In the college town of Athens, GA, finding a neighborhood bar with an understanding of classic and modern cocktails is about as difficult as finding one that realizes that having an upscale selection doesn’t mean you also have to be too cool to pull for the home team and not play the game during football season. Daniel Ray & Matt McFerron set out to fill that void, and in so doing founded their establishment, The Old Pal, with the principle that good drinks doesn’t have to mean an unapproachable atmosphere. Because of this, The Old Pal was named by Southern Living Magazine as one of the Best Bars of 2016, has become the local service industry’s bar of choice, and a catalyst for changing their market as a whole.
Why stay in a small market like Athens when you decided to open your own venture? Why not take your talents to the city?[We’ve] built a life here, and love this town. We love that when this town attracts culture- culinary, musical, whatever, it attracts culture WAY out of its league. No small town in the south ought to get as much life as we do here, and we appreciate the diversity of culture, coupled with the comfort and ease of small town life.
What’s your favorite resurrected cocktail trend?
Daniel: Proper dilution seems to have made its way back into the bartending consciousness, and I, for one, celebrate that.
What was the first cocktail you ever drank…*ahem* if you can recall it?
Matt: I don’t necessarily recall the first cocktail I ever drank, but I credit the Sazerac for sending me down the proverbial rabbit hole.
Out of the cocktails you’ve brought to life, which is your favored son?
Our “7th Ward” cocktail is the first that comes to mind. It’s a mix of spiced rum, Fernet Branca, rich syrup, grapefruit juice, and Angostura bitters served on the rocks with a grapefruit peel.
Would yall rather sling drinks in Heaven or Hell?
Matt: Hell. More drinkers, better tippers.
Daniel: Hell has no bartenders, but I hear Saint Peter has a wicked back bar.
Well, before yall split ways and head to your separate destinations eternal, what’ll it be?
Matt: That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say…
The Classic Negroni
- 1 oz London dry gin
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz Campari.
- Combine all ingredients in a stirring vessel over cracked ice
- Stir til chilled, & serve in a rocks glass over 1 large cube w/ an Orange twist
Daniel: If you give me a Mescal Last Word from The Violet Hour in Chicago when you place me onto the electric chair, I’ll die with a smile on my face. I gather, from the taste of the thing, that it contained…
- 0.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- 0.75 oz Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
- 0.75 oz Green Chartreuse
- 0.25 oz Tequila Blanco
- 0.5 oz Mescal
- Combine all ingredients in a shaking tin & add ice
- Shake hard, double strain into a martini glass, & tip it back
I’m not saying I would die for that cocktail, but it would make the whole thing seem just a little less nasty, don’t you think?
While you’re both still on this side of the Grim Reaper’s stick, where can we catch your work?
Yall can see our digs on Instagram @theoldpal & also Matt’s about to launch his personal line of bitters that we use behind our stick, Buster’s Bitters, yall be sure to check that out on Instagram @bustersbitters .