A few weeks ago, someone mentioned the Boulevardier cocktail in a comment. It's a drink that I first read about in Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, and one I knew I would eventually feature as a Drink of the Week. There are so many drinks that can be described in terms of another one, and the Boulevardier is no exception.
Take a Negroni and substitute bourbon for the gin and you basically have a Boulevardier. But to put it like that, despite it being a wonderful and delicious libation, is to deny our cocktail its due. Long before most Americans would have even heard of Campari, this recipe appeared in 1927—some twenty years before the Negroni saw print. I might venture to argue that the Boulevardier is also the better drink. Now, I know some of you will take offense to that statement, but for those who are willing to try this one, I'd like to suggest a few specific ingredients.
1.5 oz bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari
Add ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill. Allow plenty of stir time to adequately cool and dilute the ingredients, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.
I used Maker's 46 to make mine, but any flavorful bourbon will work. I have even heard of people using rye with success. But to me, the choice that matters is the vermouth. I used Carpano Antica Formula and I gotta say, it makes this cocktail a winner. Instead of fighting for balance in competition with a full ounce of Campari's bitterness, the vermouth's strong, sweet character actually tames and enhances the Campari without overpowering it. About the moment you notice you are enjoying this marriage of flavors, your whiskey pokes through. It's a precious combination that looks as good as it tastes, shining like a deep, red, liquid ruby.
In all fairness to the Negroni, I use Carpano Antica when I make those too. Yet, at this moment, despite the equal opportunity, I think I prefer whiskey's richness and depth in this combination to gin's uplifting botanicals and citrus. Or maybe this is how I feel about it today, and tomorrow will have me in a different mood.
I suppose another way to look at it is to think of this as just a Manhattan with Campari, but I'd like to see the Boulevardier get a little of its own recognition from now on. Give it a try and let me know what you think.