Calling all Prohibition-era, Parisian socialites! On this episode of the “Cocktail College” podcast, host Tim McKirdy is joined by Amanda Gunderson, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit Another Round Another Rally, to discuss the Boulevardier. Tune in for more.
Amanda Gunderson’s Boulevardier Recipe
- 1 bar spoon Green Chartreuse
- ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, such as Carpano Antica Formula
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ½ ounces bonded bourbon, such as Old Tub
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
- Garnish with a flamed orange peel and rest on the side of the glass.
Check Out the Conversation Here
Tim McKirdy: Awesome. Let’s do this. Let’s kick this off. It’s the “Cocktail College” podcast, and we are joined today by Amanda Gunderson. Amanda, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
Amanda Gunderson: Hi, Tim. Good to be here.
T: Whereabouts do we find you today in the world?
A: I am in sunny southern California. I live in Los Angeles.
T: Very nice. Sunny Los Angeles. How is it there today?
A: It’s a little chilly, but it is bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. It’s quite beautiful.
T: Oh, very nice, and I’m guessing relatively chilly there we’re talking about, because I don’t know, some folks over here on the East Coast might want to argue.
A: Fair enough.
T: What constitutes as chilly?
A: Yes, they probably wouldn’t say low 60s is chilly. That’s pretty — I’ve got a beanie on. No, I don’t have a beanie on, but it’s pretty chilly.
T: Light sweater weather. I love it. Nice.
A: Yes, exactly.
T: Well, I tell you what, I’m excited to jump into this one. It’s the Boulevardier. Folks know that, the listeners know that, they’ve seen it on their feeds already before jumping into this. What
A: Yes, what a drink. It’s one of my very favorite drinks in the world. It’s perfection, actually.
T: Some regular listeners of the show might be interested in this one too, from my perspective, or probably not, who knows? Just because I’ve put it out there before. The Negroni is a cocktail that I love, but I also feel like it’s one that maybe gets a little bit more adoration than it deserves, I don’t know. I know that’s not a popular opinion there. However, the Boulevardier, I don’t know, there’s something about this. Well, obviously it must be the whiskey versus gin. There’s something about this drink that although it’s just one ingredient changing, it does transform it as a cocktail and really allows it to stand on its own and have its own identity.
A: Yes, I agree with you. I have the opposite feeling that you do about the Negroni itself. In cocktail world, in cocktail making, there are various families of cocktails. You’ll have the buck, which is a ginger beer cocktail, and then you’ll have daisies, which your Margarita or your Cosmo would fall into that category. I actually feel like the Negroni could be its own category, because it is so good with so many other spirits, and whiskey is just a prime example of it. Whiskey is such a broad category that depending on what whiskey you put in there, you’re going to have a completely different experience every time.
T: Oh, 100 percent, and I think that maybe highlights my feelings there too, because it’s like there is this incredible range of flavor profiles of gin out there. No one’s denying that, but when you’re matching that with Campari and sweet vermouth, then maybe some of those nuances get lost, but if you’re talking whiskey here, right? Imagine you’re mixing it with a single grain versus a peated Scotch or a cask-strength bourbon, all of these things, all of those are going to have significant impacts on the profile, as I’m sure you can tell us, and we’ll get into, but yes, this ain’t a Negroni episode, and I’ve said enough about the Negroni now here. Let’s celebrate the Boulevardier. Tell us, what’s your relationship with this cocktail? When did you first come across it? Do you have any really memorable ones? Tell us about your own experiences with this drink.
A: I first tried this cocktail from the bartender who first taught me craft cocktail making, which is a fellow named Julian Cox. He’s now running a whole hotel group of bars in Las Vegas, but he had a bar here in L.A. called Rivera, and I worked for him there. That’s really where I first discovered this drink and where I picked up on some specs. I love Julian’s specs for any sort of Negroni, Boulevardier, any sort of variation on that. It’s one and a half, one, three-quarter, are his specs. One and a half of the primary spirit, one of the Italian liqueur, and then three-quarter of the sweet vermouth. Then I jimmy that up a little bit and added a bar spoon. I like one and a half, one, three- quarter bar spoon on mine. The bar spoon I add is green Chartreuse. It’s so good that way, but the reason why I chose green Chartreuse is because after I worked for Julian, I worked at a bar called The Bazaar. It was José Andrés’ restaurant here in L.A., and it was molecular gastronomy. There was a lot of craziness happening at the bar, a lot of liquid nitrogen, and we made cocktails, we poured them over cotton candy, and we froze the glassware right in front of the guests, and there was a lot of blowing fire behind the bar and all kinds of things. One of the things I used to like to do is make a Boulevardier intended to be served up. Then I would take the Martini glass, put a little bit of green Chartreuse in there, set that on fire and roll it around the glass so that it caramelized the glass with green Chartreuse before adding the Boulevardier. That is my favorite, favorite way of having it.
T: Oh, wow, that sounds fantastic. You’ve given us a little sneak preview there about one of the things that I think is very important when it comes to conversations on the Boulevardier, how to serve it. Before we do that, though, can you tell us the history of this drink? Obviously, again, I hate to go back to the Negroni, but the Negroni is one of those ones where it has this story that you can maybe pick holes in. Is that the case for the Boulevardier or is it a little bit more concrete when it comes to its history and the figures involved with it?
