"You may not see it on the menu, but it’s always there.
Sturdy, sharp, but tempered with a touch of sweet, the Boulevardier is quickly becoming the fallback drink for everybody in Toronto’s — the kind of cocktail that can be ordered with complete confidence any halfway decent bartender will know how to make. That’s the reason the reigning go-to drinks, such as the fussy Old Fashioned and the Last Word, are losing ground to the seemingly timeless Boulevardier.
The Boulevardier: An American in Paris
They may have been called the Lost Generation, but they sure managed to find something special, namely, the Paris of the 1920s that people still romanticize.
It was the cultural capital of the world, with cabarets and smoky bars full of artists, tycoons and hard-drinking writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, both of whom happened to write for The Boulevardier, a magazine catering to the American in Paris.
Naturally, the publication inspired an eponymous cocktail to be tossed back by expat bon vivants at Left Bank cafés and American-style saloons, such as Harry’s New York Bar in Paris.
It’s not clear if Harry actually invented the cocktail, but he was the first to publish the recipe, in his 1927 book, Barflies and Cocktails. It called for Campari, sweet vermouth and a generous dose of whiskey that combined to make a liquid version of the punchy and sophisticated writing found in The Boulevardier.
Although dark and boozy, it’s an all-weather drink, thanks to the springy aperitifs that balance out the whiskey.
As people have been rooting through old cocktail books looking for fresh inspiration, the Boulevardier was an obvious pick for an everything-old-is-new-again hit, since it fits in perfectly with the contemporary bourbon boom and our new-found love for bitter drinks, such as the Negroni, the Boulevardier’s gin-soaked cousin.
Add to that a dose of Roaring Paris charm and no wonder it’s everybody’s new go-to drink.
Cherry picking cocktail garnishes
Toss out those day-glo, toxic-sweet cherries and use Luxardo Maraschino Cherries ($14.95), the original maraschino cherry that can be found at BYOB Toronto (972 Queen St. W.). An Italian product, Luxardo used to be scarce in North America, since it was banned during Prohibition thanks to a dash of liqueur used as a preservative. When the booze ban was lifted, people had somehow grown used to the counterfeit supermarket jarred cherries. Luxardo cherries are dark, sweet, taste like real food and last about six months in the refrigerator. We all have to grow up sometime, especially when it comes to drinking.
David Greig’s Boulevardier
In a mixing glass add bourbon, vermouth and Campari. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds in nice round motions.
Strain into a chilled rocks glass over the largest ice cube you can get your hands on. Large cubes prevent the drink from becoming over-diluted.
Garnish with a maraschino cherry and zest the drink with a small orange peel. Discard orange zest.