The Spirits #18: The Boulevardier
~ Enter the Übercocktail ~ Walking ~ The Man from Dream City ~ Just a little town down in Indonesia ~
~ THE BOULEVARDIER ~
25ml Italian vermouth
Stir everything in an old-fashioned glass with lots of ice, ideally, one massive cube, as above. Garnish with an orange or lemon zest twist.
Some Boulevardier pointers:
1) The classical Boulevardier recipe is equal parts, much like its blood relation, the Negroni. However, it’s a bit syrupy that way. Solution: up the bourbon content.
2) You can serve this ‘up’ too and it’s fine.
HOOOOOOO. Some MUSIC. You will find instructions for making sugar syrup, grenadine, ice, etc here and my 10 RULES FOR MAKING COCKTAILS here. I have also assembled some bottle recommendations for a cabinet here - and this here is the full archive of weekly specials. Do please share the Spirits with anyone who might like it - and feel free to tag me with your creations on Instagram ou même Twitter.
THE Boulevardier is what you get when a Manhattan beds a Negroni. It has the rugged bourbon heft of the former and the continental sophistication of the latter. An Übercocktail! It is one of the most unapologetically delicious mixtures there is - and yet, I don’t know, I find I don’t make it so often.
Perhaps because it feels a bit like cheating. I mean with those genes, how could it fail to succeed? It reminds me a bit of those children of good-looking famous people who are - 🥳 - quite good-looking themselves and so become models or minor-league actors and thus gain press attention out of all accordance to their acheivements. If you have ever flicked through/worked for almost any British fashion/lifestyle magazine you will know the type.
BOULEVARDIER flutters her on-trend eyelashes and fixes me with her elfin stare. “I hope you’re not just going to ask me about my parents? I mean *eyeroll*. I thought we were going to be talking about my activism?” The glass of chilled liquid, who has 162,000 Instagram followers, a modelling contract with Boohoo and a bit part in the new Netflix docudrama, Crazy Rich Libations, heaves a comely sigh. She is aware that her illustrious lineage brings certain expectations - and also that expectations surrounding the children of celebrity cocktails are not 100 per cent positive. “Everyone always reckons that I’ve got where I am because of, like, you know, the fact that my mum was this big Italian star back in the day or whatever,” she says in her Transatlantic drawl, betraying a childhood flitting between her father’s $16 million ranch in Malibu and her mother’s palazzo in Tuscany. “It’s like, have you considered I might be an enjoyable cocktail in my own right?”
Sorry where was I? Ah yes, the Boulevardier. Tasty drink. And you know, technically, it isn’t really riding on the coat-tails of the Negroni or the Manhattan. It was actually created in Paris in the 1920s by Erskine Gwynne, an American socialite and writer who founded a magazine of the same name. The not dissimilar Old Pal (Canadian whiskey/French vermouth/Campari) was also doing the rounds at that time. Perhaps it’s the very name Boulevardier, which means “a man about town” “one who frequents the boulevards” - sort of like a flâneur - but also according to the OED, a “wealthy, fashionable socialite”. This, combined with the richness of the drink itself, always makes me think of a rich kid slumming it.
So… I say, once Boulevardier has finished recording a VoiceNote for her miniature schnauzer who is currently self-isolating in St Barths. What took you to Paris in the first place?
“What?” she says.
Paris, I say. Didn’t you live there when you were an art student?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says.
I persist. But it says here you lived in a garret in Montmartre? Didn’t Peter Sarsgard write that godawful song about you? Wasn’t there an episode of Call My Agent taking the piss out of you? I mean look here’s a picture of you at Paris Fashion Week with Seven Beckham and Emily out of Emily in Paris!
Yes, Paris! The French capital!
“Oh right,” she says in bored sort of voice. “Pa-rrhee. Sure I hung out there for a while.”
Time was I was so sick of this whole fashion-nepotism complex, I vowed never again to go and interview anyone who was related to anyone else ever again. Now it doesn’t seem so bad? I mean try doing these things on Zoom.
But perhaps, times being what they are, we can lean into the Boulevardier for its own special charms. It is a cocktail of urban movement, a celebration of pounding asphalt and paving stone. Whatever else we are not allowed to do at the moment, we are allowed to do this. I have tried many forms of exercise during lockdown and boulevarding, or streeting, roaring, alleying, laning - these are definitely the most congenial, the most human-paced. Walking around the shuttered up city. Watching, waiting, thinking. A hip flask of Boulevardier to accompany you? Why not.
Cities. The slightly unnecessarily draconian rule being: only one-word titles allowed! A curious thing that struck me as I compiled this: every American city has a million songs named after it, even the middling and crappy cities. Almost no British city has a song named after it, even the great ones. Why?
NO MOTHER I HAVE NOT BEEN DRINKING
It was on one such walk around Dream City (Horfield, Bristol) that my wife passed the birthplace of Archibald Alexander Leach aka Cary Grant. This has prompted a mini Cary Grant festival at ours this week: Charade (available on Mubi) followed by North by Northwest (Apple Movies). Both are just perfect; and I hadn’t even heard of Charade before. Another point notched up for walking! Here’s Pauline Kael’s classic profile Grant from 1975. (New Yorker).
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING
On the Alexei Navlany trial/protests in Russia. A horror show. (Meduza)
Sirin Kale on beating her addiction to Diet Coke. Congratulations Sirin! (Guardian)
You know that thing you do where you go to bed way too late and then stay up pointlessly scrolling through your phone in the full knowledge that you’re cutting into you precious sleep time? It has a name - Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. (Glamour)
Decca Aitkenhead interviews Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila. (Sunday Times)
No apologies for sharing this lovely piece on walking by Will Self, an inspired commission by my friends at (Men’s Health)
WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING
I have pieces about cannibalism, watches and rats in this weekend’s Times, Sunday Times and Observer respectively… which will seem terribly old by next week. So buy a paper!
Tequila! Silver or reposado; just make sure it’s 100% agave and avoid Jose Cuervo or anything with a plastic sombrero for a lid. Plus agave syrup (or orange liqueur… but agave syrup better). And limes. And salt. And depending on how you feel about seasonality, a fresh strawberry or two.
🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️ 🌵 ❤️️
May I just say that reading and re-reading these is a constant pleasure. (I'm writing this fully 18 months after the article above was published.) My wife and I were wondering what to watch tonight and North By Northwest is a perfect choice.
I'm drinking a classic Old-Fashioned with a dash (no more than a tablespoon) of Grand Marnier added. It makes a big difference I think. And I made Mrs E a margarita in the huge cocktail glass she requested; basically two regular Margaritas in one glass, topped up with soda water. Which she thought was a good idea, and it will last her all evening.
For all Apple Music users out there - here is this week's playlist: