My mother’s drink is a Manhattan. Sour mash bourbon and lots of sweet vermouth—far more than any bartender’s guide would recommend. But my Daddy makes the drink the way she likes it, so end of story.
I’ve never been a whiskey cocktail drinker; I like my whiskey like I like children’s play rooms: neat. So the chance to enjoy the High West Barreled Boulevardier is a special treat for me. Herewith my first cocktail review.
But because it’s my first, I’m going to cheat a bit and read the press release. This particular cocktail, the Boulevardier, was devised in 1927, by a nephew of Alfred Vanderbilt. Erskine Gwynne would go on to publish a literary magazine while in Paris named The Boulevardier. So let me get this straight. This entitled, young whippersnapper names a cocktail after his own literary magazine? I love this guy! Gwynne’s drink was equal parts bourbon, Campari, and Italian vermouth. I’m not sure what Campari and vermouth are, but it sounds yummy. The good people at High West wisely tweak this recipe to double the bourbon in it. You know, when you make bourbon as good as theirs, you’ve got to show it off right. So after two parts bourbon that add one part Vya® sweet vermouth, and one part Gran Classico®. I see that Gran Classico® is called the “Bitter of Turin,” which strangely is what I always called Turin’s short-lived, pleuritic poet, Guido Gozzano. Anyway, there’s more there in the press release but the ice is going to melt in my glass here and I’ve some drinking to do.
Well, this is interesting. Our sample came in two bottles. I was about to throw ‘em both into my tumbler but I noticed that they are different. One of says it’s un-aged. That must mean that they put age in the other one. Okay, I try the first one first. Wow, this is really delicious and refreshing. Sweet but not too sweet (a good thing), a bit of medicinal bitterness (a really good thing) and, at 72 proof, it’s not too boozy [*crickets*]. The one with age in it tastes great, too. It’s rounder and whatnot, but certainly has the same essential characteristics of the first. Going back to the unaged version, I’m compelled to conclude that it was in fact a little age-less, as if they decided not to add age to it and just serve it as it is, you know, free of all that age they put in the other one. It struck me as sweeter, too, but maybe that’s because it had less roundness and depth than the one with added age.
While two-fisting his review cocktails, John’s attention returns to the part of the press release that he didn’t read before.
Um, it’s all clear now. They High West folks are aging their cocktails in a barrel. And the unaged version is sort of like the before snapshot that you can hold up to the after snapshot. Kinda like that trucker where the left side of his face near the driver’s side window was all aged and cancerous and droopy. Except that this cocktail has none of that in it!
Now, it’s pretty clear I know nothing about cocktails. But one thing I do know is that the bartender is supposed to mix ‘em right there with fresh ingredients and do all of that fancy Tom Cruise stuff, whipping the bottles around like a torch juggler [Stephen: John doesn’t get out much]. With this cocktail, however, the emphasis is on getting the right mix from the start, and then letting it mature together in the barrel so that it can take on new characteristics. I wouldn’t trust bartenders to do anything more than pour my whiskey, either, so kudos to High West for this exciting breakthrough in cocktail-ology!
The High West Boulevardier (Aged and Un-Aged) is the Old Fashioned–Not as ostentatious as the cocktail or “martini” glass, but not as limiting as the highball.
–Our thanks to High West for the samples!