Have you had a Boulevardier yet? Never? You’re in for a treat. If yes, then you know how good this is going to be. The Boulevardier is a Negroni variation that throws out the gin and replaces it with a solid Kentucky bourbon. It’s subtler, a little less bitter, and slightly sweeter than your classic Negroni.
It’s also the perfect Christmas, holiday, and New Year’s Eve drink. Perfect to learn how to make as 2020 comes to a close.
The Boulevardier harkens back to the Lost Generation in Paris and the “boulevardiers” or “men-about-town” who’d frequent spots like Harry’s Bar alongside creatives with the last names Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, and Dali. The titular boulevardier for whom the drink was named was a flaxen-haired American writer who ran a culture magazine back in those days called, you guessed it, Boulevardier.
Long story short, the American boulevardier preferred very American bourbon to botanical gin. And just like that, a new cocktail was born.
The beauty of this drink (and all Negroni variations) is its simplicity. The only thing you really have to dial in with this recipe is the balance. You want the bourbon to shine through with a bit of spice, sweetness, and oak. The Campari gets slightly muted by the brown liquor marrying to the sweet and herbal vermouth. Add some orange oils over the top, and you’ve got something truly special that feels like the holidays. Spice, sweet, bitter, dark, orange oils … add in some nuts and you’ve got a Christmas cake.
Let’s get mixing!
- 2-oz. bourbon
- 1.5-oz. Campari
- 1.5-oz. sweet vermouth
- Orange peel
The base and key to this cocktail is bourbon. I’m using Woodford Reserve standard bourbon. It’s accessible, affordable, and stands up to cocktail mixing. Then there’s the sweet vermouth. Look, a lot of “drinks writers” will shit on Martini vermouth. Are there better vermouths out there? Sure. Does that make Martini bad? No.
Especially not in quarantine times, when the fact that Martini Rosso only costs $10 and is available at every liquor store feels like a significant perk.
While I wasn’t picky with vermouth for this recipe, I did get picky with my oranges. I wanted an orange with a thick skin, so I could get a good peel off of it. Sometimes oranges get what feels like really thin skin, and those tend not to be ideal when you’re aiming for a nice peel off the fruit.
- Mixing jug
- Rocks glass
- Knife or peeler
The first thing I do is set up my station: Bottles at the ready, glass, jug, spoon, jigger, and orange.
I then use a knife (you can use a vegetable peeler too) to slice a thin peel off the orange. It should be about the size of your thumb and include as little of the pith (white stuff beneath the outer skin) as possible.
Next, I fill my rocks glass with ice to pre-chill. I then add all my ingredients into the mixing jug. Generally speaking, you’re going for three to five ounces in the finished cocktail. In this case, we’re aiming for a large, five-ounce cocktail that suits the holiday season we’re in and ushers in a New Year.
I top up the mixing jug with ice. Always fill whatever vessel you’re using to mix all the way up. I use the barspoon to then stir the drink until the outside of the jug starts to frost over — maybe 45 to 60 seconds, maybe more.
You’re adding water while also chilling the drink — in essence, finding balance.
I strain the drink into the waiting rocks glass that’s already filled with ice. It should come right to the top.
Finally, I gently bend the orange peel over the glass (orange-side towards the glass) to release the oils. I then rub the peel all around the outside of the glass and bend it slightly before dropping it into the cocktail.
The Bottom Line:
The beauty of this drink is the lightness that has bold flavors layered in. There’s a nice spice next to mild bitter botanicals, herbs, and real sweetness. The orange oils really make it all come alive. There’s a slight sense of almost a gingerbread with a distant echo of dark chocolate (thanks to that bourbon) that really amps up the holiday vibes.
A nice perk with this drink is that you really don’t need anything to make it besides a glass and a stirrer. If you want to make it on the fly, build it in the glass by adding ice, bourbon, vermouth, and Campari, stirring, adding the orange, and dive in. It’ll take about 15 seconds and it’s 100 percent worth it.