Classics never die: 3 things to know about Boulevardier cocktail.

In “All you need to know before ordering your next Negroni” we talked about Negroni and how vermouth plays a main role in its recipe. But did you know that it is also found in most of the classic cocktails, and also some of the most modern ones? Today, we will focus on the Boulevardier, another classic cocktail which has lots in common with the already presented Negroni.

In fact, the Boulevardier is nothing else than a variation of the first, but using whiskey instead of gin for its preparation. Please note that, when it comes to Boulevardier, we will be referring to whiskey (American), and not to whisky (Scotch). But this story will be told in another moment, as it certainly deserves an article itself.

Now let’s go back to the beginning of the 20th century, in Paris, and live the story of the Boulevardier. In his article “The weekend cocktail: The Boulevardier” Neal Dewing notes that it was an American expatriate, Edward Erskine Gwynne, who gave name to this classic cocktail back in the 1920s. He left his country seeking adventures, and while in Paris he started his own magazine, so called Boulevardier, trying to ape the New Yorker. The story tells that this cocktail was Gwynne’s signature drink , he then decided to share it with Harry McElhone. McElhone was the bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, one of the most famous cocktail bars in the city, which still exists. Born in Scotland, McElhone moved to the US but then had to leave the country due to Prohibition, decided to record the cocktail in his famous book “Barflies and Cocktails”, and enabled it to live longer than its own creators. As in many of the romantic tales and stories, Gwynne died broken and forgotten, while his legacy the Boulevardier became a worldwide known cocktail still found in the best cocktails bars.

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We now know about the story of Boulevardier, let’s learn how to mix one in order to recover from the sadness!

Ingredients:

  • 30ml Campari
  • 30 ml Sweet vermouth
  • 45 ml Bourbon or Rye Whiskey

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass over ice. Stir until it mixes and becomes cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel or a maraschino cherry. For a perfect serve, keep your cocktail glass into the freezer or filled with ice before serving, so it is cold when serving. Don’t forget to remove the ice from the glass before serving your Boulevardier.

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Finally, these are the 3 things that all Boulevardier connoisseurs should know:

  • Boulevardier shares big similarities with the Negroni, but it uses bourbon or rye whiskey instead of gin for its preparation.
  • The drink was first served and recorded by Harry McElhone at the still existing bar Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, in the 1920s.
  • Vermouth is one of the protagonists of the Boulevardier, demonstrating the important role it plays in many cocktails.

Boulevardier is one of the most known classic cocktails, served all over the world and being appreciated by vermouth and whiskey lovers. It has a great balance between its ingredients, and is a perfect choice for the aperitivo occasion due to its bittersweet taste combined with the wood and sweet aromatics flavors coming from the whiskey. So next time you are thinking about what to drink for aperitivo go classy and ask for a Boulevardier. You won’t regret it… and if you do you are welcome to go back to the 20’s and complain with Edward Gwynne 😉

jorgeMy name is Jorge Ferrer, I am a spirits and cocktails lover and a vermouth enthusiast. I earned my MsC in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ESADE Business School and at the moment I hold a Junior Brand Manager position in Brown-Forman. I am planning to market my own vermouth, feel free to reach out or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/jorgeferrer191/ or @jorge_chinaski 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brother Cleve says:

    I love the Boulevardier, though as a 30+ year cocktail enthusiast and bartender, I can say it was basically unknown, in the US at least, until the last decade. The variation using rye whiskey, called the 1794 (after the year of the whiskey rebellion in the US) is recent as well; rye fell out of favor during the 1930’s and had been rediscovered in the late 1990’s cocktail revival, when only 3 brands were available yet difficult to find (Old Overholt, Jim Beam & Wild Turkey; Pikesville was available regionally in Maryland and surrounding states)

    When making the original MacElhone specs (which was equal parts though I think this variation listed is better), I like to use the more bitter Cinzano or Punt E Mes; the dittany heavy Martini & Rossi Rosso works well with sweeter corn or wheated bourbons, to my palate.

    One last note – Harry MacElhone was Scottish; he did bartend in NYC many years before Prohibition, though he was working in London before heading to Paris to work at the New York Bar, which he eventually bought in 1922

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    1. Jorge Ferrer says:

      Hi Brother Cleve,

      We listed Rye Whiskey in the specs due to its renaissance in the last decades, and in a more biased way, because I personally love it as part of any cocktail traditionally made with American whiskey 😉

      Also, I agree that the variation including a bigger proportion of whiskey is better. In my opinion, Campari’s taste prevails too much in the original recipe, with the bitterness covering the taste and characteristics of the whiskey.

      Finally, you are totally right about the origins of Harry MacElhone. He was Scottish, from Dundee if I am not mistaken. We are definitely amending this in the original article.

      Thanks a lot for your comment and notes. We would love to hear from you again and we encourage you to follow our blog for more content about vermouth and the cocktail world. Please don’t hesitate to make any suggestion and all the notes and comments you want.

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