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What’s the Difference? Negroni Vs Boulevardier

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Picture of a negroni cocktail and a boulevardier with Negroni vs Boulevardier as the title
Negroni vs Boulevardier

Ever wondered what the difference is between a Negroni vs a Boulevardier? One of the first craft cocktails outside of the common whiskey cocktail canon people explore at a craft cocktail bar is the Boulevardier. With the substitution of bourbon for gin, the flavor profile varies wildly from the Negroni. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a Negroni and a Boulevardier.

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What is a Negroni?

A Negroni is an equal parts cocktail consisting of gin (usually London dry gin), sweet vermouth, and Campari. It is stirred over ice in a mixing glass and strained into a chilled rocks glass with ice – usually one large cube. It’s the star of Negroni Week. A weeklong celebration of the cocktail celebrated throughout the world and coordinated by Imbibe Magazine. It celebrates the Negroni and all of its variations and raises money for various charities around the world. 

What is a Boulevardier?

A Boulevardier is a whiskey cocktail with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Some recipes have equal parts but many prefer a higher ratio of bourbon to vermouth and Campari. A common ratio is 1.5 oz of bourbon to ¾ oz sweet vermouth and Campari. Its mention in print predates that of the Negroni, but many think of it as a descendent of the Negroni just because the Negroni is far better known.

Negroni vs Boulevardier – Which Came First?

If we look at publication dates, the first mention of the Negroni ingredients called a Negroni was in 1940 (in Jacinto Sanfeliu Brucart’s El Bar: Evolucion y arte del cocktail), while it was published as a Campari Mixte with the same ingredients and ratios in 1929 in J S Brucart’s L’heure du Cocktail (https://www.diffordsguide.com/g/1078/negroni-cocktail).

The first printed mention of the Boulevardier was in 1927 in Harry McElhole’s Barflies and Cocktails. It was created for Erskine Gwynne, an American expatriate who ran a magazine called The Boulevardier. It’s original proportions were 1.5 oz of bourbon to 1 oz each of sweet vermouth and Campari.

As with many cocktails, the mythic origin of it that’s commonly told is false. The story goes that it was created when an Italian Count (Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni) asked for an Americano cocktail that was a bit beefier – replacing the traditional soda in the Americano with gin. 

What Does a Negroni Taste Like?

In a classic Negroni, with a London dry gin and equal parts of the gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the botanical flavors of the gin and the Campari combine together to give the finished drink a sweet, herbal flavor. The bitterness of the Campari is reduced by the sweet vermouth and the mixing process. The addition of water through dilution increases the sweetness of the Campari.

A perfect Negroni is a balance of the herbal flavors of the gin (I prefer London Dry gins with some citrus flavors) with the bittersweet aromas and flavors of the Campari. The specific herbal, floral and citrus notes of the gin chosen drive the main flavors of the cocktail.

Boulevardier on the rocks with orange twist
Boulevardier Cocktail

What Does a Boulevardier Taste Like?

In a classic Boulevardier, the ratio is often tweaked a bit to favor the bourbon over the amounts of the sweet vermouth and the Campari. Bourbon’s sweeter baking spice and vanilla notes often need a boost to play well with the Campari. Because bourbon doesn’t have the herbal/juniper notes of a gin, the cocktail overall tastes sweeter and less herbal than a negroni, and I find more of the citrus notes pop out from the Campari.

However, it’s still a bitter drink with the ratio of Campari. It’s one that changes appreciably over time as you sip it over one large cube. 

Do I Shake or Stir a Boulevardier or a Negroni?

Oaxacan - a Negroni - Red cocktail on the rocks with lemon and lime peel and Negroni book in background
Oaxacan

Always stir Negronis and Boulevardiers. Both drinks are spirit-forward and don’t include juice or cream, so stir the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass to combine. You’ll then strain the cocktail into a rocks glass over ice. Some, like me, prefer one large cube to cut down on dilution as your drink slowly melts. Others may prefer to serve the cocktail over a number of cubes so the bitterness recedes faster and the sweetness from the dilution comes forward quicker.

While we’ve covered the main differences of the Negroni vs a Boulevardier, the best way to discover why both are modern classics is by making one of each. Tinker with the ratios or swap out the brand of gin or bourbon you use to discover your favorite expression of each cocktail.

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Oaxacan - a Negroni - Red cocktail on the rocks with lemon and lime peel and Negroni book in background

Classic Negroni

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Mix up this tasty and complex cocktail with just three ingredients – and equal parts as well. With gin, sweet vermouth and Campari as the ingredients you have an herbal, citrusy flavor bomb whose attributes change while it's sipped.
No ratings yet
Course Drinks
Cuisine Gin cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1 oz London Dry Gin
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Garnish: expressed lemon peel

Instructions
 

  • Add ingredients to mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for about 30 seconds or until well-chilled, strain into a rocks glass with one large cube or sphere. Garnish with an expressed orange peel.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Boulevardier on the rocks with orange twist

Boulevardier Cocktail

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Delve into a Parisian prohibition classic with this rye Boulevardier. Combined with sweet vermouth and Campari, the bittersweet Italian Amaro, the rye's proof and great ratio make sure your first and last impression holds true to the whiskey. While a classic Boulevardier will start with an equal ratio of each element, as a whiskey and bitters lover, I increased the rye a bit, left the vermouth at 3/4 oz and increased the Campari to 1 oz. I used Rittenhouse rye, just barely a rye whiskey at 51% rye in the mashbill, because I vascillate between wanting a rye or a bourbon in a Boulevardier. For me, in a blind tasting, I can't always discern between Rittenhouse rye and a high rye bourbon.
5 from 1 vote
Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1.25 oz rye whiskey
  • ¾ oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Garnish: orange peel

Instructions
 

  • Combine whiskey, vermouth and Campari in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into a rocks glass with a single large cube. Express the orange peel over the cocktail and add to glass.
Keyword boulevardier, bourbon, bourbon negroni, campari, rye, sweet vermouth
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on September 16th, 2021
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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