Boulevardier Cocktail

5 from 1 vote

The Boulevardier cocktail is a recipe often overlooked but worthy of your attention. Made with bourbon or rye whiskey, bitter Campari and sweet vermouth, this classic cocktail offers a sophisticated twist on the Negroni with a bold flavor profile ideal that works equally well for casual enjoyment and elegant gatherings.

Two glasses of Boulevardier cocktail with orange slices.

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Boulevardier Cocktail recipe

If the Manhattan and the Negroni were parents to another cocktail, it’d be the Boulevardier.

This bittersweet classic cocktail is reminiscent of both. It has the sweet, alluring flavor of a Manhattan along with the strong, bracing notes of a Negroni.

If you love either of those cocktails, the Boulevardier is definitely a drink you need to try. It’s a simple formula that’s easy to make at home.

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A person is placing a slice of orange into a cocktail glass.

Why you’ll love this recipe

You are going to adore this classic Boulevardier recipe!

  • If you’re a fan of bitter flavors, you will love this classic cocktail.
  • With just three ingredients, it’s easy to put together.
  • The Boulevardier is a classic that every home bartender should know.

Once you’ve tried this recipe, you’ll be ready to stir up perfectly balanced Boulevardier cocktails for happy hour at home, dinner parties and nightcaps.

A red cocktail with orange slices and ice cubes.

What is a Boulevardier?

The Boulevardier is a classic cocktail made with whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth.

The recipe is similar to the Negroni, which is made with gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. It’s also similar to the Manhattan, a whiskey cocktail made with sweet vermouth and bitters.

Campari is an Italian bitter liqueur. It’s a type of apéritif and it’s what gives this cocktail a deep, bitter undertone and bright red hue.

Rye whiskey gives this drink its spicy woodsy flavor, while sweet vermouth puts the sweet in bittersweet. Garnished with a piece of orange zest, this robust drink can be served neat or on the rocks.

Two glasses of Boulevardier cocktail with orange slices in them.

History of the Boulevardier cocktail

In the 1920s, an American expat named Erskine Gwynne started a literary magazine in Paris, The Boulevardier.

According to Bourbon Review, Gwynne’s signature drink recipe of the same name was published in Barflies and Cocktails, the recipe compendium of Harry MacElhone, the owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.

The drink fell out of fashion after Prohibition, but the recipe has found a resurgence in the recent craft cocktail movement.

Tools & glassware

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy Boulevardier recipe:

Like Negronis and other spirit-forward drinks, Boulevardiers should be stirred, not shaken. You’ll need a mixing glass and a bar spoon, as well as a jigger to measure the ingredients.

Some Boulevardiers are served on the rocks in rocks glasses, while others are served neat, often in stemmed glasses like a Nick & Nora glass or coupe glass. If served neat, it’s imperative they are stirred with ice to chill the ingredients.

You’ll also want to plan ahead and make some large ice cubes or large ice spheres. These melt more slowly, letting your drink stay stronger for longer.

        Description: A red Boulevardier cocktail with orange slices and ice cubes.

Ingredients

The Boulevardier has three ingredients, usually measured in equal parts of one ounce each:

  • rye whiskey
  • bitter Italian liqueur such as Campari
  • sweet vermouth
  • a piece of orange zest or an orange slice

Some Boulevardiers are served on the rocks — so you’ll also need to make some ice. Big cubes of clear ice are classic for these bitter cocktails. They are great for old-fashioneds and other drinks served in rocks glasses.

The Boulevardier can also be served neat, usually in a stemmed glass like a Nick & Nora glass. If served neat, it’s imperative they are stirred with ice to chill the ingredients.

Two glasses with cocktail in them.

Best whiskey for a Boulevardier Cocktail

You can use any type of whiskey in a Boulevardier, but bourbon whiskey and rye whiskey are most common.

Rye has a more astringent flavor than bourbon; however, many bourbon brands also produce rye whiskey. It uses a rye mash or a mash combination of rye and malt. The U.S. regulations stipulate that the mash must contain at least 51% rye grains in order to be called rye whiskey.

Some people prefer to use bourbon. It’s a little sweeter with a little less bite than rye whiskey but still brings a woodsy, smoky, vanilla flavor to the cocktail. Use whatever you like.

A boulevardier cocktail with a gold rim.

Bitter liqueurs for Boulevardiers

Traditionally, the Boulevardier is made with Campari, a brand of bitter Italian liqueur with a deep red hue. It’s what’s called an apéritif, which means it’s typically enjoyed before a meal and is said to prepare the stomach for food.

The flavor of Campari is very, very bitter, so if you prefer something lighter, you can use another red bitter such as Aperol. Known for its role in the Aperol Spritz, this spirit is a sweeter and less bitter alternative to Campari. You can also substitute different types of amari.

Changing out the bitter liqueur in the Boulevardier is a great way to experiment with different flavor profiles. The folks at VinePair put together a list of more Campari alternatives you can try, including:

  • Luxardo Bitter
  • Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Bitter Liqueur
  • Contratto Bitter

Sweet vermouth

Sweet vermouth is sweet and red, regardless of its country of origin. It’s also known as Italian vermouth, red vermouth or vermouth rosso.

