Let's take a stroll on the boulevard

Jim Lundstrom

Because I subscribe to several foodie magazines, I have a regular influx of recipes from various sources in my inbox, which I enjoy receiving because I’m always looking for new things to try.
But I never imagined I would discover my favorite new cocktail through these emails. Yes, a recipe popped up recently that intrigued me enough to buy the ingredients and immediately decide this is a winner.
The drink is called The Boulevardier. I’ve always liked that word, and once, a long time ago, was called a boulevardier. It means a “man about town” or “bon vivant.”
The drink is often described as a Whiskey Negroni, but The Boulevardier might have been born before the Negroni.
A Negroni is made with gin, sweet vermouth and the bitter Italian liqueur Campari. The drink is served with an orange slice or orange peel.
The Boulevardier has the same ingredients except switches the gin with whiskey.
Back in 1927 Harry McElhone, proprietor of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, published his drink book Barflies and Cocktails with 300 recipes.
McElhone was a character who escaped Prohibition fever of America to continue his trade in the bar business in an actual New York bar that had been reconstructed in Paris.
Harry’s Bar has a motto – “traditionally inventive since 1911.” Among drinks the bar claims to have introduced to the world are the Bloody Mary, the SideCar and the White Lady.
While the Boulevardier does not make an appearance in Harry’s long list of recipes in Barflies and Cocktails, it is included in a section called “Cocktails Around Town,” written by Arthur Moss, whose day job was writing a column in the Paris edition of the New York Herald called Around the Town. Moss gives favorite cocktail recipes from various men about town, including this snippet:

“Now is the time for all good Barflies to come to the aid of the party, since Erskinne Gwynne crashed in with his Boulevardier Cocktail: Campari, Italian vermouth, Bourbon whisky.”
Erskinne Gwynne was another American in Paris. The nephew of railroad tycoon Cornleius Vanderbilt, Erskinne was known in the newspapers of the day as “the Vanderbilt playboy.”
The same year the cocktail book appeared with the recipe for The Boulevardier, Gwynne started a monthly magazine in Paris modeled after The New Yorker and called The Boulevardier. The magazine folded in 1932, but the cocktail lives on.
I bought a French red vermouth, a bottle of Campari, and unable to decide on a single whiskey, I bought a Speyside single malt Scotch and a good American double rye. Both are delicious in this surprisingly easy-drinking cocktail. All three of the ingredients have alcohol, but the magical meeting in the glass turns it all into an amazing blend of pleasantly sweet and herbal flavors that do not at all seem alcoholic, which could lead to embarrassment out on the boulevards.