How to Make the Perfect Boulevardier

Boulevardier with orange twist.

If you haven’t introduced yourself to the classic cocktail otherwise known as the Boulevardier, it’s time you do so. The brooding relative of the Negroni, this drink goes way back and brings out some of the best flavors Campari has to offer.

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The Boulevardier is a layered mix of Campari, vermouth, and bourbon, usually treated to a citrus garnish. It’s believed to have been created in 1927, when it became the favorite cocktail of expatriate writer Erskine Gwynne. The Paris-based penman looked after a magazine of the same name, hence the drink’s title. The drink was one of the many shining stars to come out of the cocktail world’s first true golden era.

Alicia Perry is a cocktail wizard and GM at San Diego’s Polite Provisions. She likes a Boulevardier that allows the base spirit to shine brightly through the partner ingredients of sweet vermouth and Campari. “I utilize Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare in mine personally, there are vanilla and browned sugar notes in this specific bourbon that are brought forth when showcased in this cocktail,” she says. In terms of the sweet vermouth, Perry opts for Carpano Antica.
A pair of the deft bartender’s favorite takes on the Boulevardier are below. The first echoes the classic while the second is a modernist spin based around a rum infusion you can whip up at home. Try them both and see why this cocktail is both a classic and great to experiment with.

Campari Brand Ambassador Daniel Warrilow knows the Boulevardier well. As is the case with most cocktails, it all begins with good, clean ice. “Clean out your freezer regularly and disinfect it to ensure that the ice is made to perfection,” he suggests. “Ice, much like water, will soak up flavors and aromas that are present in the freezer, which will then affect the drink as the ice melts into the liquid.”

Boulevardier with Torino Rosso Vermouth

From there, it comes down to taking care of your ingredients. Warrilow advises keeping your vermouth in the fridge after it’s been opened, as it’s a wine-based concoction. He likes 1757, a true vermouth from Turin, Italy. “Selecting the right bourbon is important, especially one with a high rye content as that’s likely what the original Boulevardier was made with,” he says. What to select? He likes Russel’s Reserve 10-Year.

Another key aspect is chill level. “I often batch my Boulevardiers in a glass decanter that I keep in my freezer,” Warrilow says. “The alcohol content will be high enough that it won’t freeze but it will remain perfectly chilled and ready to serve at any point in time. Just pull it out of the freezer and pour it over fresh ice.”

Naturally, you’ll need a garnish and in this case, it’s customary to go with orange. “I like a nice thick half-moon garnish so I have a snack when I’ve finished my drink, in true aperitivo fashion,” he says.

Alicia Perry’s Ideal Boulevardier

Cocktail being poured.

Perry likes this recipe, as it uses slightly less Campari and vermouth as some of the more traditional recipes. “I find that it lends an improved mouthfeel, is less viscous, and allows the modifiers—Campari and sweet vermouth—to accompany the bourbon versus dominate it,” she says.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon or Eagle Rare
  • .75 ounce Campari
  • .75 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

Method: Stir in mixing glass with ice. Strain over ice and garnish with an orange twist, following its expression. 

The Alt-Boulevardier

Perry also loves a contemporary spin on the classic. She thinks it’s a versatile base recipe, with plenty of playing around that can be done with base spirits and infusions. “Campari actually takes quite nicely to infusions that contain higher fat content — think fat washing,” she says. Here, she offers a favorite recipe for a rum-based version of the Boulevardier.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz banana-infused Plantation 5-Year Rum*
  • .75 Campari
  • .75 Carpano Antica sweet vermouth

Banana-infused rum: Perry infuses the rum with browned or overly ripe bananas. Add 3 bananas to one 750ml bottle of rum. Leave in a sealed container in a dry, cool, and dark space. Let the infusion go for 48 hours, then fine strain and use at your convenience. 

Method: Stir in mixing glass with ice. Strain over ice and garnish with an orange twist, following its expression.

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