The History of the Boulevardier
A: From my understanding, it is pretty concrete what happened there. During Prohibition, a lot of American bartenders, people who were really career bartenders, took the cocktails of America overseas. Most went to either Cuba or the islands or they went over to the U.K., and really revitalized what was a dying art before Prohibition anyway, was the making of cocktails. It was really America’s gift to the world, the cocktail. There was a fellow named Harry MacElhone, who went over there, he opened Harry’s New York Bar. A lot of your listeners will probably have heard of that before. In 1927, he wrote a bar guide called “Barflies and Cocktails,” and that’s the first place that we see the Boulevardier in print. He named it that because it was a guest’s favorite. Let’s see, I’ve got the guest’s name here, Erskine Gwynne, was his name. He was an expatriate. He had this publication that was an American in Paris Parisian publication, and it was called “The Boulevardier.” The name of the cocktail came from that, but it was really his drink. It’s interesting too that that was the first time you see it in print in ’27, because you don’t see the specs for the Negroni in print for 20 more years after that. Obviously, people were making the Negroni first, but you don’t find that in print until well after the Boulevardier was in print. Technically, that was the first one out there. You also, in 1927, at Harry’s New York Bar, for them to be making these drinks there, is a very expatriate thing to do and not something that would have been happening in America because we didn’t even know about Campari in 1927 here in the United States.
T: Perhaps why it doesn’t make it into those recipe books there too, as you mentioned, that being such a vital ingredient. Do we know if Erskine Gwynne invented this word, the Boulevardier? I believe I’ve come across rough translations or interpretations as a person about town or relating to maybe socialites or whatnot, perhaps inspired by the boulevards of Paris, but do we know anything about the etymology of this word?
A: I actually don’t know anything about that. I always assumed, to be honest, this I guess tells you how good my French is. I always just assumed it was a French word.
T: It probably is as well. I never took high school French, so probably people listening are going, “No, it’s in there in the dictionary.”
A: Yes, probably. I really don’t know. I just always have assumed that it was a French word. I think you could probably say any word to me and put an I-E-R on the end and I’d be like, “Oh, that’s French.”
A: I don’t really know.
T: I think it’s interesting too, you note this spreading of American bartenders around the world during Prohibition. I’d be fascinated to go back to that time and just witness this happening. I imagine someone, Harry MacElhone, there rocking up to Paris. How established was cocktail culture at this time where someone could come from overseas and say, “I’d love to run your bar here,” in one of the glitziest, fanciest hotels in a similar city? Do you know what I mean? I find that to be fascinating just thinking about that.
A: Right. Harry, when he went over there, he worked in other people’s bars first. He opened Harry’s New York Bar, and that was his place that he was the proprietor of, but he worked at Ciro’s in London first and then he worked in, let’s see, The Plaza. Well, he worked in The Plaza Hotel in New York. He worked in Ciro’s in London, and he worked in Deauville, France, at Ciro’s in Deauville, France as well. He made his way up in the scene first before opening his own bar there in London.
T: That does make more sense than-
A: Excuse me, in France.
T: -Harry just turning up at the hotel or whatever with a suitcase. It might be a tough sell, that one. Also just fascinating to consider the effect that that had of spreading and evolving the idea of this concept of the cocktail around the world. I think that’s why so many people find this pursuit of drinks fascinating in this era we like to call the renaissance these days, since then, in recent times. Speaking of that, do you recall when you — you mentioned who you learned this drink from, but do you recall when you first saw this reappearing on menus or becoming something that you could possibly call out by name rather and most folks might know how to make it. Also, well, people should have had the ingredients already, I would’ve assumed.
A: Yes, I would say probably in my memory, maybe some other places people would say that they remember it even earlier. In my memory, this is coming out around — where people are just regularly calling for something like this, would’ve been around 2009, 2010. I remember, around 2009, learning the cocktails and all of the classics. I remember thinking like, “Who is ever going to come in here and order a Queens Park Swizzle?” Then my first night on the floor, boom, three Queens Park Swizzles right away.
T: Oh, wow.
A: I think I was really surprised, when I really started learning cocktails is when I started to see like, “Oh, these people really know.” For me, I would’ve noticed it around 2010, 2009, but probably even earlier than that. I know the cocktail scene in L.A. was a little bit behind where it was in New York, and we really started to explode here in about 2006 and ‘7.
T: That’s wonderful. This is a drink itself. Where do you feel like it lies along someone’s line of, or exploration of cocktails? Say I’m just getting into drinks. I can imagine some of the ones you would have first. You probably already know Martinis, Manhattans, Negronis. Do you feel like this is maybe the second wave of drinks that you would discover, i.e., you know the Negroni, here’s something that’s similar, but also almost profoundly different?
