Know your classics: Boulevard cocktail, I almost love you, man
I guess the drill is: When a drinks writer introduces you to what seems like a vintage cocktail recipe, he or she regales you with a tale of its invention — ideally a narrative that takes you to some obscure or glamorous nook of world history, and/or an amusing anecdote. Maybe even a chance to peer into the empty glass of a larger-than-life figure of yesteryear. A whiff of history, an elusive taste of another time.
Uh, sorry, I’ve got nothing this time. Zilch.
I found the boulevard at Diffordsguide.com while I was researching the better-known (but still relatively obscure) boulevardier. It was intriguing: Bourbon (lots of it), dry vermouth, Grand Marnier, orange bitters. What’s not to like?
It was mysterious, too. Diffordsguide.com calls it “a classic of unknown origins,” which isn’t even as helpful as telling me where Simon D. himself heard of it. But to be fair to Mr. Difford, there are three million cocktails at diffordsguide.com (give or take) and he can’t be on top of everything.
Does anyone else have an idea?
Anyway, I did a cursory amount of fruitless online research. Maybe I will find out more later. But it’s about time to drink the damn thing. The boulevard turns out to be a pretty tasty number. It sports an inviting, juicy pale orange hue. It tastes orangey, naturally, with some spice from the bitters and bourbon. It’s refreshingly drinkable, but …
Well, it lacks the seductive charisma of a true classic. Once I’ve had a boulevard, I’m not compelled to make another. This is a solid three-star effort, worth trying once. It’s like a Jason Segel comedy, an album of early-’60s surf music or a solid BLT sandwich. You’re probably going to enjoy it, but it won’t change your world.
So maybe that’s it: The boulevard was good enough to be remembered, but not so great that anyone bothered writing down the details. What, you want a whole frickin’ story every time? Maybe some cocktails are just good and that’s good enough.
In my own experiments, I departed slightly from the Difford recipe by dialling down the bourbon (and dry vermouth accordingly), leaving the original half-ounce of Grand Marnier in the mix. I felt the overall effect was punchier for it. And I had good results with Victoria Spirits Twisted & Bitter for the orange bitters.
For the garnish I ditched any suggestion of cherries, and added a flamed orange peel for the sake of flavour complexity and kitchen party showmanship.
• 2 oz. bourbon (I used Wild Turkey 101 Aged Eight Years)
• ¾ oz. dry vermouth
• ½ oz. Grand Marnier
• 2 healthy dashes orange bitters
• garnish: flamed orange peel
Method: Add all ingredients except garnish to a mixing glass filled a third of the way with ice. Stir until ice cold and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel above the surface of the drink and discard.