How to Make a Boulevardier

Boulevardier cocktail in glass with bottle of Campari
Photo by Sara Littlejohn / Styling by Dylan Garret
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The Boulevardier is a classic drink comprised of Campari, sweet vermouth and whiskey. At its most basic, the cocktail is simply a Negroni that swaps a clear spirit (gin) with one that has seen some oak (whiskey). This seemingly minor tweak creates a vastly different flavor profile that has earned this drink a dedicated place in the cocktail canon, rather than a simple substitution.

The drink dates to pre-Prohibition times, with its first printed mention in Harry McElhone’s 1927 book Barflies and Cocktails. McElhone, of course, was the famed bartender of London’s Ciro Club and Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, and credited by many as the creator of drinks ranging from the Sidecar to the Pink Lady.

However, while McElhone popularized the drink, he attributed its invention to Erskine Gwynne, a wealthy American socialite who moved to Paris to start a literary magazine called The Boulevardier, meaning a “man about town.”

As with many whiskey cocktails, there’s often a debate as to whether Bourbon or rye is the better choice. McElhone’s himself had printed versions of the recipe that alternated the spirit, one specifically calling for Canadian Club rye, and another saying Gwynne preferred Bourbon. We recommend rye, as its spicier flavor profile adds a nice accent to the cocktail, and the added sweetness of Bourbon could come off as cloying in the presence of sweet vermouth and sugary Campari.

While any brand of sweet vermouth can be used, Antica Formula is always a good choice for whiskey-based cocktails.

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ½ ounce rye whiskey
  • Lemon or orange peel, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in chilled mixing glass filled with ice. Stir for 30–45 seconds until well chilled. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish by twisting orange or lemon peel over drink, and drop in.

Published on January 9, 2021