11 Best Bourbons For A Boulevardier

Once you get past the difficult-to-pronounce name (makes us wish we paid more attention in high school French), there's a lot to love about a Boulevardier. The classic Boulevardier recipe includes bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, making them simultaneously bitter, sweet, boozy, and complex. Essentially, it's a Negroni made with bourbon instead of the standard gin. Since they have so much going on in terms of flavor, choosing the right bourbon as the base of your cocktail is essential if you want an excellent version of this beverage.

One of the most important things to remember as you select your bourbon is to decide which flavor you want to emphasize. Some people think the more bitter the better, while others prefer a bourbon that adds an extra dose of sweetness. Some like a smoky option and others just want overall balance. We tend to lean towards bourbons that contain a high percentage of rye in the mashbill to add a touch of spice, but everyone is different — and there's no right or wrong way to enjoy your Boulevardier. To make building your perfect Boulevardier easier, we've put together a handy guide to the 11 best Bourbons to use in a Boulevardier.

Four Roses

In our opinion, Four Roses Bourbon deserves more attention than it usually receives. First of all, Four Roses tastes delicious. It's smooth and has a surprisingly complex array of tasting notes like honey, apple, wood, and pear. Second of all, it's incredibly affordable. Despite the average price of a bottle ringing in at just $25, the packaging (and of course, the taste) make it feel a lot more high-end than other brands in a similar price range. You get a lot of bang for your buck. 

Not only do we think it's one of the best values out there, but we also think it's one of the best bourbons to use in a Boulevardier cocktail. Since the other ingredients are more "in your face," opting for a mellow, easy-drinking bourbon can help make it more approachable — especially if you're still on the fence about bitter beverages. 

Not all bars stock Four Roses (unfortunately), but if you see it when you're out and about, we highly recommend you take it as your sign to order a Four Roses Boulevardier.

Basil Hayden's

This bottle is a little punchier in terms of spice than others, so it's an excellent option for people who want to add a little pizzazz to their glass. Basil Hayden's classic bourbon is considered a high-rye option, which means there's a fair amount of rye in the mashbill. While the differences between bourbon and rye are still maintained here, this bottle contains flavor notes (by which we mean, hints of spice) usually found in the latter. Despite this bottle's bold charred oak and black pepper notes, it goes down smoothly. 

Basil Hayden's is well suited for a Boulevardier because it balances out the overtly sweet notes in the vermouth while adding a layer of complexity that makes the bitterness taste more well-rounded. Since it's mid-range in terms of price, it's a great bottle to reach for if you're ready to branch out from your go-to budget options. Order this one if you're out to drinks with your co-workers and want to seem like a whiskey pro but don't want to put a super high-end bourbon on the corporate credit card.  


You can think of Bulleit as the ultimate "comfort zone" bottle of bourbon. What we mean is, it's a safe bet for almost any bourbon-based cocktail out there, including a Boulevardier. In our opinion, it's the perfect example of what good, old-fashioned bourbon is supposed to taste like.

Standard doesn't mean boring, and Bulleit has nice notes of oak, maple, and nutmeg. It's another high-rye option, which means those spicy notes are going to provide that needed contrast when paired with the other relatively spiceless ingredients in a Boulevardier.

Not only is Bulleit a safe bet in that you know your cocktail is going to taste great, but you can also find Bulleit at almost any bar in America. If you get to the bar and can't decide what you'd like to drink, requesting a Bulleit Boulevarier is a classy, tasty option to have up your sleeve. It's also reasonably priced, so your cocktail won't break the bank.

Buffalo Trace

If you want a light, bright option to punch up this otherwise heavy cocktail, this bottle of bourbon is the way to go. Buffalo Trace boasts mild notes of fruit that add a tasty layer of complexity and goes one step further than your stand caramel flavors. There are enough hints of vanilla and toffee to keep things balanced, and it has a long finish that speaks to the overall quality of the brand.

The Buffalo Trace Distillery produces other famous bourbon brands like Eagle Rare, Van Winkle, and Blanton's, so you can feel confident you're using the good stuff in your Boulevardier. With claims as the oldest continuously operating distillery in America, you'll be sipping on a taste of tradition when you order anything from the Buffalo Trace Distillery portfolio. 

If you're ordering this at a bar, Buffalo Trace is a choice that will make you sound like you know what you're doing when it comes to ordering a Boulevardier. If you're making drinks at home, having a bottle of Buffalo Trace on your bar car never hurts — it's great for sipping solo as well. 

Redemption High Rye

As you probably guessed, Redemption High Rye Bourbon is another wonderful high rye option. Redemption isn't just slightly heavy on the spicy grain. With 36% rye in the mashbill, the bourbon is about as close to its full-blown, full-rye cousin as it gets. It's bold, balanced, and works incredibly well in a Boulevardier.

If you're usually the type of person who thinks rye whiskey is perfect in a Manhattan, or anywhere else you use whiskey, then we implore you to branch out and try this bottle instead. You'll get the sweet, caramel-forward notes of bourbon with the punch of rye in one bottle. It's the best of both worlds!

