Episode 2: What's the Right Ratio for the Boulevardier?
The day I tasted my first Negroni was both the best day and the worst day of my life. The best because it was the best cocktail I had ever tasted. The worst, because, well, I knew that I would never taste a better cocktail in my life. I had reached the peak. The pinnacle. The apex of my cocktail tasting experience.
That was until I tried my first Boulevardier, the Negroni’s bourbon-base cousin. Where the Negroni shines with its bright, floral notes from the gin, the Boulevardier takes a more mellow route with undertones of vanilla and caramel from the bourbon. The Negroni is a three-way fight to the finish. The Boulevardier, a delicate dance with one ingredient giving way to the next. To this day, I can’t decide which I prefer, regardless, they’re both fantastic drinks.
Equal parts or double the bourbon?
There’s no arguing the ingredients in the Boulevardier: bourbon, Campari, sweet vermouth. The question here is all about ratios. In one camp, we have a 1-for-1 swap of bourbon for gin. We’ll call this the traditional ratio which can be found in The Negroni book by Gary Regan. In the other camp, bourbon takes center stage. We’ll call this the contemporary ratio, offered up in the Death & Co cocktail book.
Traditional Ratio, 1:1:1
1 oz bourbon
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
Contemporary Ratio, 2:1:1
1.5 oz bourbon
0.75 oz Campari
0.75 oz sweet vermouth
Experiment - Blind Tasting
Now I don’t necessarily think there is a “correct” ratio for the Boulevardier. The Negroni is one of the few cocktails that has a universally agreed upon ratio of ingredients. Anything past that, even a Manhattan, and people have their preferences. So my goal here was to find my preference. For one, I need to know how to make my own at home. Secondly, I want to be able to “blindly” tell the difference when I order one at a bar.
While both cocktails were great and could pass the test at any good cocktail bar, I definitely preferred the contemporary ratio that was heavier on the bourbon. While the traditional ratio was tasty, it lacked a certain balance. In a Negroni, the gin has enough punch to cut through the other two ingredients. The bourbon though is more nuanced, and the 2:1:1 ratio really balances the drink.