This bourbon “Negroni” is the perfect autumn drink
Ever had a Boulevardier Cocktail? Right, we didn’t think so.
But you probably know the Negroni — that delectable combo of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. It’s become trendy during the past few years. Well, just swap bourbon for gin, and you have the Boulevardier.
This cocktail has a bittersweet flavor that makes it perfect as a pre-dinner drink. And bourbon gives everything a nice, warm glow – so it’s welcome as autumn approaches in our part of the world.
Time to haul out those sweaters and mix up a Boulevardier. You’ll need to take the chill off.
Recipe: The Boulevardier Cocktail
The word “boulevardier” (bool-uh-var-dee-AY), a French term, refers to an urban bon vivant who frequents fashionable places. Think of a dandy (wearing a boutonniere, of course) strolling along a swank boulevard – say 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive.
We learned about this drink from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (one of the most fun cocktail books we know).
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves 1.
- 1½ ounces bourbon (see Notes for suggestions)
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (see Notes)
- garnish of a lemon twist or wedge (optional)
- Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until well combined and well chilled (about 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that has been chilled) or an ice-filled rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. Add garnish, if desired, and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because all the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces small bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. If some ingredients are opaque (citrus juice, for example), you can shake because the drink will be cloudy anyway.
- With that said, if you’re serving this on the rocks, go ahead and shake. No one will be able to see the bubbles with all those cubes.
- Traditionally, this drink is served “up” – chilled but without ice – in a cocktail glass. Though we think it works just as well on the rocks.
- Some people like to garnish this drink with a maraschino cherry. That works fine, especially since this cocktail’s flavor profile is similar to a Manhattan (which always has a cherry garnish). But we think lemon works even better.
- The Boulevardier was one of many cocktails invented during the Prohibition era. It was popularized by Harry McElhone, founder and proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. McElhone first mentioned the drink in his 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails. McElhone made clear, however, that he didn’t create the cocktail himself. It was invented by Erskine Gwynne, a wealthy American expat (and frequent customer of McElhone’s) who had started a literary magazine called (what else?) The Boulevardier.
- The original recipe for the Boulevardier specified equal parts of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth. That seems a bit unbalanced to us (as it does to many modern drinkers), so contemporary recipes increase the amount of bourbon. You may prefer even more bourbon than we do. Some connoisseurs (like our friend Greg Henry at Sippity Sup) increase the bourbon to 2 ounces (for a 2:1:1 ratio).
- Which bourbon to use in this cocktail? Our usual favorite for mixed drinks, Evan Williams, works OK – but just barely. You really need a bourbon that will stand up to the Campari in this drink. So we recommend using one with some heft, such as Wild Turkey 101 or Buffalo Trace.
- Campari is a red-hued Italian liqueur with a bitter flavor. Some people enjoy it over ice or with soda water as a before-dinner drink.
- Sweet (red) vermouth is sometimes called Italian vermouth. Which makes sense, because sweet vermouth was invented in Turin (by Antonio Beneddetto Carpano in 1786).
- We like to use the Martini & Rossi brand of sweet vermouth in this drink, but any name-brand red vermouth will work.
- Feel free to try some variations on the vermouth in this drink. You could substitute Punt e Mes, for example. Ted Haigh likes Carpano Antica. And one of our local restaurants makes this cocktail with oloroso sherry. We like it best with Martini & Rossi, but it’s fun to switch things up sometimes.
- Our usual reminder: We’re noncommercial and don’t receive compensation for mentioning brands. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
- BTW, vermouth has a relatively low alcohol quotient. So once it’s opened, it will start to oxidize. We store opened bottles in the refrigerator to retard the oxidization process.
- Substitute dry vermouth for sweet in this recipe, and you have a drink called the Old Pal.
“Wow,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This drink deserves its own star on Hollywood Boulevard.”
“Great color, too,” I said. “It definitely has street appeal.”
“Have to watch out though,” said Mrs K R. “Too many of these could put us on the road to ruin.”
“Yup,” I said. “Have to use street smarts with this one.”
“But just one more would be OK,” said Mrs K R. “For the road.”
“That’s our limit,” I agreed. “Don’t want to wake up on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”
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