I drummed my fingers on the bar at Lupa as I waited. I needed a bourbon cocktail to start my night, but with what? Tonight neither a Manhattan nor an Old Fashioned would do.
“Do you like Campari?” the bartender asked. Do I ever!
“Well, I’ve got a drink I think you’ll love, but it’s got a really embarrassing name.” Do tell!
The Boulevardier is the Colin Firth to the Negroni’s Hugh Grant; equally charming and irresistible, but with just a little bit of extra smolder.
For those of you who haven’t made the acquaintance of a Negroni, I’ll wait a minute while you pop over to your neighborhood cocktail lounge. Any bartender worth his or her rimmed salt should be able to do it.
Equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, the Negroni itself is a riff on another drink, the Americano.
Needing a little more kick than the Americano’s Campari, vermouth, and soda could offer, Count Camillo Negroni asked for his to be made with gin instead, and just like that, the man got a drink named after him.
The good Count had a stellar idea, using the herbaceous flavors of gin as counterpoint to Campari’s citrusy bite.
But the Boulevardier takes those herbal highlights and turns them on their end, using bourbon’s roasted sweetness to make the bitters the high notes of the drink rather than the low bass they provide when paired with gin.
When mixing a Boulevardier, certain cocktailers slightly increase the percentage of whiskey or decrease the Campari to find a balance that best suits their tastebuds.
Some use rye instead of bourbon, giving the cocktail a more stringent flavor profile.
Neither the Negroni nor the Boulevardier are particularly seasonal—I drink ’em year-round—and can be interspersed depending on your mood.
Writer Michael Procopio, no stranger to debauchery, calls Negronis “louche” and finds them appropriate for drinking in “swank apartments at midnight, dimly lit trysting places at any time of day, on the sly in a toney sanitarium.”
In her memoir , Blood, Bones & Butter, Prune chef Gabrielle Hamilton says a Negroni “sparks your appetite and brightens your mood, holds in balance the sweet and the bitter.”
(She also calls them “mama’s nerve tonic” as a method of dealing with her two sons.)
I’d say all those characteristics are applicable to the Boulevardier as well, but with a little more relaxed, loungey warmth.
I’ll call for a Negroni when I need a bracing start to my happy hour after a windblown blue sky day, but I’ll take a Boulevardier when I’m walking into the bar as the sun is setting and golden orange, pulling a sweater on over my sunburned shoulders.
The Boulevardier is my jumping-off point for the evening and my winding-down drink at the end of the night.
Ask for it by name and spread the gospel.
- 1 fluid ounce (2 tablespoons) bourbon
- 1 fluid ounce (2 tablespoons) Campari
- 1 fluid ounce (2 tablespoons) sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
- orange twist for garnish (optional)
- Fill a coupe with ice and water, or fill a highball glass with square ice cubes.
- Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice and add the bourbon, Campari, and vermouth.
- Stir gently.
- If using a coupe, discard the ice water.
- Strain the Boulevardier into the chilled coupe or over the ice in the rocks glass.
- Garnish with the orange twist, if desired.
For a Negroni, switch out the bourbon and use gin instead.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 116Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 4mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 3gSugar: 14gProtein: 1g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
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