The Ingredients Used in Amanda Gunderson’s Boulevardier
A: Yes. I do think that this is — you’ve got those other cocktails that are delicious, spectacular, wonderful that you mentioned, that Martini, Manhattan, Negroni phase, but they are for the consumer, a little bit like your training wheels years. Those are where you’re just discovering what cocktails are, and they are the foundations that you should really be introduced to cocktails with. This is one I do find to be for that a little bit more refined palate that is really pushing in that way of learning more about refining even further. Some people’s palates, when they start getting into cocktails, just go straight towards tiki drinks or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some people really live in warm climates and just want fresh fruit and soda water and stuff like that in their cocktails a lot. There’s also nothing wrong with that, but this tends to be, I think, one that goes a little bit more towards refinement. It’s crazy to me how much my palate has changed, because when I first started bartending and I very first tasted Campari, I was like, “This tastes like battery acid. Why do people drink this garbage?” I was just so against it. Now, I almost feel like it’s a little too sweet. I love Campari. It’s like one of those ingredients that I would never not have in my home bar, or I would expect to see it in any bar, I would expect any bartender to know it and love it and pour it for me. They haven’t changed their recipe at all. Just my palate has changed over the years. I do think that this with the element of the sweet vermouth as well and the element of the Campari, you almost have — you’d have to, as a bartender, ask the guest like, “Do you like a Negroni?” Just to test. Are you okay with Campari or am I going to hand you something that you’re going to be like, “What on Earth is this?” Especially with my creation, because I also add green Chartreuse, which is sweet and lovely, but it also has so many elements to it that you don’t want to just put that on a palate that is really not expecting that.
T: 100 percent. Yes. It’s a real complex ingredient there and a little goes a long way. I think it’s a great point there about Campari; you would expect all bars to have that, and also in that conversation too, of drinkers’ explorations, that’s an ingredient that you can assume, if people are starting to make cocktails at home, it’s one of the earlier bottles they’re going to be picking up, and also sweet vermouth, you’d expect them to have that in the fridge too. It’s another great candidate where it’s like, not only is this one that you can go and get at bars and appreciate, but you can make very simply at home.
A: Yes, that’s right. When you’re making drinks at home or when you’re ordering drinks at a bar, also we touched on this a little bit earlier, me saying that I love to have my Boulevardier up in with the caramelized green Chartreuse. That’s what I would do for a special guest, but at home, I would drink it on the rocks. I feel like the answer to what is the correct glassware, or on the rocks? It’s really whatever the guest wants, is the correct answer. When you’re making it at home, it’s really whatever you want, if you’re making it for yourself or you’re making it for your friends. I feel like there’s a lot of rules around cocktail making and just the most important ones to adhere to are correct measurements and great ingredients, but the glassware, that’s whatever you want, in my opinion.
T: It definitely stands to reason, though, that you would make this and serve it on the rocks for most guests because that’s probably what they’re expecting if they know that this is a sibling of the Negroni.
A: Yes. If they didn’t ask me for it up or if I wasn’t working at a bar where I was trying to put on a show by setting things on fire. I would serve it on the rocks for sure.
T: I’ll be honest, in recent years, I have firmly fallen into the camp of preferring this as a drink served up. You mentioned there with your own specific serve with the Chartreuse and whatnot, that means something you go towards too. Can you tell us a little bit about the differences between the two, though? How does this drink differ if I’m receiving one served up in a coupe or on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass? How do those two versions vary?
A: The biggest difference you’re going to have there is the ice. Obviously, the type of ice is very important on the rocks because you’re going to get dilution right away. The minute that you pour this drink, any drink, on the rocks, it’s starting to die because the water is diluting it. If you have a large piece of ice, you’re going to get less dilution, so you’re going to be able to enjoy the drink a little bit more or a little bit longer, I guess. I would say that’s the biggest thing, is when you get it served up, you are not in any danger of having any dilution happening. I think part of what makes these specs of Julian’s, this 1 and a half, 1, three-quarter so good, is because this drink is traditionally served on the rocks. Instead of doing a 1,1,1 with that, 1 and a half of the whiskey at the beginning of it, you are getting something that you’re not really going to lose from the dilution, you’re not going to lose it too much because you have a whole extra half-ounce of that high-proof spirit in there. That’s really going to cut through having it on the rocks.
T: Oh, yes. That’s a great point there, definitely, because Campari is not vermouth-level when it comes to ABV, but it’s certainly not a spirit either, so yes. Worth remembering that in that classic equal-parts build, two of your ingredients are lower than the proof of a spirit.
A: Right, exactly.
T: I guess in this conversation of how to serve, you could be pragmatic and you could say, “We’ll just serve it in a coupe with a large rock of ice.” I’m sorry. I’m just going to show my hand here. I am not a proponent of that serve of any drink.
A: I was just going to say that is not okay.
T: I do not like that, but I’m seeing it. I’m seeing it out there.
A: I don’t know whatever that is.
T: What is going on with that?
A: Yes, that is so silly. For me, it’s not okay on every level, primarily though, because when you drink from a coupe, who wants a piece of ice hitting their nose as they’re trying to drink a cocktail? It’s not meant to be a glassware that holds ice. I think that, look, if the guest comes to you and says, “I want this in a coupe and put a big piece of ice in it.” Give them what they want.
T: Sure, sure.
