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.
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?
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.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Campari Old Fashioned – Bitter Lessons
- How to Make Your Boulevardier Cocktail Perfect
- Banana Split Boulevardier
- Stirred, Strained and Bitter, the Negroni Book Review
- How to Infuse Campari for Cocktails
- Bitter Bourbon Spritz
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 1 oz London Dry Gin
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
- Garnish: expressed lemon peel
- 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.
- 1.25 oz rye whiskey
- ¾ oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
- Garnish: orange peel
- 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.