The Bullshot Hits The Bull's Eye

Costantino Armocida, Boisdale of Belgravia’s bar manager, makes the case for the Emperor of Restoratives

By Costantino Armocida

February 14 2023

I was born in the Calabrian town of Locri in Southern Italy, and it was there, at the very tender – and possibly illegal – age of 16, full of wonderment, that I began my career in mixology. Except for the year I spent doing my national service in the Italian army, it has been my life.

I love cocktails. They demand creativity; they bring people together, and most important of all, they make people happy. From the first time I tasted a Negroni, made with Calabrian bergamot at the Affinity Club in Siderno in 1991, they have certainly made me happy. It was magical: the ingredients, the ritual, and the taste – the combination of bitter and sweetness in one glass. My fate was sealed.

But the joys and ingredients of Southern Italy could not keep me there forever. I was hungry to experience the world, and in 1995 I moved to London, where I worked at the Ritz and then the Dorchester, before my appointment with destiny at Boisdale!

The Bullshot returns to Boisdale restaurants from August 2022

In this issue, I want to talk about the Bullshot, a wonderful, traditional cocktail that Ranald MacDonald (Boisdale’s founder) and I believe has a place in the Cocktail Hall of Fame. Like the Old Fashioned, the Martini, the Manhattan, and the Martinez, the Bullshot is part of the great American cocktail tradition, created – depending on who you believe – either in Detroit or New Orleans in the mid-20th century. It has helped to repair tired heads ever since.

It’s made with vodka, beef bouillon, Worcester sauce, lemon, Tabasco, and black pepper, garnished with either crispy, grilled bacon or celery. Shaken well and served in a highball glass, it’s a Bloody Mary with biceps. The Bullshot has all the ingredients to clear the head, settle the stomach, and deliver a pleasing savoury punch to restore the faculties and put you in the mood for a hearty lunch.

Some barmen add a dash of stout, but I prefer to focus on getting the basics right and that means using the right amount of broth – too much can overwhelm the other ingredients and too little can make it watery and unsatisfying. But get it right and it is a signal from the Almighty that your day will get better.

I have been doing this job a long time. I often see customers walk into the bar and can tell how they are feeling and what they need. The skill – and I can’t stress enough how brilliant and hard working the Boisdale bar team are – lies in guiding the customer in a particular direction without being overbearing, especially when they might be feeling jaded.

My position at Boisdale pushed me into the front line of this particular brand of pastoral care. Our customers, by and large, how can I put it, tend to enjoy life, and part of my job is to perpetuate that enjoyment. I cannot tell you how many flagging souls have been revived by the Boisdale Bullshot.