A: It’s fine. I just think that that little, whatever that is, that phase needs to die.
T: I couldn’t agree with you more. Am I having a drink outside in sunny L.A. and perhaps need my nose cooling a little bit? I don’t know where this is coming from, but it looks interesting in photos. Again, I’m just not sure, but no.
A: It’s just impossible to drink. I think we sometimes get a little carried away. One of the greatest bits or pieces about where we are in cocktail culture right now is this unbridled creativity that you get. You’ve got this generation of bartenders that are just so exciting. They know how to make cocktails that look beautiful in pictures, they know how to make something that when it goes on a tray through a crowded room, everybody’s going to see it and want to order it. Today’s generation of bartenders is so creative. There are some things like that that are just like, “That might look good in a picture, but realistically, who wants ice touching their nose when they’re trying to drink a cocktail?” We have to think sometimes about just the actual moment that the person is going to have while drinking this thing. That’s a trend that I hope just doesn’t last for too much longer.
T: Yes. If we talk about this, I hate putting things into boxes when it comes to seasons or seasonality or whatnot, right? I can imagine out there somewhere on Instagram, a bar-related profile out there might be selling T-shirts that are Negronis and summer Boulevardiers in winter. Do you think this is the winter version of that drink or do you maintain that this is something that holds its own year-round?
A: Well, I think I would drink this cocktail year-round no question, no problem. I would drink a Negroni year-round no problem. I’m the kind of person that would take this cocktail in the summertime if I really felt like having an effervescent drink, and I would throw this into a Collins glass with some ice on top of a soda, no problem.
T: Oh, yes.
A: I just think I would do this year-round without question. It’s interesting, one time, this is maybe not as — I guess this is as effective as — let me take that back. What I’m about to say relates to the seasonality question. I got into this conversation once with a bartender from New York, and he was really going on and on about how New York was a far superior cocktail scene to L.A.
T: Sounds like a New Yorker saying that.
A: Yes, yes, he was going on about “We appreciate the spirits and so we do all these stirred drinks. All you guys do is put a bunch of fruit in a can and shake it up, and everything has citrus in it.” I said to him, “Well, yes, I mean, that makes sense, though, when you’re in New York, your limes are the size of a quarter. I live in L.A. where I have access to giant, fresh citrus every day and fresh farmers’ markets every week. Why wouldn’t we be a fruit-forward cocktail scene down here?” We just have access to all of that. I think that also speaks to seasonality because people assume that these more stirred drinks go in winter and the fruit drinks go in the summer. It can also just be regional, that’s where you are, you’re making — you in New York might be making a lot of shrubs and bitters and tinctures and things, and those are originally meant to give more shelf-life to the product that you’re using, where in LA, you might not need to use those as much because you can just get the product year-round. It’s a weird conversation to have. Again, I’m just that one that’s like, “Make them what they want.”
T: Yes, exactly.
A: Depending on what time in the year it is. If somebody sits in front of you in July and asks you for Tom and Jerry, just make it for them.
T: Well, that’s a bit of an ask, but yes, definitely, 100 percent. Also just on that, I guess final point on that too there. L.A. has some wonderful, stunning, indoor bar spaces, but also is very much a city that lends itself to drinking outside too, on a patio or whatever covered spaces. This drinking outside is a relatively new phenomenon for, or availability for cocktail bars in New York since we’re seeing a lot of these structures go up in the pandemic and staying. I would argue that the experience is definitely not the same. We’re a lot more concentrated and also those structures are starting to look a little ropey now, some of them. Sorry.
A: Oh, no, go ahead.
T: I was going to ask you after this, about the equal-parts formula. You have mentioned this twice, though, that upping the spirit versus going with that classic equal-parts formula. Was that something you said that you would do for the Negroni as well, sorry, or this whole family of drinks, as you described it at the beginning?
A: It’s something that after you learn that and you do it that way, it’s hard not to do it that way because everything just tastes so good with those specs. It’s something that I use a lot to riff on when I’m in cocktail creation. For example, I just created a cocktail for the Community Spirit Co., for their vodka. They have a cocktail book that’s out right now for the holidays. I’m lucky enough to have been featured in it, and it is where I pulled those specs from, that same type of Negroni spec, that 1 and a half, 1, three-quarter vibe. The cocktail that I came up with there starts with an ounce and a half of the base spirit, so an ounce and a half of vodka. Then I did three-quarters pamplemousse and three-quarters Aperol.
A: Then a bar spoon of green Chartreuse and a couple of dashes of orange bitters. You can see where I like to go 1 and a half, 1, three-quarters of bar spoon. It’s that same vibe, that ounce and a half and then three-quarter bar spoon, and then a couple of dashes of bitters. That cocktail is a yum, yum, yum, yum. You just can’t not want another one. It is so delicious. I had one recently at a book signing and I was like, “You can just keep these coming.” It’s so good, but it’s really not because I’m the most amazing cocktail creator in the world, but because those specs are great and the ingredients are great, and those are the two big pieces of making great cocktails, is just having incredible ingredients and really being careful about your measurements.
