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What is a Boulevardier?

A Boulevardier is a classic cocktail, a sophisticated blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Its rich, deep flavors offer a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness, making it a beloved choice for those who appreciate a refined drink with a storied past. Ready to explore the origins and variations of this elegant concoction? Join us as we raise a glass to history.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A boulevardier in strictest definition comes from the French for boulevard or street. The boulevardier is a man (usually) who promenades through the fashionable city streets of Paris. Today, although the word is not a commonly used one, the boulevardier could be best described as “a man about town.” In other words, the boulevardier is the urbane, fashionable city dweller of usually the upper classes who has knowledge of any city, and particularly the cultured amusements to be found in that city.

Knowledge of a city alone cannot make a man a boulevardier. Class and income level are important, since a boulevardier must express his sense of high fashion and have knowledge of advanced cultural pursuits. A related and recent term is metrosexual, defined as a heterosexual male who is interested particularly in fashion and grooming, much more so than the average man. Like a fashion-conscious woman, the metrosexual stays up on the current trends in fashion like how ties are worn, the latest productions of designers, and the “in” garments, hair cuts, hair products, etc, for any particular season.

A metrosexual, which is a man who is concerned about fashion and grooming, is quite similar to a boulevardier.
A metrosexual, which is a man who is concerned about fashion and grooming, is quite similar to a boulevardier.

A boulevardier also generally has traveled, and has knowledge of numerous cities that are considered cultural centers, as is Paris. However, a high class New Yorker can certainly be considered a boulevardier if he expresses interest in the culture and fashion of New York. Travel is implied but not a prerequisite.

The term boulevardier is also defined as a bon vivant. Bon vivant refers to people with excessive enjoyment in fine dining and luxurious living. Boulevardier thus must imply that a person named such has money to afford the “finer” things in life.

Boulevardiers have an excessive enjoyment of fine dining.
Boulevardiers have an excessive enjoyment of fine dining.

In times past, it was often the case that weekends were the time for city dwellers to leave their homes and walk or ride through particular streets. For the wealthy, these weekend promenades were a way to meet others. You can see an excellent example of this in the film Gigi, where the French wealthy are viewed as promenading through the streets in carriages or on foot, collecting gossip, and showcasing their wealthy attainments of coaches, fashionable clothing or newest mistresses.

Many cities had boulevards or streets that were “stomping grounds” for the wealthy. To be seen walking these streets on certain days was vital to maintaining boulevardier status. Today, the boulevardier may concentrate less on walking certain streets and more on being seen at various restaurants, premiers of films or plays, and red carpet events. To be seen dressed fashionably and partaking of the finest things at exclusive events or in exclusive locations defines the boulevardier and maintains his status.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Boulevardier cocktail, and how is it made?

A Boulevardier cocktail is a classic drink that combines the richness of whiskey with the bitter complexity of Campari and the sweet vermouth's herbal notes. The traditional recipe calls for equal parts of these three ingredients, typically 1.5 ounces each, stirred over ice, and strained into a chilled glass, often garnished with an orange twist or cherry. It's a variant of the Negroni, substituting gin with whiskey, offering a warmer, deeper flavor profile.

What is the history behind the Boulevardier cocktail?

The Boulevardier cocktail was first mentioned in Harry McElhone's 1927 book "Barflies and Cocktails," where he credits the creation to Erskine Gwynne, an American-born writer who founded a Parisian magazine called "Boulevardier." The drink gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly among the American expatriate community in Paris, and has since become a staple in classic cocktail bars around the world.

What type of whiskey is best used in a Boulevardier?

While the original Boulevardier recipe does not specify a type of whiskey, bourbon or rye are commonly used for their distinct flavors. Bourbon will impart a sweeter, fuller taste due to its corn content, while rye whiskey offers a spicier, more robust profile. The choice between bourbon and rye depends on personal preference and the desired balance between the sweetness of the vermouth and the bitterness of the Campari.

Can the Boulevardier cocktail be customized?

Yes, the Boulevardier cocktail is quite versatile and can be customized to suit individual tastes. Adjusting the ratios of the ingredients can alter the balance of sweetness and bitterness. Some may prefer a higher proportion of whiskey for a stronger drink, while others might increase the vermouth for a smoother, more aromatic experience. Additionally, experimenting with different brands of whiskey, vermouth, and Campari can yield subtle variations in flavor.

What is the significance of the name "Boulevardier" for the cocktail?

The name "Boulevardier" reflects the drink's origins among the fashionable socialites and intellectuals of Paris. In French, a "boulevardier" is someone who frequents the grand boulevards of the city, known for their cosmopolitan and sophisticated lifestyle. The cocktail's name is a nod to its creator, Erskine Gwynne, and his magazine, which celebrated the Parisian boulevard culture and the stylish, urbane attitude of its patrons.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PublicPeople contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PublicPeople contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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    • A metrosexual, which is a man who is concerned about fashion and grooming, is quite similar to a boulevardier.
      By: alenasikora
      A metrosexual, which is a man who is concerned about fashion and grooming, is quite similar to a boulevardier.
    • Boulevardiers have an excessive enjoyment of fine dining.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Boulevardiers have an excessive enjoyment of fine dining.