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Cocktail of the Month: The Aviation

Cocktail of the Month: The Aviation

A gin cocktail for the coming warm weather

I am happy to report (if only for its reputation) that the month of March has lived up to the hype, and has in fact come in like a lion. In a couple of weeks we’ll be able to confirm that it went out like a lamb, but that’s a report for another, sweeter time. With the harshness that March can sometimes bring in terms of weather, I find that I need to assure myself that spring really is coming soon by jumping into my spring cocktail repertoire. What is this repertoire made up of, you ask? Why gin, of course!

One of my favorite cocktails of all time, and this month’s Cocktail of the Month, is the Aviation, for a variety of reasons. First, the inclusion of gin in any cocktail is so necessary for the warm-weather months, and what better way to show off the flavors of a London Dry than with some lemon juice and cherry liqueur? Second, I find this cocktail is incredibly approachable when it comes to switching from winter libations to spring drinks. It’s slightly bitter, which is what many of us enjoy when it’s cold out, but it’s also crisp and refreshing — two things that are perfect for a spring cocktail.

For this cocktail, as with any, it’s important to focus on quality. Since there are only three ingredients, they should be the best ingredients you can find. Of these three ingredients, the one to be the most careful with, is the Maraschino. This is not to be confused with the red sticky liquid that accompanies maraschino cherries in the jar. Maraschino is a quality bitter cherry cordial that can be purchased at any wine and spirits store, so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle to put this drink together in no time, satisfaction guaranteed.

Read on for a recipe for the perfect Aviation cocktail, provided by the ever-wonderful Dave Wondrich. Let us know what you think, and tell us about your favorite gin cocktails in the comments section. Cheers!

Click here for the Aviation recipe.

— Sara Kay, The Spir.it


The Aviation Recipe

Record delays. Overbooked flights. Security lines.

Does anyone remember when flying was fun?

In its early days, aviation was just about the most dashing thing around, and the whole idea of taking to the sky was as fantastic a dream as any. Back then, it was all leather flight jackets and pilot's goggles, the roar of the propeller and the wind in your hair now, we're stuck with cramped seats, missed connections, and walking around in public in our socks.

Aviation's glory days even inspired the creation of a cocktail. Once the secret-handshake drink of the cocktail cognoscenti, today this drink is as common as an extended layover. A mixture of gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur, the Aviation is a very friendly introduction to classic cocktails--and let's face it, if you're flying this summer, you're going to need a drink.

Why is it called the aviation? Because the drink's earliest printed recipe (in 1917) called for the inclusion of crème de violette (creme Yvette was a notable proprietary brand), a violet-flavored and colored liqueur that gave the drink a cerulean hue that brought to mind the wild, blue yonder. Production of creme Yvette was discontinued decades ago, but fortunately, the violet liqueur from Rothman & Winter is now widely available. Keep an eye out for a bottle, so you can mix up an authentic Aviation.

Note: There are as many different versions of the Aviation as there are rules about objects you can bring onboard an aircraft. Most concern the proportion of lemon juice to maraschino. You may wish to adjust the measurements to your personal taste.


Aviation Cocktail Recipe

My first introduction to an Aviation cocktail was at a party held in a Soho bar a few years ago. I was swept away by the allure of an elegant martini glass filled with a very pretty violet coloured, intoxicating gin-based tipple. The taste rapidly took me back to childhood and my love for those dinky little Parma Violet sweets, but this time it was a little more grown-up, made with a heady combination of gin, Crème de Violette, and Maraschino liqueur.

The Aviation is a classic gin cocktail that dates back to the early 1900s, appearing in Huge Enslinn&rsquos book &ldquoRecipes for Mixed Drinks&rdquo in 1916 while he was tending bar at New York City&rsquos Hotel Wallick. However, this classic cocktail became somewhat forgotten for decades to come, mainly due to the fact that one of its main ingredients Crème de Violette disappeared from the American market altogether in the 1960s. In fact, it was not until 2007 in Minneapolis when importer Haus Alpenz began importing Rothman & Winter crème de violette from Austria right at the height of the craft cocktail renaissance, that American bartenders rediscovered the Aviation cocktail, and it made its way back to bar menus across the United States.