T: It has always struck me as somewhat fortunate that apparently, the ideal formula for some of these drinks would be equal parts across the board. That does seem almost too good to be true. I think as we mentioned before, in the case of gin, but even more so in whiskey, it’s definitely worth looking at, because with there being so much variation within those categories, I don’t know, I don’t think you can take it for granted, right?
A: Oh, absolutely. With whiskey in particular, for me, if I was going to make a Boulevardier right now, I would probably put something bonded in there. I really love Old Tub, and it’s a $20 bottle of bourbon. It’s non-chill filtered. It’s completely unfiltered actually, and it’s just delicious. I also love another bartender favorite, Old Overholt. If I was going to go towards a rye, I would go for either one of those in a bonded format for this. I’d want that hundred proof, I’d want that non-filtered vibe. You could get something that’s aged for four years, if you get something that’s aged for 12 years, you could get something that was distilled to 125 proof and put in right at barrel proof, you could get something that was distilled to 138, and that completely changes the flavor. You could get something that was aged in a new barrel, a used barrel. Something that was aged in Kentucky is going to taste very different from something that was aged in Scotland. With whiskey, we touched on it a little bit earlier, but I agree with you. There are just so many broad variations to it, not just the grain, not just the original flavor profile, but what actually happens to the liquid in the aging process and the choices that are made there can really deeply affect the flavor of what you’re going to get. That is just so interesting in this format, in this Negroni style of cocktail.
T: Also probably worth pointing out here, though, that bourbon is the official or the original whiskey used in this drink, correct?
T: That makes sense, not just from a profile standpoint, but if you want to look at it more romantically, the relationship between, or the marriage of the United States and France when it comes to this drink, the relationship there. It is nice that bourbon would be the one that’s used in this.
A: Yes, I agree. I also feel like if you prefer rye, but you wanted to be true to the original, that’s the thing about whiskeys. You can just get a high-rye-content bourbon like Basil Hayden’s or something. You could just get something that has that rye feel to it and use that in there. For me, though, the one thing I would want out of the whiskey component in this is to be somewhere at least around a hundred proof. I feel like that’s going to really cut through some of the liqueur and the aperitif that’s in there.
T: Does that also come into play when we’re considering the body and the texture of this drink? Because, okay, Campari’s got this luscious mouth feel anyway. Sweet vermouth maybe not so much so, but it depends on what you’re using. Maybe something, I don’t know, a whiskey bottled at 80 proof for this might struggle to hold its own on that front.
A: That is true, I would say, definitely. I would also say one of the things that I like about something like Old Tub, is that it’s unfiltered or even something that’s non-chill filtered, if you went for something like that, those can be a little dangerous, but they are great whiskeys because of that non-chill filtration. What happens is there’s a lot of lipids and fatty components in whiskey, and over the years, those fatty lipids will congeal in the bottle if you let them. It would never happen at my house. I would never let a bottle of whiskey sit around that long, but over the years, it would congeal inside the bottle and it looks gross. It looks like there’s snot floating around in your bottle, and so people will do a chill filtration on that. Basically make it very cold, bring those lipids together, get them frozen and pull them out of the thing. What happens, though, is when you remove that fat from the whiskey, or when you leave it in there, is that fat will cover your mouth. It’ll really coat the inside of your taste buds and your whole mouth experience, gives you that luscious mouth feel, but it also protects you from really being hit by a very high-proof spirit. You’re actually able to taste the flavor components of the spirit more than you are the actual hard ethanol flavors, because your mouth has already been coated in that fatty layer. That, if you have an unfiltered or non-chill-filtered bourbon that you’re using in that, that will definitely also really elevate your experience in a way that is so subconscious you won’t even realize it’s happening.
T: Such a great point. Also something that anecdotally it seems that more whiskey drinkers are becoming aware of and care about, and definitely it’s hard to quantify that, right, by just saying it seems like that, but I guess there’s some evidence also in the fact that I come across more and more bottles these days of whiskey that are proudly putting that on their labels. I’m sure they wouldn’t be doing that unless there was a realization there that consumers understand this or a certain sector of consumers understand this and they care about it.
A: Exactly. You do have to be careful with it because the higher proof you get — I don’t know, Fred Noe used to tell us that his dad, Booker Noe, I’ve heard Fred speak on this a couple times, that his dad, Booker Noe, who created Booker’s and Baker’s and Knob Creek and a bunch of other big ones, when he did Booker’s, that was non-chill filtered, barrel proof, always bottled up at the proof, the barrels company, center of the rackhouse, all the things that would make it the perfect bottle of bourbon. He used to call it pajama whiskey, because he would say, “If you’re not in your pajamas, you should be on your way to your pajamas if you’re going to start drinking this.” Because it’s going to knock you on your ass there. Excuse my language, but yes. I do think that there is a call for it now. I think that the consumer is starting to see, to really feel the difference in that filtration process.
T: What if we look slightly outside the box at some other categories of whiskey or styles of whiskey. I’m not going to assume that you’ve tried all of these in Boulevardiers, but perhaps you have. Maybe just a simple yes or no here in terms of, is this something maybe that you would stand behind? I don’t know. Starting with a peated single malt, how do we feel about that? Yay or nay for the Boulevardier?
