Bourbon Cocktails: The Boulevardier for Kentucky Derby Watching

by Pamela

boulevardier, bourbon cocktails, kentucky derby, cinco de mayo

What happens to a cocktail when you toss out its base ingredient (gin) and replace it with another (bourbon)? What might sound like an episode of two friends playing cocktail “double dog dare” with each other after having one too many glasses of spirits is actually how new cocktails are born. The simple combination of bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth goes by the name Boulevardier. And while you might think this was created by someone who dislikes gin (the similar combination of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth is called the Negroni), the Boulevardier predates the Negroni by a couple of decades.

Tomorrow, May 5th, is a day not unlike a solar eclipse, a blue moon or winning the Mega Millions lottery jackpot. It’s Cinco de Derby day! What the hell is that you ask? Tomorrow is a day that shall live in infamy, at least for those of you who like to get your drink on. You see, this year pits two major cocktail laden ‘holiday’s against one another: Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby.

While tequila and bourbon seem to be odd bedfellows (and they are…trust me), that doesn’t mean that the two can’t co-exist either in theory or practice.

I posted 5 Cinco de Mayo cocktail recipes earlier this week, for your enjoyment. And today, I give you the Boulevardier for your Kentucky Derby, funny hat wearing day, enjoyment. Yes, I am fully aware of the Kentucky Derby tradition of drinking mint juleps. However, just because that’s tradition, doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing you can enjoy, to whet your whistle while watching the pretty horses run around the track with people on their backs. In fact, several different bourbon cocktails are completely appropriate for consumption on Derby day – including the Boulevardier.

So for those of you trying to figure out how to best enjoy both drinking bonanzas may I suggest the following schedule starting with the day before and making up a batch of pork carnitas. You’re going to need this for your hangover on Seis de May0.

  • 8-9 a.m.  Wake up. You’ve got a long day ahead of you and you need to start early. Get that pot of caffeine going.
  • 9-11 a.m.  Get yourself a big plate of pancakes and a side of bacon or sausage. This isn’t the day to be eating a cup of yogurt and a bowl of fruit. You need to get your carbo load on cuz there’s some serious alcohol in your very near future.
  • 11-noon  Finish up the last of the caffeine and pour yourself a shot of tequila. Throw it down your throat and bite into that lime if you need to. Otherwise just throw yourself into the shower and get moving. You’ve got your first Cinco de Mayo party to go to.
  • 1 p.m. Out the door and off to the store to pick up a bag of chips, jar of salsa and a good bottle of tequila and bourbon, the bourbon is for later and stays in your car, (you may not be much of a cook, but you’re no slack-ass party guest…you show up with good bottles of booze – that’s why you’re always on the guest list. Well, because of that and you’ve never puked on your friends carpets).
  • 2 p.m. Pace yourself. You’ve already primed yourself with carbs and that first shot of the day. So start with your Mexican beer of choice before moving on to the margaritas. Continue to eat tortilla chips and cheese dip so the alcohol doesn’t consume you. Remember, you’ve got a Kentucky Derby party in a couple of hours.
  • 2:01-4:30 p.m.  Don’t shoot your wad here…you’ve got a the Derby party and another Cinco de Mayo blowout to go to later. Make that beer and margarita last. Once done, grab yourself a water or a glass of the kiddies limeade. Besides, this party is the one your friends who have kids and are in bed by 9 are at. There’s no naked tabletop dancing going on here and you still want your friends to think you’re sensible (even though your not). It’s important to keep up appearances. Leave this shindig by 4:30 to get to the Kentucky Derby party in time to watch the warm up to the derby race.
  • 5 pm  Arrive at the Derby party and deliver nice bottle of bourbon to your host/hostess. Proceed to sip first mint julep by 5:05.
  • 5:06-7 p.m. The Kentucky Derby is fun, but a little more conservative in the revery department. You can probably get away with only having one or 2 cocktails (mint juleps) here. Although if your guest is thoughtful, there will be other bourbon cocktails available. But still go easy on the stuff. At this point you should still be able to keep track of your alcoholic intake and only be on your 4th or 5th cocktail of the day. Since the race kicks off at 6:24 and is over by 6:28 (just in case there’s a photo finish) and the winner’s pool is paid out, you can quietly slip out and head off to your final destination of the night. The mucho grande Cinco de Mayo bash.
  • 8 p.m. The party’s in full swing, so you can slip in unnoticed and head immediately to the bar. Pound a shot, or two, with your friends and grab a margarita.
  • 8:10-?  This is the party you’ve been waiting for, the no holds barred, drinkapalooza. Go nuts. I’m going to leave the rest of the activities up to your sick and depraved minds.

So as you can plainly see, mixing these two seemingly different holidays is actually quite simple. It just involves a little planning ahead. But regardless whether it’s tequila cocktails or bourbon cocktails, just remember to pace yourself, eat something and don’t drive if you’ve had too much to drink.


Recipe: Bourbon Cocktails: The Boulevardier


  • 1 Ounce Bourbon (I used rye whiskey instead)
  • 1 Ounce Campari
  • 1 Ounce Sweet Vermouth


  1. Pour all ingredients into an ice filled shaker.
  2. Stir until well chilled.
  3. Pour into a coupe.
  4. Garnish with a lemon peel.


You could also serve this cocktail over ice in a whiskey glass.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 1

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)


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Maureen | Orgasmic Chef May 2, 2014 at 7:09 am

Leave it to you to give us a schedule to follow in order to consume the proper amount of alcohol on May 5th. Thank you from the bottom of my stomach.

Pamela May 5, 2014 at 7:08 am

Yes Maureen, we must have a schedule for our imbibing. This makes sure that we get it all in. LOL

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