IIt’s a story that takes life from the cocktail itself and its recipe.
It’s a story that consists of as many chapters as the elements that make up the Boulevardier.
It’s actually a series of short stories, and the description of a feeling, an emotion, or the verse of a song. Stories that start from that moment in which we sit next to a glass and are taken to discover a side of the drink that is always different. We are in the streets of Paris in the 1920s, among its eccentric shows. We are amidst a conversation between Harry McElohne and Erskine Gwynne at the counter of Harry’s New York Bar, discussing the story of its name as a cocktail. Or in a current-day café in which a writer orders a Boulevardier.
Harry McElohne, one of the greatest barmen who ever lived, on the suggestion of Erskine Gwynne, prepares a cocktail that will go down in history. A cocktail that contains several stories.
1 part Campari
The first harmonious dive is followed by another.
In the meantime, she enters the café and asks if someone can hold the door for her.
She’s carrying too many parcels in her hands.
A very thin guy, wearing a jacket that’s too large for his shoulders, and with two eyes too small to contain all the details of the scene, rushes to give her a hand. In his moves there’s both the embarrassment of the moment and the wish to appear self-confident, gentlemanly, nonchalant.
She’s a tall and very thin brunette, with slender wrists and two fingers gripping the long stalk of a rose. The vie en rose lies in her graceful movements, the way she gently fixes her hair, her pastel outfit. Looking at her feels like enrolling in a flight school, but she apparently knows how to put the eyes of whoever looks at her back where they belong, one by one. Then she walks to the bar and writes down her order on a paper napkin, leaving it on the wooden top, without adding anything else. It reads ‘Campari’ and well... there’s nothing else to say.
1 part red Vermouth
At the bar, Jordy is sipping his drink and can hardly keep the news to himself. His lively eyes flick around, then go to the arches that his vermouth is drawing on the walls of the glass.
He saw the love of his life at the Lac de Gravelle and he’s mad for her. He keeps thinking about her swimming in the bay: her white skin, ginger hair, huge, bright eyes, deep as the waters of that lake. She has a sudden cramp. He gets undressed.
He’s got the body of someone who has spent many hours in the swimming pool to get trained, stroke after stroke, length after length. He’s got the scent of chlorine in his hair and two eyes deep like the ocean.
He dives in and rescues her. Like a fool, he doesn’t even ask for her address. He massages her ankle and forgets to ask what her name is. So here he is, at the bar, Jordy in love. In love with a girl without a name.
1.5 parts Bourbon whisky
They say that you would need three years to thoroughly visit Paris. Paris kills France. A city so full of awe that overshadows an entire nation. You just need to follow the walls of the café with your eyes to reach the windows and admire a city that’s always partying. It’s like a theatre. You just need to wait, and at the bar there’ll come an unexpected customer, an amazed tourist, a young writer or a man that’s too old even for some bourbon. Manet portrayed her like this, the bartender of a renowned café-chantant in Paris: a woman waiting for the next gaze.
At the back of Harry’s bar, Suzon breaks the ice with Gerard, taking his hand.
Jean kisses Isabelle, playing the game.
Isabelle slaps him in the face, ending the game.
Anselme searchingly looks at Alisse, who doesn’t reciprocate. But that look is reciprocated by Antoinette, who has gone to the bar for months, just to be looked at by Anselme. And he surprises her.
Ice is a small water rock, hard transparency, floating geometry.
It’s frost that melts, that lets itself go, and then suddenly disappears.
Just like time, relationships and things, it runs.
Stir&Strain, a crystal cup, lemon zest
Harry gets to the end of the ritual. Quick moves, a special glass, the aroma of a citrus fruit. Erskine Gwynne, a nephew of railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbilt and an American writer expatriated to Europe just like Harry, can’t wait to write about all this, the air of Paris, the faces, the encounters, on the pages of the fashionable magazine that he founded:
It’s not by chance that the drink is called this way. A sophisticated cocktail for the Paris of yesterday and the aperitivo capitals of tomorrow.