T: Anything you might tweak to make that work?
A: Here’s my feeling on it. I feel like you’re probably not going to say any type of whiskey that I’m going to say nay to.
T: I was starting to wonder if that were the case.
A: I feel like it’s all delicious in there. I’m not such a huge fan of heavy peat in Scotch. I prefer it to be a little bit on the lighter side, but that being said, I do feel like I love this type of setup with mezcal, and I feel the smokier the better for this type of cocktail, this Mezcal Negroni, and so to me, that peated Scotch, I’ve never had one, a Boulevardier with that, but I have had a very smoky mezcal and so I just would imagine it lives in that same flavor profile world and it’s, to me, very enjoyable.
T: Some of those as well, with a real lovely, bright fruit character that you can get with those peated whiskeys too, and a more maybe orchard and stone fruits than you might come across in, say, a bourbon, definitely good candidate. All right. I’m going to assume that you’re going to say yes to an Irish single pot still, maybe even a single grain. What if someone were coming at this with a spiced whiskey flavored perhaps? Maybe that’s the only one where I might have you considering.
A: Maybe one of those peanut butter whiskeys they have probably wouldn’t do. I always forget that there’s a category of flavored whiskeys. I just don’t want it to be real, and so I think I just don’t acknowledge that it exists, but I think you’re right. You’re probably hitting on something like a flavored whiskey I probably would stay away from.
T: I believe, not sadly, because I don’t wish to judge anyone for what they drink, but I do believe actually Fireball might be the best-selling whiskey in America; it’s definitely top five, so maybe it’s worth trying it.
A: I don’t recall any Fireball Whisky. Do we call it that?
T: You’re allowed to, as long as you’re not using the E, apparently. I think that’s how they spell it. I don’t know. Actually, the peanut butter, when you were speaking about that, I was like, “That actually might work for this.” It’s definitely not classic. We’ll see. I know what I’m doing tonight. All right. Next ingredient though, sweet Vermouth. I’m going to ask you about one brand in particular first, if that’s okay with you, and that’s the Carpano Antica Formula, because I found there to be, over the course of writing about cocktails and this podcast, hosting this, I definitely find it to be quite polarizing. I always came into this assuming that this was a bartender favorite, and I know a lot of bartenders do love that sweet Vermouth, but then others I’ve heard say that this can just hijack the drink in a way and really steal the show a bit. Where do you stand on that one? For the Boulevardier or just in general?
A: Again, that really depends on your specs. If you’re going 1 to 1 to 1, it can hijack the cocktail for sure. It is a robust sweet vermouth. It’s delicious, I think, just on its own, because of how robust it is. If somebody poured me a little glass of that, I would take it happily, and I would sip on it in the evening after dinner or before dinner, so I do think that it can hijack it, but in this 1 and a half, 1, three-quarter bar spoon spell that I’ve put together for this, it almost requires something as robust as Carpano Antica, because you’ve taken that down by a half or a quarter of an ounce, so you do need something that’s robust enough to stand up to a full ounce of Campari and an ounce and a half of a high-proof bourbon, plus we’re adding a little touch of green Chartreuse, which just like you said, a little bit can go a long way there. For me, it really depends on your specs. If I was going to go a 1 to 1 to 1, though, I would probably put something more like Dolan’s or something in there that’s just a little bit softer, but for me, if I only had one sweet vermouth in my house, I would pick up a bottle of Carpano Antica.
T: Nice. That’s a really great illustration there of what you were talking about before, where it’s like, what’s the spec of my drink? Well, it depends on the ingredients at hand. What ingredients should I use for this drink? Well, it depends on the spec you’re using. I guess you got to start somewhere, but you make that choice. Probably, I would guess, in the bar scenario, you are dictated by your ingredients because you need something that works across the board. You’re not just thinking drink by drink.
A: Exactly. Exactly. As you’re thinking about, if you’re making cocktails at home, you can adjust your specs to match what your ingredients are.
T: All right then, final ingredient. I have Campari written here. You did mention bitter Italian aperitivos — red, bitter, Italian aperitivos. Of course, Campari is the one that has come to define this category. Is that what you’re reaching for, or have there been any contenders that you’ve encountered during your years that you’re like, “Actually, I really love this too for this drink?”
A: For a Boulevardier, I really do love Campari in a Boulevardier. I also, if I was going to do this cocktail, though, with tequila, for example, I would use Aperol. With the cocktail riff that I did, the rise up, for the Community Spirit Co., I used Aperol there because that is — it’s a delicious vodka on its own. People say that vodka is supposed to be flavorless and odorless, but it’s really not true. If you put five vodkas next to each other, you would see the difference.
T: 100 percent.
A: Anyone would be able to tell the difference between different vodkas and the Community Spirit one, it is a little on the complex side and it has a wonderful mouthfeel. I wanted to honor that with a bunch of Southern California things. I wanted it to feel, but I knew I wanted it to be stirred. I just think there’s something so sexy about a stirred cocktail. When somebody asks you for it, especially with the main ingredient being vodka, I feel like it asks to be stirred almost. That’s where the pamplemousse and then the Italian bitter Aperol, coming from apricots, and then the green Chartreuse, and then orange bitters. I had those three oranges, pamplemousse being the grapefruit and then the apricot in there. I think it really depends on what flavor profile you’re going for, what your riff is on this particular take of a cocktail, but with the Boulevardier, man, I really do love it with Campari.
