The Boulevardier is a classic, three-ingredient cocktail made with bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth in equal parts.
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A Boulevardier cocktail is at once elegant, and also full of mischief. It's a cousin to the Negroni, but swaps the gin for bourbon. It was named in honor of an American living in Paris, so the bourbon serves as that nod to the States.
Its cozy flavor tends to make you want to cuddle up to it in the fall and winter, as many bourbon drinks seem to do. At three ingredients, it's very straightforward and makes for a great batch cocktail for parties.
It's also one of those classics that you can put your own spin on, adjusting the ratios and swapping things out to suit your particular whim.
History of the Boulevardier Cocktail
The Boulevardier was created at Harry's New York Bar in Paris in the early 20s. It was the signature drink of regular and barfly Erskine Gwynne, an American expat. He was the nephew of a Vanderbilt and had a notorious reputation as a man about town. For a time, he edited a New Yorker-style magazine in Paris called The Boulevardier, thus the name.
- Boubon: Choose a smooth bourbon on the sweeter side.
- Campari: There is no substitute for this one and only bitter liqueur.
- Sweet vermouth: I like a classic sweet vermouth here such as Dolin, but if you want to get creative, you could swap for your favorite amaro.
- Orange zest: For garnish.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of orange zest. Be sure to get just the orange part and none of the bitter white pith.
In a cocktail shaker, pour the bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth over ice.
Stir to chill, then pour through a strainer into a coupe glass.
Garnish with the orange zest and serve.
What does a Boulevardier taste like? A Boulevardier has a good balance of sweet and bitter. Bourbon and vermouth complement each other on the sweet side, then the Campari comes in with just enough bitterness to level it out.
What do you garnish a Boulevardier with? A strip of orange zest is the classic choice, but some like to add a cocktail cherry as well.
Should a Boulevardier be shaken or stirred? Technically, it should be stirred. The rule is that only drinks with juice in them should be shaken. But, truly, if you like to shake it till it's icy cold, go for it.
Should a Boulevardier be served on the rocks or up? Yes! Both are acceptable. Do what suits your mood.
What's the best bourbon for a Boulevardier? Stick to something that's on the sweeter side. I like Four Roses, it's a high-quality, workhorse bourbon in the liquor cabinet that works in so many cocktails. Other great choices are Bulleit and Buffalo Trace.
What's the best vermouth for a Boulevardier? My favorite vermouths are Dolin and Noilly Prat which are both widely available. But scout around and find one you like, they have all have subtle differences, you may even find a locally produced one that suits your tastes.
Can you substitute rye for bourbon in a Boulevardier? Yes, you can. This will make the taste a little spicier and give it a bit more bite.
What can you substitute for sweet vermouth in a Boulevardier? This is where you can get creative and put your own spin on things. Try Amaro (so many choices and flavors!) or even Port!
- The Negroni is the Godfather of the Boulevardier. Gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in equal parts. So refreshing!
- A Mezcal Negroni swaps the traditional gin for mezcal. Smoky and delicious!
- The Manhattan Cocktail is another classic, three-ingredient cocktail, made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.
- A Campari and Soda is a great choice if you want a lower alcohol cocktail.
- This cozy fall and winter cocktail can stand up to hearty dinners. It pairs perfectly with a Cast Iron Skillet Steak on a cold night.
Boulevardier Cocktail Recipe
- 1 oz bourbon
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of orange zest. Be sure to get just the orange part and none of the bitter white pith.
- Garnish with the orange zest and serve.
- Generally, a Boulevardier is equal parts of each liquor. However, many bartenders adjust the ratios to make the bourbon more prominent. You can certainly do that, add ½ ounce extra bourbon and ¼ ounce less of the other two.
- This drink can be served on the rocks, if you prefer.
- See the post above for suggestions on which brand of bourbon to use and answers to more FAQs.