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Apr 6, 2013 10:23 PM

The Boulevardier

Can someone explain why this is better with rye vs bourbon? It's a eminently drinkable failure every time I've made it with bourbon, but comes to life with Rittenhouse 100.

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  1. The original "whiskey Negroni" recipe was the Boulevardier made with Bourbon and published in 1927. The rye Negroni, created 80 years later by Dominic Venegas, is the one more often served these days though.

    My guess is that the peppery spice and punch of the rye complements the Campari a bit better than the sweeter, smoother Bourbon. Also, rye tastes better with sweet vermouth in a Manhattan than Bourbon, so perhaps factor that in.

    7 Replies
    1. re: yarm


      The Negroni is borderline too sweet as is when made with gin (a piercing and dry base spirit). Rye has the same function in a cocktail as gin, whereas bourbon adds warmth and sweetness, which (to me) pushes the drink in the wrong direction.

      I think the drink is improved by adding more base spirit or using a mix of sweet and dry vermouths.

      Since you used the phrase "whiskey Negroni", I'm wondering if a Scotch (or even Islay Scotch) variation might be good. I've not seen that discussed, although Difford's lists a blended scotch recipe.

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      1. re: EvergreenDan

        Scotch Negronis do exist in the literature although I cannot recall that I have had one (I have had Scotch-Campari drinks though).

        Also, the Negroni might be borderline too sweet for you, but it is borderline not sweet enough to cover the bitterness of Campari for lots of people. The biggest sin in serving a Negroni is to serve it on the rocks for as the ice melts, everything dilutes. The sweetness decays linearly on the tongue, but the bitterness does not, so adding extra water to a bitter drink is only going to make things worse.

        1. re: yarm

          We're gonna have to disagree about the ice. It helps cut the sweetness and the lingering bitterness is what I enjoy. Also with an overproof base spirit, it help mellow the alcohol. With a cold glass and a single really cold cube, it can be successfully built. (Successful to me, that is.)

          I'm sipping a Bowmore Legend / Punt e Mes 1:1:1 Negroni now. I used a lemon twist. If you like the ingredients, then I can assure you the combination is sublime.

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          1. re: EvergreenDan

            I never thought about the ice cutting through the sweetness and accenting the bitterness before, but this must be why I prefer my Negronis on the rocks. I like them both ways, but that must be why I prefer ice, as I do have a bitter tooth.

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              Gonna have to agree with EvergreenDan. Negroni served over a single large ice cube is the way to IMO. I think the slow dilution helps, plus, a Negroni is best when cold. Served up it can warm too easily, but over a large ice cube the dilution is slow and the drink stays cold.

          2. re: EvergreenDan

            I recently started making mine with 1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse, 3/4 oz Punt e Mes and 3/4 oz Campari (or Cynar for an intriguing twist). I like it over ice (one large cube). Seems to hit about the right ratio of sweet to bitter for my taste.

          3. re: yarm

            Excellent points. You need a little kick to get past campari, whether it be the botanicals in gin or the spice punch you reference in rye.

          4. Try adding a couple of dashes of orange bitters if making with bourbon. The vermouth matters too, I bought a bottle of Carpano Antica Formula based on liquor store woman's reccomendation and have been trying it in various drinks. It can make a big differrence. Just used in bourbon Boulvedier and am enjoying the results.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Paul Trapani

              I too prefer rye, or at least a rye heavy bourbon. The biggest trick I've found to making a Boulavardier shine is using Carpano for the vermouth. As a whole, I'm less enamored of the stuff than many folks on these boards. I think Carpano can both unpleasantly overtake and radically change the flavor of a drink far too easily for it to be a recommended "go-to" Italian vermouth. However, in the right drink it can really transform and elevate a drink and the Boulavardier is probably the best example I can think of where that happens.

            2. I just tried High West's barrel-aged bottled version and they use bourbon. The aging seems to mellow it out.