T: Amazing. Now can you walk us through the preparation of this drink as if you were making the ideal version of this in your bar, or a bar. If I’m sat in front of you today and you’re making it, and the one that you would stand by and say, “This is my version of this drink.” Can you talk us through that start to finish, including your specs, please?
How to Make Amanda Gunderson’s Boulevardier
A: It was really hammered into me as a young bartender that you always start, first ingredient that you put in is your bitters or anything like that because they’re drops and you don’t want to forget them. Then the next ingredients you put in are the least expensive to the most expensive. If you’re making something that’s shaken and it has cucumbers muddled in it, cucumbers would go in there first, and then you would put the juices or the syrup and then the juice, and then your liquor last. For this, in that way of thinking, I would start with a bar spoon of green Chartreuse so that we don’t forget it. It’s just the smallest measurement there. Then I would go to the sweet vermouth, the three-quarter ounce, and then I would do an ounce of the Campari or whatever the Italian bitter is that you’re putting in there. Then I would put — well, I would put Campari and I would use Carpano Antica, and then I would put an ounce and a half of a bonded bourbon. Let’s just call it Old Tub since that’s what we’ve been talking about today. I would stir that, then I would put the ice in. I would stir it, let it kind of cook in there for a little bit, and then I would pour that into a chilled glass. I think I would probably, if I was making this for you, I would serve it up. I put it into a chilled glass, and you know what I really love, everybody loves a coupe and everything, but I just love a Nick & Nora glass. It’s just the cutest, and you get to say Nick and Nora. I’d probably put it in a Nick & Nora glass, and then I would garnish it with a flamed orange peel just to really get more of those oils out of the peel.
T: That nice connection there to the Campari. Is that peel making its way into the Nick & Nora as well, or are you just flaming and you’re saying we’re done with you, buddy.
A: I would flame it and then I would run it around the top of the glass and maybe take it down the stem a little bit, and then I would put it on the side of the glass and let you decide if you were done with it or not.
T: Very nice pragmatic approach there. No, I think this definitely speaks to how we’re coming to appreciate your philosophy here on this show, that you’re like, “It’s the drinker’s choice.”
A: Yes, very much so.
T: Very nice. All right, before we move into the final section of the show, any final thoughts on the Boulevardier for us today?
A: Well, one thought is that I definitely know what I’m drinking tonight. Man, I wish I could make myself one right now.
T: I know.
A: Just talking about it so much is like, “Oh, it’s so good.” It’s just such a great drink. I do feel like, just to reiterate your point earlier, for any bartenders that are out there or drink aficionados who make drinks at home and have friends who come over and are like, “What are you making for me now?” This is really a great stepping stone into even more complex cocktails, and it’s so simple to make. Even if you just go for the 1 to 1 to 1 version, it’s going to be delicious. Give it a try.
T: One of those ones too, I guess, if you’re having a dinner party, a batcher. This is a good batcher cocktail too, especially if you’re serving it on the rocks.
A: For sure. Especially if you’re serving it on the rocks, because then the rocks will dilute it a little bit. If you’re going to batch this, I would say batch it with a little bit of water to taste so that it’s got a little bit of dilution in there. This is a good one to batch for sure.
T: Wonderful. Well, not just what I’m drinking tonight then, perhaps what I’m going to be serving this holiday season, who knows? Need to check on my green Chartreuse supplies now.
A: You could do a brown butter fat wash on the bourbon. You could take your Campari and let it sit with some cloves and nutmeg for a little while before. You really could make this into a very holiday drink.
Getting to Know Amanda Gunderson
T: Sounds fantastic. All right then, Amanda, let’s get to know yourself a little bit more as a bartender and a drinker as we finish with our five weekly questions here.
T: Question number one for you. What style or category of spirit typically enjoys the most real estate on your back bar?
A: I mostly have agaves or whiskey, and it’s hard to say too because I have a ton of whiskey and I have a ton of agave spirits on my back bar. The two that should be there the most often that are not because I drink them the most so they tend to go quickly, are bourbon and tequila specifically. I have quite a nice selection of Scotches and mezcals and Raicilla, Bacanora, Japanese whiskies, et cetera. I have a number of other things within those categories, but the two that I have to replace the most often are bourbon and tequila.
T: Very nice. Question number two, which ingredient or tool do you believe is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
A: I was thinking about this. It’s hard to say. I do think that certain things — maybe the bar spoon measurement is a little undervalued. I love just throwing a bar spoon of something in something, just taking a cocktail and just sticking a bar spoon of absinthe in there, or taking a cocktail and we obviously have gotten it down that I love to put a bar spoon of green Chartreuse into things. I also love to put a bar spoon of yellow Chartreuse into something or a bar spoon of Braulio or any number of Italian aperitifs or Amari. I think that bar spoon measurement can really brighten up a cocktail. I think it’s also when you taste a cocktail that feels a little unbalanced, a bar spoon of simple syrup can really explode that thing into the right direction. You can balance it quickly when you’re in the well and you’re trying to make sure everybody’s drinks are great. I think that bar spoon measurement is maybe a little undervalued.
