The History of the Boulevardier

A boozy cousin to the already boozy Negroni

If you’re familiar with a Boulevardier, then you may know that it is a simple twist on a Negroni, swapping out the gin for bourbon. But what you may not know, is the Boulevardier actually pre-dates the Negroni by nearly 20 years! (At least in print)

Like many classic cocktails, the Boulevardier can be traced back to none other than legendary bartender Harry McElhone. During American prohibition, he relocated to France as any good cocktail lover would do, and opened a little, now legendary bar, called Harry’s. It was there that he eventually completed his first book Bar flies and Cocktails, which is where the Boulevardier makes its first appearance.

The interesting thing is that the Boulevardier was not a creation of Harry’s, but actually to a regular patron of the bar, writer Erskine Gwynne, who edited a magazine called The Boulevardier. Gwynne was a bit of a socialite, and believe it or not the nephew of railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbilt. Cleary the man knew how to have a good time, and enjoyed a strong drink!


Now while the original recipe calls for bourbon, most modern bartenders prefer to use rye instead; there’s a spiciness to rye that helps add a little extra complexity to a fairly simple drink.

If you’d like to recreate one yourself, it’s pretty easy to do:


  • 1 oz. bourbon or rye
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. Campari

Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir well. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice and garnish with orange twist.

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