The Boulevardier with the twist

The Boulevardier. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Just home from a quick trip to Chicago (have started the reporting for a new book!) and have piles of notes to transcribe. Will be having the above if I can get even halfway through by 6 pm tonight. Happy Friday, all!

Originally posted in February, 2013:

Were it not for the Internet, my guess is that only the most devoted barfly would know about the Boulevardier. It’s not in any of my cocktail books, not the standard-bearing The Standard Bartender’s Guide, my Madmen-era dad’s paperback. I only heard about it from a reader of this blog (with links below). And an email this week pushed me into a tasting, happily!

I love how various flavoring components (bitters, vermouths) become different cocktails when you change the spirit. How the Manhattan becomes a Rob Roy when you change the bourbon to scotch (as opposed to a lame-sounding “Scotch Manhattan”), or how a Martini becomes a … um, never mind about that #lostcause (Paulius, can we hope for Darwinian selection here?). I love the elasticity of a solid cocktail, how the addition of apple brandy turns a Clover Club into a Pink Lady.

Here, one of my favorite cocktails, the Negroni, becomes a Boulevardier when bourbon replaces the gin. A couple of recent essays (Tmagblog, Imbibe) have wondered why this cocktail isn’t on more menus and I agree. Interestingly, it was apparently invented 20 years before the Negroni in Paris by an American ex-pat socialite who ran a literary magazine, Boulevardier. I do like the 1:1:1 Negroni ratio, but I agree with the others that the Boulevardier is a richer, more satisfying cocktail using more bourbon, here 1.5 parts, with 1 part each vermouth and Campari.

It’s a strong cocktail, so this is one I’d happily recommend on the rocks as well as straight up. Danny Guess, mixologist at Fly Bar and Restaurant in Tampa, co-author of the iBook 25 Classic Cocktails, and a consultant on these cocktail posts, concurs.

It’s a splendid cocktail on a winter’s evening, when the work week is done, a stew simmers on the stove, and fire crackles on the hearth—complex, strong, smoky, and bittersweet.

The Boulevardier a classic cocktail that was created at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.
The Boulevardier
  • 45 grams bourbon (1.5 ounces)
  • 30 grams Campari (1 ounce)
  • 30 grams sweet vermouth (1 ounce)
  • lemon twist
  1. Combine the ingredients in a pint glass filled with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or a rocks glass with ice, to preference.
  2. Garnish with a twist of lemon zest.
  3. Put your feet near a fire. Raise the glass to your companion if you’re with one. Otherwise do nothing, say nothing, as you enjoy your first sips of this fine elixir.

If you liked this post, check out these other links:

© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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4 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Boulevardier Returns”

  • AJ

    I likewise love the Negroni, and since my wife doesn’t love gin as much as I, she often makes hers with bourbon, though with an orange twist. Fun that she has unknowingly been making a Boulevardier for years. Cocktails make me happy. (though reading this now and knowing I can’t have one for at least another 9 hours makes me rather unhappy).

  • Dennis

    I’ve been drinking Boulvardiers made with High West’s Campfire as the primary liquor for the last few months, rather than just a straight-up bourbon. It’s a blend of bourbon, rye, and peated Scotch and works surprisingly well in the cocktail. Plus, that smokiness will go well with your recommended perch by the fire…

  • Allen

    Pssst…

    nix the sweet vermouth. Campari has orange and bitter, very friendly to bourbon. Just sweet enough, maybe add more bitters.

    Donna, calling your hard work food porn is a high compliment. Get to work. We all love it.

    Michael, welcome back you sneaky, cheeky monkey.
    Cheers, happy Friday all