Boulevardier in a glass
The Iconic Backstory Of The 1920s Boulevardier Bourbon Cocktail
In the 1920s Boulevardier cocktail, the herbal, spicy notes of Campari and the dark fruit sweetness of red vermouth combine to make a perfect foil for the sweet, toasty bourbon.
Boulevardier, introduced to Americans in 1927, gained popularity thanks to Harry McElhone, an American who found refuge in France from anti-alcohol legislation during Prohibition.
The drink was created by mixing American whiskey, Italian bitters, and European sweet herbal vermouth when expat mixologists were inventing new concoctions with European aperitifs.
While McElhone gets a nod for including the Boulevardier in his bar recipe book, "Barflies and Cocktails," the formula was allegedly originated by Erskine Gwynne, another American.
Publisher of the Boulevardier magazine, Gwynne was a socialite who embodied the essence of the French term "boulevardier," which described a fashionable, polished man-about-town.
Gwynne's signature drink was an equal parts mixture of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, which McElhone mixed up at Harry's New York Bar, a bar the latter founded in Paris.
That said, many bartenders nowadays bump up the bourbon ratio a bit. Doing so softens the bitterness in a Boulevardier and lets the honey and maple notes of the bourbon shine.