The Boulevardier has French roots, as it’s from New Orleans, so a French sweet vermouth like Dolin Vermouth de Rouge or Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth. Try different ones to find your favorite.

Vermouth is a fortified wine, and wine can go bad, so be sure to store open bottles in the fridge for up to a month.

decorative icon of a rocks glass.

How to store vermouth

An opened bottle of vermouth should be stored in the fridge. It will taste best if enjoyed within a month, but will still taste okay for about two months total. After that, it’s time to toss it and open a new bottle of vermouth.

Variations and substitutions

Try adjusting the ratio of the Boulevardier if you like. Some people do equal parts whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth, but the original recipe called for twice as much whiskey.

You can also mix up your classic Boulevardier with one of these variations:

Classic Negroni: The Boulevardier is practically a Negroni, which is made with Campari bitter liqueur, red vermouth and herbal gin.

Negroni Sbagliato: This bubbly spin on the Negroni swaps gin for the Italian sparkling wine known as prosecco. You could add a splash of champagne to the Boulevardier too.

Manhattan: This drink is very similar to the Manhattan, which is made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.

How to make a Boulevardier Cocktail

Here’s how to make a delicious Boulevardier cocktail at home:

A person pouring a Boulevardier cocktail into a glass.
A person pouring a Boulevardier cocktail into a glass.

In a mixing glass filled with ice, combine rye whiskey, Campari and dry vermouth.

A person pouring a Boulevardier cocktail into a glass.
A person gracefully pouring a refreshing cocktail into a glass.

Gently, use a bar spoon to stir the mixture until well-chilled.

A person pouring a cocktail into a glass.
A person is placing a slice of orange into a cocktail glass.

Strain into an old-fashioned glass with a large ice cube. You can also serve it neat in a Nick & Nora glass.

Garnish it with a piece of orange peel.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making the best Boulevardier cocktail:

  • Experiment with different combinations of bitter liqueurs and whiskeys to find your ultimate Boulevardier.
  • Always store your open bottles of vermouth in the fridge. (This goes for dry vermouth too.) They’ll last for about 1-2 months after opening them if stored in the fridge.
  • Don’t shake the cocktail. Prepare it in a mixing glass, using a bar spoon to stir the ingredients with ice cubes. This chills the ingredients enough, while shaking will melt too much of the ice, diluting the cocktail.
A refreshing glass of orange juice with a slice of orange next to it.

What to serve with a Boulevardier

Enhance your enjoyment of the elegant Boulevardier cocktail with a variety of flavors and textures to complement its complex flavor profile.

A cheese and charcuterie board can have lots of sweet and salty elements that pair well with the bitter flavors. Include a mix of cured meats like prosciutto, salami or chorizo and aged cheeses like aged cheddar, gouda or blue cheese.

Spicy snacks like chicken wings and cheesy ones like Chex mix or jalapeño poppers will provide a contrasting kick for this bittersweet sipper.

Dark chocolate is also a nice match for the complex flavors in this cocktail. Rich desserts like bourbon balls (made with rye whiskey!) or tiramisu trifle will give this drink a decadent finish.

A Boulevardier cocktail served in a gold cup.

FAQ

What does a Boulevardier Cocktail taste like?

The Boulevardier is a bittersweet drink. The bitter flavor is thanks to the addition of Campari, a bitter red liqueur from Italy. Rye whiskey provides spicy sweet undertones and sweet vermouth gives a hint of fruitiness.

Can you make a Boulevardier without Campari?

Campari is the most ubiquitous bitter red liqueur, but it’s also the classic one used in drinks like the Boulevardier and the Negroni. However, you can certainly substitute other red bitter liqueurs, such as different amari, Aperol, Luxardo Bitter, Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Bitter Liqueur or Contratto Bitter.

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A boulevardier cocktail with a gold rim.

Boulevardier Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
This blend of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, delivers a perfectly balanced Boulevardier Classic Cocktail.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce Campari or other bitter red Italian liqueur
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 piece orange zest

instructions

  • In a mixing glass, combine rye whiskey, Campari, sweet vermouth and a few ice cubes. Stir gently until combined and chilled.
  • Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a piece of lemon zest.

notes

Here are some tips and tricks for making the best Boulevardier cocktail:
  • Experiment with different combinations of bitter liqueurs and whiskeys to find your ultimate Boulevardier.
  • Always store your open bottles of vermouth in the fridge. (This goes for dry vermouth too.) They’ll last for about 1-2 months after opening them if stored in the fridge.
  • Don’t shake the cocktail. Prepare it in a mixing glass, using a bar spoon to stir the ingredients with ice cubes.

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 4ounces Calories: 252kcal Carbohydrates: 11g Protein: 0.2g Fat: 0.02g Sodium: 2mg Potassium: 46mg Fiber: 1g Sugar: 0.3g Vitamin A: 50IU Vitamin C: 16mg Calcium: 22mg Iron: 0.2mg
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