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THE BOULEVARDIER COCKTAIL, COURTESY OF AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

Boulevardier Cocktail

We Have Prohibition to Thank for the Cocktail of the Week

In 1927, in the throes of Prohibition, the professional prospects for bartenders seemed dim. Many learned new trades, of course, while others set out for new lands where bars and clubs packed with nightly revelers looking for the latest stylish cocktail were still a welcome sight. Namely, Europe. And while Thursdays were perpetually thirsty during this dark time for American cocktail culture, had Harry MacElhone been able to stay behind the posh bar of New York’s Plaza Hotel, we may not be sipping a Boulevardier cocktail this evening.

MacElhone (Scottish by heritage) saw the writing on the wall early on when the ban on spirits took hold and headed east, landing jobs at equally acclaimed Ciro’s in London and then onto its Deauville, France location. Ultimately, he settled in Paris at Harry’s New York Bar, which became one of several popular American bars catering to the home crowd craving a drink. The enthusiastic Paris bargoers were open to new concoctions and combinations and the city offered a host of spirits and ingredients that had not been seen stateside. This presented a wonderfully creative atmosphere for mixologists like Harry.

In addition to these cocktail guinea pigs, Harry also mingled with Paris’ American literary set, including Erskine Gwynne, an American writer who published a progressively popular magazine called The Boulevardier. Gwynne favored what has been called an “autumnal cousin of the classic Negroni,” replacing the gin with bourbon. The drink gained a following at Harry’s and he made it official when he published the recipe – under the name The Boulevardier – in his 1927 bar guide, Barflies and Cocktails.

This week, mix up your own and give a toast to Prohibition, and all the unexpected delights that it produced.

The Boulevardier

1.5 oz. Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
1.0 oz. Bitter Campari
1.0 oz. Sweet Red Vermouth

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve with twist of orange or lemon.

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