The Boulevardier Cocktail

The boulevardier is a whiskey forward cocktail similar to the classic Negroni, replacing the gin for whiskey.

The negroni, a beautiful combination of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, made it’s way into cocktail bars roughly 20 years after the boulevardier. It became a classic American cocktail. But we’re not a gin club and we see the beauty that also lies in the boulevardier, so I’m here to give it the proper attention it deserves.

The History

With the donning of prohibition in 1920, many men who previously made their living behind the bar were forced to move to other countries to continue their trade. Harry McElhone was a New Yorker and bartended at the Plaza Hotel on the edge of Central Park. It's unclear whether he saw unemployment on the horizon or simply desired to live in Europe. He relocated before 1920 to London before running his own bar in France.

McElhone’s second cocktail book, Barflies and Cocktails, was published in 1927. The slim volume is the first place the boulevardier is mentioned in print. It’s not among the list of roughly 300 recipes, but in the epilogue where McElhone says, “Now is the time for all good barflies to come to the aid of the party, since Erskinne Gwynne crashed in with his Boulevardier Cocktail: 1/3 Campari, 1/3 Italian vermouth, 1/3 Bourbon whisky.”

Gwynne was an American expatriate in Paris as well and owned a magazine called The Boulevardier. So while Barflies seems to suggest Gwynne invented the drink, many question whether McElhone invented it for his friend Gwynne.

The Recipe

The original recipe is equal parts of the three ingredients:

  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

---

I have chosen to alter my recipe just a touch.

  • 1 ½ ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

For garnish, I add an orange twist instead of lemon.

The Execution

Here are a few tips to help perfect the cocktail:

  • If you’re new to whiskey forward drinks or aren't used to their strength, back off the Campari and sweet vermouth to ¾ ounce.
  • There are a lot of vermouths on the market with a wide range in price. I prefer Carpano Antica, which costs quite a bit more but has an exceptional taste. Vermouth is an aromatized wine, so keep it refrigerated and it should last about six months.

The simple combination of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth create a rich and complex cocktail. It may hint at fall flavors but it’s perfect anytime of year when you’re in need of a strong kick in the pants, in the form of a cocktail.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below, email, or hit us up on social media. No question is too basic!