Bar Brawls Week Four: Will the Real Boulevardier Please Stand Up?

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What’s a Boulevardier? It sounds like a euphemism for a Parisian gigolo, but it literally means, “a frequenter of the Paris boulevards,” or man about town. That was the classic cocktail three local bartenders were tasked with making during round one of last night’s battle. Said bartenders included two well-known men about town and one “sleeper.”

Rob Cox is a familiar face in both Delray and Boca — he mans the bars at 13 American Table and Tryst, while following his true passion as a high school art teacher. James Hartmann hails from Ian’s Tropical Grill in Stuart, but his shenanigans are well-known in Delray. “I’m shocked to see James standing upright,” said Bar Brawls MC Bob Higginbotham. Kareem Lakchira, a native of Morocco and founding partner of the Rusty Hook Tavern in Pompano Beach (New Times' Best Waterfront Dining 2015), was the mystery man. He has a camel. No seriously, watch this promo video:

Anyway... judges were United States Bartender Guild Palm Beach chapter founding board member and Tiki Ono managing partner Josh Gates; certified sommelier and proprietor of the Glamorous Gourmet and the Wine Atelier Stephanie Miskew; and gelato ambassador Koby Cohen of Gelato Petrini in Delray.

Back to the Boulevardier. It goes back to Paris in 1927 and was first featured in The Boulevardier, a magazine modeled after the New Yorker and published by a wealthy young American expat. A cousin of the Negroni, the Boulevardier swaps bourbon for gin. The first secret ingredient was Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, a 90-proof blend of four distinct bourbons. Each bartender had five minutes to make the classic cocktail using the bourbon.

The Boulevardier
1 ½ oz. bourbon
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
Garnish: orange slice, lemon twist or cherry. Stir ingredients well with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish.

First up was Cox, who made the requisite four portions of the drink, plus one. Judge Gates said, “He was a bit inconsistent with the pouring… The drink was a little diluted for me.”

Next up was Hartmann, who had a leg up on this one since the Boulevardier is currently on his cocktail menu at Ian’s Tropical Grill. He garnished the drink with some flaming orange peel.

“Anything that involves fire, I’ll give an extra point for that,” said Miskew.

Gates said, “Anytime you have a classic, straightforward cocktail, it’s the little things that make the difference.”

Lakchira’s turn was next, bringing some “unconventional” tactics, free-pouring the bourbon straight from the bottle, for one. He busted out his drinks in two minutes flat and, like Cox, shook the cocktail before serving it. “It’s a very balanced cocktail,” said Miskew. “I love the hint of sage.” However, Gates was miffed that Lakshira shook his cocktail, which is meant to be stirred.

After the three judges deliberated, it came down to two things: measuring and stirring. The bartenders who measured (Cox and Hartmann) went on to round two. 
The first of round two’s secret ingredients was Tempus Fugit Fernet del Frate Angelico, an Italian amaro (bitter). Fernet may have been created to deal with cholera and malaria but went on to be an all-purpose “tonic” and hangover cure, as well as the go-to after-service shot of trendy tattooed chefs everywhere. It's got weird ingredients like aloe, saffron, mint, and myrrh. Although it can be sipped on its own, it’s widely used as a substitute for ordinary bitters in cocktails.

The final ingredient was Gelato Petrini’s dulce de leche gelato, which lent itself to some interesting dessert cocktail possibilities. On opposite sides of the crowded bar, Hartmann and Cox were given 30 minutes to craft at least two original cocktails.

Hartmann put out the number-one and number-two favorite drinks of the night: a coffee drink with Four Roses bourbon, dulce de leche gelato, coffee, and a float of fernet; and a twist on an old fashioned, with bourbon, fernet, demarara simple syrup, and gelato.

“I’m ordering my old fashioned with fernet from now on,” said Cohen.

A third drink from Hartmann was a creamy apple cider cocktail that, unfortunately, separated too quickly. A fourth was a twist on a Manhattan with bourbon, fernet (in place of vermouth), and two types of bitters — Antica and Angostura. His dessert drink featured bourbon, gelato, an allspice dram, vanilla bitters, and orange peel.

Meanwhile, Cox concocted two dessert drinks — one with Four Roses Bourbon, B&B, gelato and nutmeg, the other with Michter's Rye, B&B, chocolate syrup, and fresh mint. The judges were dismayed that Cox chose to use Michter’s Rye instead of the required Four Roses bourbon.

"It has a nice nose," said Miskew. "But it would have been nicer had you used the secret ingredient." Burn. That foible may have been Cox's undoing, and Hartmann ended up taking the win.
Each week at Bar Brawls, 50/50 raffle tickets are sold — seven tickets for $10 — with half of the proceeds going to Melanoma Initiative. This week, however, raffle ticket proceeds went to help Michelle Granata, a former employee of Tryst in Delray who was critically injured in a car accident earlier this month. 

Stop by next week to see Justin Himmelbaum of Mucho Gusto, Kelly Lozina of 3rd & 3rd, and Taffy Spiller of the Farmer's Table battle it out. Bar Brawls is held Wednesday nights at 9:30 at Max’s Social House from September 30 through December 9. Admission is $10. Max's Social House is located in Delray Beach. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

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