I promised a favorite variation on the Negroni last time, didn’t I? I lied. I’m spotlighting two of them. I’m just that generous.
For an object lesson in how changing a single ingredient can transform a cocktail completely, look no further than the Boulevardier (pictured). In last week’s Negroni, I merely altered the kind of Italian vermouth used to give the drink a different complexion. Child’s play. The Boulevardier keeps the rosso and the Campari and jettisons the gin for whiskey.
So you’ve changed one element of the Negroni. Once again I quote the immortal wisdom of Homer Simpson: you can’t go this far and not go further. Change another element and see where that lands you.
Harry McElhone did. In Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails he also includes the Old Pal. This drink, named by “Sparrow” Robertson, then sporting editor of the New York Herald in Paris, switches from sweet to dry vermouth to produce a wholly distinct experience. Of the two I prefer the Boulevardier, which is sweeter, fuller, and akin to a slightly bitter Manhattan. But there are times when the resolute sharpness of the Old Pal is what the doctor ordered.
Some notes on preparation: Both original recipes, like that of the Negroni, called for equal parts. They’re still quite good that way but contemporary versions tend to be spirit forward, which is reflected below. The Boulevardier can be made with either bourbon or rye; I prefer the latter for many reasons, but in this instance it’s because it stands up to the Campari better.
1 ½ oz. rye or bourbon
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 oz. Campari
Stir. Strain. Garnish with a cherry or a lemon twist. But choose the cherry. And the rye.
The Old Pal
1 ½ oz. rye
¾ oz. dry vermouth
¾ oz. Campari
Stir. Strain. No garnish.