Boulevardier \boo-luh-var-DYAY\- un cocktail sophistique

Boulevardier \boo-luh-var-DYAY\ , noun;

  1. A frequenter of city boulevards, especially in Paris.
  2. A sophisticated, worldly, and socially active man; a man who frequents fashionable places; a man-about-town.

Sups! a boulevardier! But that’s not why we’re here.

We are here to rediscover a classic cocktail by the same name. It’s a potent, spicy and flavorful mix of 2 parts bourbon, 1 part Campari and 1 part sweet vermouth. Making this a very sophisticated little tippler. It’s basically a Negroni with balls (did I actually sat that?), because it replaces the subtle notes of gin with the bold presence of bourbon (sometimes rye).

We have the unlikely duo of Paris and the American prohibition to thank for this concoction. Prohibition hit just as the cocktail was being raised to an art form, especially in New York City.  But the Volstead act, which put prohibition in place, meant thousands of bartenders had their professions “summarily yanked from beneath them”, according to Imbibe Magazine.

boulevardierA few of the cocktail stalwarts expatriated themselves rather than give up their livelihoods. In Europe they became part of the fashionable set bringing many of the most famous American libations to a Europe thirsty to be a part of the broader world.

Harry McElhone who once helmed the bar at the Plaza Hotel in New York landed in Paris opening his own place, Harry’s New York Bar. It was there (and in other American style bars throughout Europe) that he made a name for himself (and his bar) by serving the expected pre-Prohibition American cocktails that made continentals feel so au current and au contraire. But Harry gained something from this chic set as well, because he began experimenting with European ingredients he never could have imagined back home.

The Boulevardier was one such cocktail. It is first seen in print in the 1927 cocktail guide, written by Harry himself, called Barflies and Cocktails. Sadly it seems to have been almost forgotten ever since. But with the latest resurgence of cocktail culture this dandy little cocktail has been dusted off and brought to new generations of bon vivants. Making a certain dandy little boulevardier named Sup! feel pretty au current himself.

Many thanks to Phil and Joe for this one. You know who you are and you know why!


Greg Henry