Although bars with well-stocked whiskey collections might have this on offer, you won't find it everywhere. However, that's all the more reason to add a bottle to your personal collection (and to learn how to make the perfect Boulevardier at home). You can also use this to (literally) spice up other whiskey-based cocktails that can sometimes taste too one-note like an old fashioned. 

Knob Creek

Knob Creek is a safe, reliable, mid-range bourbon option that's perfect for when you want to stick to what you know. It's rich without being polarizing, balanced without being boring, and flavorful without being too "in-your-face." We also give this one major points for being both relatively affordable (it's more expensive than well whiskey, but won't cost you an arm and a leg) and extremely accessible (you won't have a hard time finding a bar that can make you a Knob Creek Boulevardier).

Knob Creek is woody and full-bodied with plenty of vanilla and sweetness to boot. This brand has a range of bourbons to offer, but the standard stuff is aged for nine years in white oak barrels. It also tends to be a crowd-pleaser so, if you're having people over for drinks, you won't likely hear too many complaints when you pull out a bottle of Knob Creek. It's nice enough for guests but not so nice that you can't whip up a Boulevardier on a random Tuesday night, which, as you may have guessed, we highly encourage you to do. 

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark is one is ideal if you want a less bitter Boulevardier. While this might sound counterintuitive since a big part of the allure of a Boulevardier is the bitterness, just trust us. When you choose the right bourbon as your base, you'll be able to tame those bracing notes if doing so is your goal. Maker's Mark has a high percentage of wheat in the mashbill, and the difference between a high-wheat and high-rye bourbon results in a significant difference in flavor. High-wheat bourbons have a sweeter, softer flavor, which will help balance out the bitter Campari in a Boulevardier. 

However, Maker's Mark is definitely not for everyone in this context, so it really depends on what flavors you want to highlight in your cocktail. We recommend this one if you're new to drinking beverages that lean into bitterness like a Boulevardier — it will help you ease your way in without overwhelming your palate. 

Wild Turkey 101

It's probably no surprise that we're recommending another high-rye option. Wild Turkey 101 gives Boulevardiers a pleasant hit of spice (which we're big fans of in bourbon). This option is hearty and full-bodied, which means it can hold its own when paired with other flavor bombs like Campari and sweet vermouth. You'll be able to taste the nuances of this bourbon in your cocktails, so it's perfect if you're an aficionado looking for a beverage in which you can appreciate the integrity of the whiskey.

We also like that Wild Turkey 101 has a hint of orange on the finish, which pairs beautifully with the orange peel that is (usually) served as the garnish for a Boulevardier. If you decide to pick up a bottle for a Boulevardier, you might find yourself reaching for a dram neat or on the rocks once you discover the enjoyable bite of this bourbon.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Boulevardiers and Elijah Craig Small Batch are a match made in cocktail heaven because this bourbon is sweet enough to temper the bitterness, yet smokey and woody enough to keep things interesting. It's warm and smooth, and it boasts unique tasting notes like marzipan and wildflower.

Maybe it's the packaging, maybe it's the fact that the company has been around since 1789, or maybe it's the fact that you know it's made in small batches, but something about Elijah Craig Small Batch just feels sophisticated — perfect for a cocktail as inherently classy as a Boulevardier. Despite the nice look, feel, and taste of this option, it's still surprisingly affordable when compared to other bourbons.

You'll notice a touch of pleasant acidity in this bottle, which in the context of a Bouldevarier, pairs well with the orange oils from the garnish and the citrus notes in the Campari.

Knob Creek Smoked Maple

If you want a boulevardier with a little twist, Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon is a great way to achieve a more interesting flavor profile without having to infuse your own whiskey or alter the original recipe. Using Knob Creek Smoked Maple as the base of your cocktail is perfect for when you're craving a fall-inspired Boulevardier that's sweet, smokey, and bitter.

Knob Creek Smoked Maple is made with natural flavors, so you don't have to worry about your drink tasting artificial or leaving you with an unpleasant aftertaste. This option is full-bodied enough to stand up to the other ingredients and contains enough hints of vanilla and caramel to keep the smoke from tasting overwhelming.

Although (just like Negronis) Boulevardiers usually tend to be consumed before a meal, opting for this maple-infused bourbon makes the beverage work well as a post-dinner sipper. The sweet, smokey flavor will transport you to an autumn bonfire under the stars.

Old Forester 86

Since the proof of Old Forester 86 is on the lower end of the spectrum (for whiskey, that is), it works well in a cocktail that's already decidedly boozy. Plus, it's affordable and tastes good for the price. If you're looking for a good "well" Boulevardier, we like using Old Forester a lot better than some other similarly priced options (we won't name any names). 

Old Forrester 86 is one of the bottles that will really surprise you — you might not think to put it in a cocktail like a Boulevardier, but trust us when we tell you it'll get the job done. This brand also offers a taste of history, as it's the only one of its kind that was continuously produced and marketed before, after, and (most interestingly) during prohibition. 

With its slightly sharp, slightly spicy flavor, this bourbon does an impressive job of providing a pleasant kick to cocktails. It's also extremely versatile, so it's perfect to have on hand. If you notice a bar using this as its well whiskey, it's a pretty good indication that you've found yourself in a savvy drinking establishment.