T: I’m so with you on that one. You have no idea how often a cheeky little bar spoon of mezcal or eau de vie might make it into my Martini.
A: That sounds incredible. That’s great.
T: No, it really is. Where I’m like, perhaps it’s my second Martini that I’m making for myself in the day, and it’s like, “Well, I want to stick in this lane, but I also want something that’s slightly different,” and those ingredients will have a profound effect. I love it. All right, question number three. What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received while working in this industry?
A: I think we’ve hit on it already a lot today, but the most important piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to remember that your job is to bring out the best in the guest, and that’s it. The cocktails are a vessel for that, but your job is to be there and to bring out the best in the guest.
T: Very nice. I do like it when the advice rhymes as well. That is a bonus points there. Question number four, if you could only visit one last bar in your life, what would it be?
A: I gave this question some thought because, really, I’m just going to say this bar because this question is just a hypothetical, but if I could only visit one last bar in my life, it would be a bar that is already closed, and I would say that’s the Good Luck Bar in L.A. It’s this little dive bar that was themed after this Chinese restaurant in Chinatown that was really a happening place back in the day called Yee Mee Loo. When they opened the Good Luck Bar, it’s like red velvet walls and red lanterns hanging around, and they had the actual original jukebox from Yee Mee Loo and put that into the Good Luck Bar. It was just this great neighborhood bar, and every night of the week, somebody’s in there celebrating a birthday. It’s an oval-shaped bar. When I worked there, I learned so much from being in an oval-shaped bar because you have to constantly be wondering, is somebody behind you who wants a drink, is somebody to your side who wants a drink, you don’t get to just look up and see, and so you really have to be aware of everybody all the time, on your toes. It was just a great place. There’d always be some couple making out in the corner and the jukebox was such a hot fire with all the songs, really good. Somebody would always come in and load it up with some, I don’t know, Hall & Oates or something, and the whole bar would start singing and it was just this great place that was there for 25 years and somebody came in and pushed them out and they’re opening a little, I don’t know, boutique hotel or something there now instead. It’s a bummer, but if I was going to have one last chance at one bar in my life, it would be that one.
T: Right up until the end there, I was going to say sounds incredible. It does sound incredible, but shame to hear of their fortunes, but yes, it sounds like a great pick. Final question for you here today. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you order or make?
A: I would order or make an Old Fashioned and I would order it or make it with either Yamazaki 18 or RedBreast 25 year.
A: Not sure which of those two it would choose. That would be the game time decision, which of those two whiskeys, but that’s what I would do, and I would have them go light on the sugar.
T: That’s what I love to hear when we get to this final question of the show. When someone really — it does indulge, say, you know what, we’re pulling out the big guns for the last one, and I’m personally a big proponent of using your absolute best bottles in cocktails, specifically ones like that where it really does allow the spirit to shine, but it is still a cocktail.
A: For sure. I was talking about Fred Noe a little bit earlier, now his son Freddy is the master distiller at Beam, but Fred was there for a long time, and anybody who knows Fred knows that he’ll just say what’s on his mind, he really will, but somebody asked him at some point, some woman said, my husband says that I’m drinking it wrong, I put Booker’s in my whiskey and Coke, and he says that I’m not respecting the whiskey. I think a lot of people would’ve expected him to tell her off a little bit, but he just looked at her and said, “Well, that means you’re drinking the best whiskey and Coke in the world.”
T: Exactly. I think that most recent — sorry.
A: No, go ahead.
T: I was going to say, I think that most recent Booker’s release of this year, the third batch, I think it’s called Booker’s Tea or Kentucky Tea, and they suggest it’s after that recipe of one part Booker’s in three or four parts water. I was very skeptical about this, but I tried it and it’s absolutely delicious.
A: Yes, so delicious. Booker’s is just a spectacular release after release after release. It’s a spectacular bourbon, but they, a lot of times, will formulate bourbons to be drunk at something more like 32 percent alcohol. Calculating for it to be watered down, calculating for it to be a dram served with water or served on the rocks or served in a cocktail. When they’re calculating the flavor profile, rarely are they looking for something that’s just straight out of the bottle. It’s always going to be delicious straight out of the bottle, but they’re also really calculating as well that extra bit of water, what does it taste like there? Make sure that it’s still delicious at that point.
T: So nice of them to do so.
T: Well, Amanda, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure chatting about the Boulevardier. I think I need to go and consult a French dictionary then top up on my Skrewball Whiskey for tonight.
A: Likewise. This has been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on. I just love getting so nerdy about cocktails and I have a number of friends who are not as nerdy about cocktails who are like, “Oh my God, is she going to try and get me to take the blue pill or the red pill right now?” I appreciate having somebody to really nerd out with. It’s so much fun.
T: I’m with you on that one. Any excuse. All right, Amanda, well, cheers. Until next time.
A: Thanks for having me. Take care
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