Just Add Ice

Show some respect & raise your glass to the Godfather

What better reason to be drinking a Godfather than Al Pacino’s birthday?

25 April 2019 - 09:57
By Eloise Windebank
Clemenza (Richard Castellano) kisses the hand of the new 'Godfather', Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), in the last scene of 'The Godfather'.
Image: Getty Images/Bettmann Clemenza (Richard Castellano) kisses the hand of the new 'Godfather', Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), in the last scene of 'The Godfather'.

The Godfather is one of those drinks so simple, it’s almost not a cocktail and the perfect pairing with Al Pacino's birthday (who turned 78 today, by the way). Incidentally, my favourite kind of drink. I don’t want a bartender weeping one tear at a time to dilute the sugar cube in my old fashioned and have to wait 45 minutes after ordering. You should be able to start pouring that drink in your face 60 seconds after he starts making it.

Negronis are of this ilk, as are the spritz family, Bellinis, even sours, if your cocktail arm has been working out.

Godfathers are the godfather of quick drinks. They are little more than a good glug of amaretto and an equal glug of whiskey in a heavy glass with a few sizable chunks of ice, quickly stirred, and consumed.

Purists believe the whisky must be Scotch. Blended Scotch, something like Dewar’s 12 yr, does just fine. Some like some Irish intensity or opt for bourbon in a pinch. But the Holy Grail whiskey for a Godfather is rye. Rye has the right amount of heat and spice to stand up next to the sweet amaretto and say, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse” - in its best Don Corleone-esque voice, of course.

Just like that.
Image: 123RF/fesenko Just like that. "Batta-beep, batta-bap, batta-boop, batta-beep!"

The key to making a great Godfather is to make the drink of equal parts amaretto and whiskey but, of late, people are being more and more heavy-handed with the latter resulting in a drink that's often just a glass of whiskey with a hint of nutty sweetness.

The 50/50 split is the way I like it best, but in order for the amaretto not to hog the stage, you do need a whiskey with some balls, or lungs, as it were. So, rye has my heart.

After we got married, my husband and I spent three months travelling around the US, eating a lot of tacos and drinking a lot of rye. We spent a month at my cousin’s very picturesque inn in Vermont The Nutmeg, where every night without fail, we sat with her and her husband, playing a long-running grudge match of Qwirkle and drinking Godfathers.

The perfect Godfather.
Image: Eloise Windebank The perfect Godfather.

I say drinking Godfathers but it was really more sloshing three-finger pours of amaretto and rye into glasses and topping them up with watery ice from a bowl in the middle of the table. The game got progressively slower as the night wore on, the bottles lower.

We started driving across state lines to New Hampshire, where alcohol is zero-tax rated, to stock up on amaretto and rye. If you want to see a pretty poor version of yourself, drink sugary, boozy Godfathers and sit inside for a month playing board games. Let me put it this way, I had to buy myself a new pair of jeans. I was able to wear those same trousers when I was nine months pregnant. But rye is great. Really, it is. Just in moderation.

It is however irritatingly difficult to come by in South Africa. The rye that lands on our shores tends to be wildly inflated in price, so it’s an expensive exercise, for something that at the border bottle stores of New Hampshire costs $10.

Today, however, feel free to pour a Godfather with the whiskey you have to hand. As a responsible drinker of legal age, your cupboard at home should have a decent bottle of whiskey — Scotch, Irish or otherwise. A good glug of that, a good glug of amaretto, and say happy birthday to Mr Pacino.


  1. Pour 35ml amaretto and 35ml whiskey into a rocks glass with ice.
  2. Stir.
  3. Drink.
  4. Repeat - preferably while playing six hours of board games.

• Self proclaimed "cocktail curmudgeon", Eloise Windebank professes that she likes drinks more than she likes people. Find her mixing up the classics at Farro, her casual fine dining restaurant and bar in Joburg.