Variations and Substitutions
The boulevardier, like the negroni, has very specific ingredients and proportions, but there's still room to experiment and play around with the cocktail.
- The original recipe calls for bourbon, but you can use rye whiskey for a firmer bite.
- Include a splash to half-ounce of orange liqueur to capitalize on citrus notes.
- Experiment with different ratios, but limit yourself to a ratio of 2:1:1.
- Add a drop or two of orange, lemon, or grapefruit bitters for additional citrus flavor without any sweetness.
- Try scotch, or a half-ounce each of whiskey and scotch, for a smokey flavor.
If you don't have an orange peel readily available or you want to use something other than an orange, then the good news is that you have options.
- Double up on the citrus notes by using two citrus peels. Using either a lemon or orange peel, express one peel over the drink by twisting the peel between your fingers, then run the colorful outside of the peel, not the inner white pith, along the rim, before discarding. Express the second peel over the glass and leave this peel in the drink. You can use just an orange or lemon, but you can also use both in combination.
- Use an orange wheel or slice for strong citrus notes.
- Make an orange ribbon, either narrow or wide, for a playful-looking garnish.
- Consider a dehydrated citrus wheel; this can be either orange, lemon, or lime, as it won't affect the overall flavor of the cocktail.
About the Boulevardier
Born in 1920s Paris, among the American ex-patriots that had resettled, the boulevardier vaguely translates into man-about-town or city man. At its core, the boulevardier is a copy and paste of the classic Negroni cocktail with a simple switch of the base spirit from gin to whiskey. Harry McElhone, a famous bartender, is credited with creating and subsequent rise in popularity of this whiskey riff after including the recipe in a book in the late 1920s. Not to be forgotten, he's also responsible for the sidecar and a cocktail that would eventually become the French 75.
While the boulevardier might be a little less known than its parent cocktail, and it doesn't (yet) have a dedicated cocktail week, it's a drink deserving of its own place in anyone's wheelhouse. Bourbon is often a more accessible spirit than gin, making it a great introduction to bitter or aperitif style cocktails.
A Drink About Town
It's pronounced bool-ah-vard-ee-a, but don't let this intricate or daunting name scare you away from a fabulous cocktail. Its bitter notes are remarkable, and the bourbon or rye makes it a rich and oaky ending to balance all of it out. Instead of reaching for the gin or perusing the bar menu, enjoy a boulevardier and sip your soon-to-be new favorite drink.