This unique cocktail is a bit like marmite, you&rsquoll either love it or hate it. Fortunately, I am a lover and was only too delighted to try my hand at making one at home and it&rsquos really very simple as long as you have all the right ingredients. I am a real gin bunny, and I do think you need an excellent bottle of gin, I can recommend Aviation Gin which is a distinguished gin from Portland, Oregon. You will also need the key ingredients &ndash Crème de Violette which is made from parma violet petals and also features blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, orange peel, honey, and vanilla, it gives it a delightful floral bouquet and a notable purple colour. The Maraschino liqueur adds a touch of bittersweet cherries and I add a dash of fresh lemon juice to take the edge of the floral notes and add a bit of acidity. We at London Unattached love trying out new cocktails and this one is definitely worth a go.

The Aviation cocktail is perfect for a spring or summer evening, but be warned, it may be pretty but it&rsquos got a real punch to it! I used Aviation Gin, Edmond Briottet Crème de Violette and Giffard Maraschino liqueur. I think it works best in a martini glass.


Review:

Citrus, floral gin with a slightly sour finish.

The recipe above has been my preferred recipe for some years. However, in early 2020, I decided that the maraschino and violet were overly dominant so in a quest for harmony I reduced these to allow botanical gin notes to emerge. I then rebalanced with 5ml sugar.

45 ml Dry gin
12.5 ml Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
5 ml Crème de violette
15 ml Lemon juice
5 ml Sugar syrup
10 ml Chilled water (omit if wet ice)

Thanks to comments and emails, several months after, I came to my senses and reverted to my original recipe.


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Every single cocktail book I have in my house has a different recipe for the Aviation Cocktail. Trader Vic’s version, oddly enough, contains equal portions of Dubonnet and sweet sherry, but all of the others have the same three ingredients in various quantities: gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. Gary Regan, in The Joy of Mixology states quite firmly that the whole of the cocktail and its ratios depend on the dryness of the maraschino liqueur.

From what I have been able to glean from the Aviation post on eGullet, the cream of the crop when it comes to maraschino includes Luxardo and Maraska. Assuming that they vary in funkiness, I still have 4 distinctly different recipes to work with. Obviously these slight variants account for the taste of the author, so let’s put the tasting team to the test. For all of the cocktails we’ll be using Luxardo maraschino.

David Wondrich

There was a very strong lemon taste and aroma that took over this cocktail entirely. Although perceptable, the marachino lost all of its funkiness as it struggled to be seen in the back of the auditorium. It leaves much to be desired.

Dale DeGroff

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4oz lemon juice (the amount was printed as 2/4, but I’m assuming that was a misprint)

Dale’s version is completely different, with the maraschino really playing a major role in the taste. The funkiness definitely came through, but the taste of lemon seemed just a touch off.

Dr. Cocktail

Very similiar to the first, this was my least favorite of the batch. It was by no means untasty, but you may be able to achieve the same taste by sipping gin by itself and licking a lemon as you go. The maraschino didn’t even make it to the show in this one.

Gary Regan

I was getting worried that I may just have to give up on my quest and settle for a less than perfect version of the Aviation, but Gary Regan has saved the day. The balance of lemon juice in this version was perfect with just the right amount of tartness. The marachino helped balance out the whole ordeal, and even the juniper taste from the gin made an appearance. This recipe is clearly the winner.

Please feel free to do some comparisons on your own and put your comments in here. I’d be very happy to hear from others that I’m completely wrong and that I should dive right back in.

15 Responses to “Recipe Comparison – The Aviation Cocktail”

15 Comments to “ Recipe Comparison – The Aviation Cocktail”

YES! I enjoy the taste tests muchly! How about a test of different Gins next?

