Some cocktails are so perfectly balanced that they really can’t be improved upon, merely played with. Improvisations on a solid theme can be worthy; after all, who doesn’t love a great cover tune? It doesn’t diminish the stature of the original. And so, while I happily Remixed the Boulevardier this week, I strongly encourage you to enjoy the original as well.
While some mixologists call it a “Negroni with whiskey” (subbing whiskey for the Negroni’s gin), you could also think of the Boulevardier as a twist on the Manhattan (just add Campari instead of bitters to the Manhattan’s whiskey and sweet vermouth). It’s odd that the Boulevardier isn’t better known, considering the ubiquity of those drinks in the craft-cocktail crowd.
The Boulevardier is said to have been invented by Erskine Gwynne, and named after the literary magazine he and fellow expatriate Arthur Moss launched in Paris in 1927. The cocktail, I think, was his better effort. Boulevardier folded with little trace, but its namesake lives on, a smooth yet complex potion; the bitter Campari gives it complexity, but the sweet vermouth keeps things soft.
My Remix has sharper edges, due to the presence of Hum, a hibiscus-based 70-proof spirit with a kick-in-the-head aromatic bouquet of botanicals including cardamom, pepper, ginger and kaffir lime leaf. Hum has such big shoulders that I went with bourbon instead of rye, my usual spirit of choice in a Boulevardier, and used Apérol rather than Campari as the bitter component. (Apérol is like Campari’s little sister: a bit more sugary, a bit less bossy.) The result of swapping in just a bit of Hum for some of the vermouth is a gloriously spicy, ruby-red libation that’s perfect for cool-weather drinking.
2 ounces whiskey, rye or bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet red vermouth
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with ice.
1 1/2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
1 ounce Apérol
3/4 ounce sweet red vermouth
1/4 ounce Hum liqueur
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled. Strain into a glass with one large or two medium lumps of ice. Garnish with grapefruit peel.