As crafty as some of my favorite bartenders are with their cocktails, I'm surprised that the old, forgotten Boulevardier cocktail is just starting to gain traction. Quite a few libationists I know drink Negronis with abandon. Most of these same folks also greatly enjoy whiskey drinks, especially ones made with rye.
Enter the Boulevardier. It's one of quite a few cocktails that came from Harry's New York Bar in Paris while Prohibition was going on in the US, along with other such legendary libations as the French 75 and the Bloody Mary. The Boulevardier is a simple matter, just like a Negroni with whiskey instead of gin. Or, if you prefer, a Manhattan made with a healthy dose of Campari in place of the Angostura bitters.
Given a formula like that, one would think every cocktailian bartender in town would have been swilling them for a couple of years now. Somehow, such is not the case. Ask your favorite bartender if they've heard of a Boulevardier. You'll probably get a puzzled look. Show them how to make one, then watch as they almost certainly proclaim it their new favorite drink.
While you can follow the straight Negroni formula of equal parts of everything, a little finesse will elevate a Boulevardier. The range of flavors in American whiskies is quite broad, and Campari is a rather assertive spirit. A nice spicy rye should be able to hold its own against Campari, but milder bourbon bottlings (such as Maker's Mark) don't stand up as well. Start out with equal parts of everything, and give it a taste. If it's off balance, go ahead and add some more whiskey.
With the whiskey and Campari tucked away, it's time to turn our attention to the vermouth. I hope you know by now to keep your vermouth in the fridge. The Boulevardier calls for sweet vermouth. While most any decent vermouth will do fine, a richer sweet vermouth such as Carpano Antica will make the Boulevardier really shine. If you get your hands on some Carpano Antica, do try it as an aperitif on its own some time. It's lovely.
A formula like this is ripe for experimentation. You can substitute in just about any other bitter liqueur you like to make a whole new drink. Some amaro like Averna (or Fernet Branca if you cut back on the amount a little) could be used instead of vermouth. Or, you can go the other way and use dry vermouth instead of sweet. Then, it becomes an Old Pal cocktail. Look at that, two cocktails for the price of one.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Boulevardier Cocktail Start with the smaller amount of whiskey, adding more to taste. 1 to 1-½ ounces bourbon or rye 1 ounce Campari 1 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica)
Stir well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.