In its original guise, it was simply known as the ‘Whiskey Cocktail’ –
under the definition of a cocktail, made public in 1806 in The Balance and
Colombian Repository, as ‘spirits of any kind, bitters, sugar and water’
Count Camillo Negroni concocted it by asking the bartender, Fosco
Scarselli, to strengthen his favorite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin
rather than the normal soda water. The bartender also added an orange
garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify
that it was a different drink.
By one account it was invented in the 1860s by a bartender named Black at
a bar on Broadway near Houston Street. The original “Manhattan cocktail”
was a mix of “American Whiskey, Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters”.
During Prohibition (1920–1933) Canadian whisky was primarily used
because it was available.
During Prohibition the relative ease of illegal gin manufacture led to the
martini’s rise as the predominant cocktail of the mid-20th century in the
United States. With the repeal of Prohibition, and the ready availability of
quality gin, the drink became progressively drier.
The bittersweet interplay between Campari and vermouth remains, but
the whiskey changes the story line. Where the Negroni is crisp and lean,
the Boulevardier is rich and intriguing. There’s a small difference in the
preparation, but the result is absolutely stunning.
The story goes that Bradsell created the drink at Fred’s Club in the late
1980s, when a young model, sidled up to the bar and asked for something
to “wake me up and f**k me up”