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The Boulevardier – a Campari cocktail for a ‘man about town’

Posted in Food & Entertaining

3-22-13-harrysI have had the song “The Man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo” going through my head today. It started while I was talking with my dad and reminding him how far he had come in a few short weeks. Roy used to act in melodramas when he was part of Round Table, back in the 70s, and he sang the song during one of their Vaudevilles. I’ve a knack with lyrics … hear them once or twice and they stick forever.

As I walk along the Bois Boolong
With an independent air
You can hear the girls declare
“He must be a Millionaire.”
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.

The mind is a funny thing, as Roy is finding out every day. And I know the song came back to me because he is enjoying his recovery.  Listening to him describe his interactions with his Rehab therapists, I remembered so clearly how happy and jaunty he was when he was performing the song. And I feel like I am getting glimpses of that fellow again. My Dad is getting better.

camparigirl thought it was time for a cocktail to celebrate, and mentioned that The Boulevardier was currently all the rage in LA. I’ve not tried it before – but having done a little research and a taste test – it fits the bill perfectly.

BOK_MCELHONEHD_0000_01E-2.jpg?1354283784The Boulevardier first appeared in Barflies and Cocktails, a 1927 book by Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. During Prohibition, some of America’s finest mixologists found themselves fleeing the hotels and cafes of New York and landing behind bars in Europe. Harry MacElhone, who had been tending bar at The Plaza in New York made the trans-Atlantic crossing and found himself mixing it up at “Tod Sloan’s New York Bar” in Paris.

In 1923 he bought the bar; changing the name to “Harry’s New York Bar” – now perhaps the world’s most famous bar – and a Paris tourist landmark. Harry’s New York it is also the birthplace of such classic cocktails as the Bloody Mary, French 75, Side Car, Monkey Gland, and in 1927 – The Boulevardier.


History has it the Harry named the cocktail after a new periodical. The magazine was patterned after The New Yorker and the publisher was a man called Erskin Gwynne, son of a famous polo-player and nephew of the Vanderbilts. Gwynne was an enthusiastic frequenter of Paris’ finest bars, and Harry’s in particular. So it was almost inevitable that a drink would be created for, and named after, his magazine: The Boulevardier.

While the classic Negroni is mixed equal parts gin, vermouth, and Campari, MacElhone changed the recipe slightly to 1.5 parts bourbon to one part Campari and one part vermouth. The bitterness of the Campari pairs well with the sweetness of the bourbon and the Vermouth smooths it all out nicely.

bombardierThe Boulevardier

1.5 oz/tots of bourbon
1 oz/tot Campari
1 oz/tot sweet vermouth
sliver of orange peel

Place all wet ingredients in a shaker of ice and stir. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with thin slice of orange peel. Imagine you’re at a New York speakeasy in Paris in 1927. Speak bad French, loudly. Cheers!

By the way – Boulevardier is Twenties French for “a fashionable man who promenades through the streets of Paris; a man about town”. What we today may refer to as a metrosexual. My dad was well ahead of his time.

(Images found in the public domain. More about the song here.)

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  1. Hey Sue,

    This is an awesome post. I really enjoy getting the history of cocktails like the Boulevardier. And the context around the name “the fashionable man that struts around town…” really makes the cocktail come alive.

    Frankly, I just discovered the Boulevardier and I’m anxious to do a bit more experimenation 😉

    March 9, 2015
    • sofagirl

      Great – enjoy. I am toying with the idea of creating my own gin at the moment ….

      March 9, 2015
  2. I am raising my glass and shouting “Salute!” at this great news. Hope he can hear me 🙂

    February 13, 2014
  3. silvia

    Here’s a toast to your Dad!
    And to you my friend, in very different ways you both made it through toughness.

    February 13, 2014
  4. Harriette Smith
    Harriette Smith

    You sound so much better, so jubilant, that’s because your Dad is much better. I’m so happy to hear this. Best of continued good wishes and great health.

    February 13, 2014

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