Greetings from an Aviation addict! It’s my favorite cocktail by a mile, and my husband loves it as well — it’s our house cocktail. I’ve tried various other maraschino-containing cocktails, and not liked any others nearly as much, with the exception of El Floridita, a daiquiri with a bit of maraschino. I started with Maraska, the only brand available here in Mpls-St. Paul, and then read so much about Luxardo I actually went on a one-person campaign to get it stocked here! I started with the larger liquor stores, who by that time had run out of Maraska and told me it was “no longer available.” I called a couple of larger distributors here, to no avail. Finally, I found the importer (Preiss) online, and sent a plea, which got me the info for the small distributor who *could* get it, and then I had to poke and prod him and his clients to persuade them to consider buying a case! (In case anyone reading this is in the Twin Cities region, it’s now at Surdyk’s.)

Anyhow, I DO prefer Luxardo to Maraska– it’s drier and sort of spicy, whereas Maraska has a grappa-like quality, while being sweeter– not unbearable, just not as delectable to my taste. A friend living in Munich got interested in it all, and is mad about a brand he gets in Germany– can’t recall the name, but it’s REALLY different, sort of floral. They drink it in the Yale cocktail (I can’t find the recipe anymore– there are a couple of very different “Yale” concoctions, but this one is gin, Maraschino and maybe orange bitters). They reported that they didn’t care for the Aviation, but when I tried one with their brand, I wasn’t crazy about it either. Then I served them one with Luxardo, and they were amazed at the excellence of it!

As for proportions, your preferred recipe is exactly the way I like mine: 2:.5:.5.

And BTW– as a reward for my persistence on Maraschino’s behalf, Henry Preiss (the Luxardo importer) sent me an apron with a huge Maraschino label printed on it!

Thanks for the comment! It’s great to hear about other’s spirit quests. Luxardo was actually easy for me to get here in Pennsylvania (I know, a shock) I had to place a special liquor order (SLO), but I was able to order just one bottle.

I’m currently on a mission to find Lemon Hart Demerara Rums – both the 80 and 151 proofs. Jeff Berry’s Grog Log calls for lots of it, and the best PA can do for me is by a case. As much as I’d enjoy two cases of this fine rum, that’s a pretty price to pay. I’m seeing what other methods I can use to obtain it, but so far it looks like I’ll have to rely on friends in other states to “offer gifts” when they visit.

I wonder if I could get in touch with the importer and see if they’d be willing to ship the state less than a case. I’m guessing not too many people order it, so maybe it’s a possibility. How did you go about finding the importer for Luxardo?

Hello again! Sorry not to have checked back sooner– I could have gotten your quest under way last month.

I found Preiss Imports through idle Googling, the kind of researching I do when I have all kinds of important work to do.-) The fellow you’ll reach when you email [email protected] is the owner, Henry Preiss. He strikes me as a very sympatico fellow– even cordial, if you can bear the pun!

I would be very surprised if he’d ship less than a case, but you never know. What’s 12 bottles, anyhow? Won’t you buy at least a couple? And haven’t you addicted your friends to the Aviation? I’ve been doing my best to give the impression of popular demand here in Minneapolis by buying extra bottles for gifts to friends, and for storage at home in case of the Rapture, in which event my husband and I will luxuriate in Aviations with all the rest of our ne-er-do-well pals left behind here on the glorious Earth!

I’d like to see some bars get hold of Maraschino. I never see it anywhere. Then again, I have no confidence in modern bartenders, who can’t be bothered to measure anything. That makes most of the vintage cocktails not worth bothering with, unless I get to make them myself. If they stare blankly when you try to get bitters in your Manhattan, you can be sure that a beer would be a better bet.

Maybe you’ll get your own Luxardo Maraschino apron out of Henry Preiss!

PREISS IMPORTS
PO Box 829
Ramona, Ca 92065
Office (760) 789-6010
Fax (760) 789-5461
http://www.preissimports.com

“Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, by Hugo Ensslin (1916)

* 2 oz Gin
* 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
* 1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur
* 1 tsp Violet Liqueur (Parfait Amour)

After reading Paul’s post on Parfait Amour and seeing this recipe, I may just have to put in a special order for a bottle of Marie Brizard’s version.

