My love affair with the boulevardier cocktail (pronounced bool-ah-vard-ee-a) was a slow burn.
To just put it out there so you know what we’re working with here, a boulevardier is essentially a negroni where you switch out the gin for bourbon.
But as with any Campari drink, it’s an a acquired taste, so you have to ease yourself into it a bit.
The first time I had a negroni it was an “ew, what is THIS?”
Then by the time I finished it was like “ok, this is interesting. Make me another one.”
By the third one, I was in love.
So I started exploring more Campari based drinks. From the basic Americano to more tiki oriented drinks like the Jungle Bird (and more recently the Lost Lake which gets a hint of bitterness from Campari).
How to Make a Boulevardier Cocktail
But it was the boulevardier that made the strongest impact. It’s hands down one of my favorite cocktails. And if I ever see someone order one at a bar? I know we can be friends.
For a long time I just stuck with a basic 1:1:1 ratio of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth – but after digging into the Regarding Cocktails book I noticed a recipe for a boulevardier riff called a Left Hand.
The only cocktail book from the late Sasha Petraske, founder of Milk & Honey and Attaboy. Well worth adding to your collection.
Instead of equal parts everything, bartender Sam Ross used 1.5 oz bourbon and .75oz each vermouth and Campari – and then did what I often do, he added chocolate bitters.
The result is a very good and well balanced boulevardier cocktail.
To be clear you can make a boulevardier either of these ways, and it will be excellent.
That’s one of the things I love about this and the negroni: they’re pretty hard to mess up.
For instance, you can have an undrinkable old fashioned (muddle fruit anyone?).
But even a bad negroni or boulevardier is going to be drinkable. More so than most drinks, the difference between a good one and a great one comes down to very small details (and personal preference).
After going down the best Manhattan rabbit hole, the Boulevardier was the next rabbit hole I went down. Trying about a dozen different variations before settling on my preferred version.
I ended up sticking with the eatios from the Left Hand, and just switched out the bitters.
Rather than using regular chocolate bitters, I added Xocolatl Mole bitters from Bitterman’s and think it works beautifully in this drink. The chocolate flavors still work well with the vermouth, but the subtle spice kick adds an extra dimension to the drink that I really enjoy.
Of course after doing a quick Google search for Left Hand, I discovered, I am indeed not the first (or second or third) person to make this switch. It’s hard to come up with something truly unique these days!
Personally, I think Carpano Antica is the best vermouth to use in a boulevardier. It’s bold flavor holds up well next to the equally bold Campari and Bourbon. Cochi Vermouth di Torino also works well.
If you aren’t sure you’re on the Campari train yet, and want something to ease you into it a bit? Try a Union Club – it’s like a boulevardier with training wheels.
LOVE boulevardiers and want something else unique that has some similar flavors? Try my take on a rum negroni or a pineapple negroni that uses the same basic ratio and switches out the bourbon for Plantation Pineapple Rum.
What do you think? Have you made a boulevardier before? Love it? Hate it? Drop a comment and let me know.
The Best Boulevardier Cocktail Recipe
- Mixing Glass
- Bar Spoon
- Coupe Glass
- Hawthorne Strainer
- 1.5 oz Bourbon I use Buffalo Trace
- .75 oz Sweet Vermouth I use Carpano Antica
- .75 oz Campari
- 3 Dashes Xocolatl Mole Bitters
- Combine all drinks in a mixing glass
- Stir over ice for 30 seconds
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass
- (You can also strain over a big cube in a rocks glass if you prefer)
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