name as stemming from its ability to bring “bold flavors into agreement, forging an intimate bond with its imbiber.”
With apologies to Meehan (whose book would make a great gift for the cocktail lover on your list), that may be overstating things a bit. It takes years before I let down my guard enough for an intimate bond with a cocktail. For now, the Old Friend and I are still feeling each other out. If I were getting married, it would be invited. But it wouldn’t challenge the Manhattan or the daiquiri for a spot in the wedding party.
I will say this of my new friend, the Old Friend: Meehan is right about its flavors being in agreement. You’ve got bittersweet flavors in the grapefruit and Campari, a sweet and highly floral flavor in the St. Germain, and a dry, botanical flavor in the gin. Those are ingredients that could overpower one another if not well balanced. But at these proportions, it’s just right. You taste all of them without the drink tasting too much like any one of them.
Another significant point in the drink’s favor is that everything in it is available at supermarkets in Yakima. I write up drinks with fairly esoteric ingredients in this space sometimes, and that’s great for those of us who enjoy seeking out hard-to-find bottles every time we’re in a different city. But it’s nice to be able to recommend one that doesn’t call for Suze or Branca Menta or allspice dram. Anybody reading this could make the Old Friend tonight if they wanted to.
And you should. The Old Friend is a good friend to have. I think I’m going to invite one over tonight.