This drink won me over when I realized it is a cousin to one of my favorite drinks, The Negroni. Bourbon replaces the gin and life is good indeed. The Boulevardier first appeared in Barflies and Cocktails, a 1927 book by Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.
During Prohibition, some of our country’s finest mixologists found themselves fleeing the hotels and cafes of New York and landing behind bars in Europe, and specifically Paris. This was the case of Harry MacElhone who had been tending bar at The Plaza in New York. MacElhone found himself tending bar at Tod Sloan’s New York Bar in Paris. In 1923 he acquired the bar and added his name – “Harry’s New York Bar.” Perhaps the world’s most famous bar, it is also the birthplace of such classic cocktails as the Bloody Mary, French 75, Side Car, Monkey Gland, and The Boulevardier.
Enter Erskine Gwynne
As was the case around Europe, writers and members of the artistic community flocked to Parisian bars. Their long conversations of literary and artistic trends were matched by cocktails served up American style but with European ingredients. Many of these new cocktails received literary names.
In 1927, Arthur Moss and Erskine Gwynne began publishing The Boulevardier, a magazine patterned after The New Yorker. Gwynne, son of a famous polo-player and nephew of the Vanderbilts, was a frequenter to the bars of Paris. So much so that a drink was created for and named after his magazine – The Boulevardier. (Boulevardier is French for a fashionable man who promenades through the streets of Paris; a man about town. What we today may refer to as a metrosexual.)
While the classic Negroni is mixed equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, The Boulevardier is changed slightly to 1.5 parts bourbon to one part Campari and one part vermouth. Mixologists have debated equal parts to the recorded recipe below. Feel free to adjust the bourbon (or even rye) to your liking.
I found that the bitterness of the Campari pairs well with the sweetness of the bourbon and the Carpano Antica smooths it all out nicely. This is now on my short list now of go-to drinks.
1.5 oz bourbon (we used Elijah Craig)
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth (we prefer Carpano Antica)
Place all ingredients in a shaker of ice and stir. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with a cherry.
Erskine Gwynne published one book – a novel entitled Paris Pandemonium (1936). In this cotton candy love story, a young woman is taken to a variety of bars and parties by a Right Bank playboy of sorts. Gwynne takes the opportunity to namedrop all of the socially prominent people of the day, and provides a snapshot of the circles in which Gwynne himself traveled. He returned home to the States in 1935 and was paralysised in a car accident in 1938. He lived in New York City until his death in 1948.
Coming up next week: The Brandy Crusta