For weeks we had looked forward to a scaled-down version of the annual party, canceled last year for obvious reasons; we had scoured our calendars for a night that worked for all of us, secured the requisite accoutrements and paraphernalia. Then, just days before, the news came: a positive test, a potential exposure, an abundance of caution, a promise to check in via Zoom over a drink, at least, to try to wring a little cheer out of our collective disappointment. I mixed myself a Boulevardier and fired up my camera for one more round.
It was nice. It would have been nicer in person. We will reschedule when it feels safe. Will we feel safe any time soon?
The Boulevardier is a simple drink, but a complex experience. If mixed feelings have a flavor, it's this cocktail made from equal parts bourbon, aromatic Campari and sweet Italian vermouth, with just a hint of brightness courtesy of its orange twist.
The Boulevardier brings this column full circle, back to its debut in January, when we opened with another drink originating at cocktail trailblazer Harry MacElhone's New York Bar in Paris. The Oracle Pour started this rollercoaster of a year recommending a fizzy French 75 to accompany a practice of daring to greet joy on the horizon, with the promise of bringing the social distancing that left so many isolated and lonely in the holiday season to an end.
RELATED: How to make a Rye Old-Fashioned, a classic 3-ingredient drink (plus ice)
Now that another wave of long-awaited plans are being canceled left and right, it's hard not to feel like we got our holiday-cheer hopes up this year for nothing. This is not the December of a year ago, true. But neither is it the one we hoped for in January, when we toasted the new growth working below the surface with sweet-tart bubbles. A Boulevardier acknowledges the layers of bittersweet emotion you might be navigating today. It's an indulgence, with an appropriately sharp edge.
If you prefer rye or another style of whiskey to bourbon, go for it; but I find a bourbon with strong chocolate, vanilla or caramel notes brings a comforting sweetness to the drink. I always suggest reaching for a high-quality Italian vermouth, because you'll taste it in this drink. My go-to is Antica Formula Carpano, a standard bearer since 1786. Store open vermouth in the refrigerator, where it should last for about a month.
Serving size: One drink
- 1 oz. bourbon (I like Woodford Reserve or Old Forester 100 in this one)
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. sweet Italian vermouth
- Orange peel
- One large ice cube for serving
You don't need any specialty equipment to mix a simple cocktail — you can mix straight into your glass if you like. Improvise with what you have. But here's what I keep at hand:
- Rocks glass
- Jigger or measuring device (a standard shot glass holds 1.5 oz, if you're eyeballing it)
- Cocktail mixer glass
- Bar spoon
- Small knife or peeler
Chill a rocks glass. In your mixer glass, add ice, whiskey, Campari and vermouth. Stir until good and chilled, then strain into the rocks glass over one large ice cube. (Regular ice is fine if you don't have a large mold — just use 2-3 cubes.) Pinch the orange peel over the drink to release the oils, then let it sink into the drink.
Swap in gin for the bourbon, and you have a Negroni; sub in prosecco, and you have a Sbagliato; if you reach for soda water, that's an Americano. If you prefer dry vermouth to sweet, you're raising your glass to an Old Pal.
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More Oracle Pour:
- Want to make a better Manhattan? Pay close attention to the vermouth
- How to make a Sazerac, a New Orleans cocktail with a sweet and spicy bite
- How to make a Gold Rush, a bourbon cocktail that's reminiscent of the classics
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