I’m keeping it booze forward this week. Sure, I broke you in with a nice tiki thing for election day but from there on out it has been in your face, stirred drinks with a hefty alcohol component. Anyone have any problems with this? Seriously, if you don’t feel like you need a drink this week give me some tips on your stress management policies. Hopefully things will settle out in the next few days and we can get some closure. For me, a gentle buzz before bed is a welcome relief from the onslaught of misinformation and ugliness. Passions are running high, but that is no reason to be unpleasant in front of company. So, in honor of decorum and a certain savior-faire, won’t you join me now as we stand and make the classic, Boulevardier.
This one has been sitting on the list for a very long time. In fact, it may be that last drink from the original draft of things I wanted to try to make. I keep getting distracted by shiny things, chasing new styles and ingredients. It’s an old school classic, created in the early twenties by Erskine Gwynne, an American ex-pat living in Paris. Ah, Paris between the wars, a place where those who could, would. Seriously, there were a whole bunch of Americans living there enjoying the first course of that moveable feast. So many great artists doing their best to make that time appear idyllic, as things went, really well and then not quite as well back home. As Hemingway so elegantly put it in his remarkable economy of words, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” Mr. Gwynne, being a man about town with the means to give himself gainful employment, founded Boulevardier magazine, when he wasn’t creating drinks for fun, allegedly. Although, the drink had been on the scene for a while in Paris, it makes its first appearance in print in Harry McElhone’s 1927 “Barflies and Cocktails”, with proper attribution. In some ways this is just a riff on a Negroni, a drink I want to love, but never have. It is said that this is a richer, deeper, autumnal cocktail, so I am willing to give it a whirl.
Once again we are stirring, possibly because I just got a new extra long barspoon and I am dying to see if I like it better. I have always heard that you can have fun with a great long one, but I suspected that they were just for show, firm in my belief that the swirl of the stir is far more important than any showy presentation. I guess we shall see, assuming I am able to manage such an excess of length. Grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon, I went with the good Weller 12, cause whether you are celebrating tonight or drowning your sorrows, do it with the good stuff. To that add 1 ounce each of sweet vermouth and that devil bitch Campari, which I hate. I going to go ahead and preemptively say that you can swap Cynar or some less kick you in your face forward bitter aperitif in it’s place. However, I am prejudiced against Campari, but only because I have never truly enjoyed it in anything ever. Anyway, add some artisanal ice and stir, with that big old barspoon to the gentle strains of “Free Man in Paris” Joni Mitchell will work, but I actually prefer Adrienne Young’s version. Assuming you have been able to wrangle that monstrosity of a barspoon and get this one well chilled and diluted, strain into a Parisian coupe, express an lemon peel over the top and serve.
Oh, I do want to love this. And I do, for about 8 seconds. Then Campari storms in and wipes it’s muddy boots all over my palate. To be fair, I don’t hate it. In fact, this is probably the thing I hate Campari the least in. Ok, so on second and fifth sip, maybe I kind of like this. I’m definitely going to try it with Cynar and see if that works better for me.
The term Boulevardier simply means “one who frequents boulevards”, a man or woman about town sounds a little better, a bon vivant, sounds nearly perfect. I like that description, “a sociable person who has cultivated and refined tastes especially with respect to food and drink”. I like that a lot. Clearly. Hell, I have spent most of my life trying to cultivate that very aura, with varying levels of success. One of my favorite bon vivants, who probably frequents boulevards when he can is celebrating a birthday today, so raise your Boulevardier to my friend and boulevardier extraordinaire, Sean. Obviously, I chose this drink to make for him tonight way before I logged on to post this and saw other folks wishing him a happy birthday. I’d rather be lucky than smart any day. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.
Edit: As it turns out, I should do a little research before I start posting stuff and feeling all smug, because it turns out that it is also my buddy Erica’s birthday, which I obviously knew before fb reminded me, after I had posted this. If I hadn’t realized it was her birthday, how could I have chosen a simple, straightforward drink that mimics her no nonsense approach to drinks. An approachable cocktail with great depth of character that does not suffer fools lightly. Yeah, I was totally thinking about that. Happy birthday, Erica! Hope to see you (and Sean) out on the boulevard soon! Y’all know I love ya!