If 2017 was the year of the Negroni – in cocktail terms, anyway – then this year will belong to its first cousin, the Boulevardier, which mixes Campari and vermouth rosso with bourbon instead of the Negroni’s gin.
The Negroni, which turns 100 next year, owes its creation (perhaps apocryphally) to an Italian count, Camillo Negroni, who asked a bartender in Florence to stiffen his Americano with a slosh of gin. For a while it was the drink of choice for Riviera sophisticates who enjoyed its bougainvillea-pink colour as much as its metallic taste. In time, however, drinkers’ palates turned back towards both the sweet and the sour and the Negroni slipped down the cocktail charts.
Its modern incarnation made its debut with the rising popularity of other bitter tastes, including kale, tonic and raw cocoa. “There are hundreds of bitters – you can even make your own – so they offer an endless range of flavours and bring depth and complexity to a drink,” says Bobby Hiddleston, mixologist and co-owner of London’s Swift bar. “Our palettes have grown more discerning with drinks. The Negroni is popular in part because it’s a counter-reaction, a break with all those overly sweet, fluffy drinks that dominated for a while. But people are really into the Boulevardier because it’s that bit smoother and sweeter.”
It is, if you like, the gateway cocktail to the full-on classic Negroni. But beware, when hooked, one is never enough…