This one is not an Aviation, but also very nice and interesting:

* 4cl Gin (Tanqueray if available)
* 2cl Maraschino
* 2cl Fresh Lemon Juice
* 2cl Cream of Coconut

Shake well on ice, serve with cherry. Enjoy! :-)

I just happened to happen upon this website and read Maria’s story. I just purchased Luxardo Maraschino at Surdyk’s yesterday and I realize I have her to thank for its availability, so…thank you, Maria!

[…] over at Kaiser Penguin did a superb job of combining several recipes from the bartending dream team. If confronted in […]

[…] of my favorite gin drinks. I went with Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology recipe, as found in the Kaiser Penguin recipe comparison. It’s my favorite Aviation recipe. As I’d hoped, the blue of the iris held out in the […]

Just stumbled on this thread. A correction on the original Ensslin recipe: My book specifies 2/3 gin 1/3 lemon, which would be 1 ounce, not 1/2.

However, I think you’ve headed in the right direction. I back off the lemon slightly and up the maraschino, simply because I adore the flavor and balance it provides

I tend to use 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz lemon, 1/2 oz maraschino and 1 tsp creme violette

JL’s ratios are exactly how I make my Aviation. I prefer Luxardo, Plymouth Gin and Rothman and Winter Crème de Violette.

I’ve fallen in love with the Aviation Cocktail. Sadly, attaining the ingredients for many classic cocktails in the land of Cheese and Beer requires a trip to Sam’s in Chicago. The one thing I’ve noted in creating this cocktail is that a little Creme de Violette can go a long, long way. I believe a 1/4 TSP is serves as the proper amount in the recipes mentioned above. I’ve seen some recipes call for as much as 1 TSP which is far too much in my opinion.

The resurgence in classic cocktails in Wisconsin, and Madison in particular, has been lead in large part by a micro-distillery in Madison, WI – Death’s Door Spirits. Their gin, a pre-prohibition style gin (sweeter gin) mixes as well as any Gin I’ve tried in classic cocktails.

hey, the aviation, amazing!! definately for the refined palate. just a heads up sort of thing, recipe down under in most descerning cocktail bars is and ill do this is (mls)
45 plymouth
15 maraschino
30 lemon
Most bars leave out the cremde de violette even if they stock it, the cocktail just takes on a differnt balance and to me not a better one(just my opinion though) and i have a feeling that the savoy cocktail book agreed by famously leaving it out too… ive noticed that many recipes posted have equal parts lemon to maraschino. this is the first place ive herad that but again just seeing whats out there… happy days!

I’ll have to try Gary Regan’s version. I’ve used Flighty’s version (a.k.a. Alberta Straub from San Fran, “Cocktails on the Fly” website) for a few years which has similar ratio of maraschino to lemon as JL’s, but even stronger flavor compared to the gin:

1 1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Maraschino liq
1 oz Lemon juice
1 dash Simple syrup
1 dash Creme de Violette

I agree with Auzzie on the CdV – it doesn’t do anything good for the taste, but just a small dollup doesn’t affect the taste much and the coloring is cool. How else can you call it an “Aviation”?


Aviation Cocktail

Among the cocktails on the roster of classics, the Aviation has had a bit of a bumpy ride. Its inclusion in the Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 lent the recipe some credibility and appeal, and the drink also made appearances in Paul Harrington&rsquos 1998 book Cocktail, Dale DeGroff&rsquos The Craft of the Cocktail, and Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh.

Each of these volumes reprinted the classic Savoy recipe, which called for a three-part drink of gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur. But that Aviation was descended from an older recipe with a mysterious fourth ingredient&mdashcrème de violette. The floral liqueur was a key element in Hugo Ensslin&rsquos recipe from his 1916 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, which gave the cocktail its purple sky-at-dusk hue.

But crème de violette largely disappeared from American bars decades ago&mdashmaking the drink all the more appealing to intrepid bartenders. It wasn&rsquot until 2007 that a commercial version of crème de violette became available stateside again, when Haus Alpenz collaborated with Austria&rsquos Rothman & Winter to re-create and import a bottling. Ensslin&rsquos version of the Aviation began to pop up on more menus. &ldquoIt was the first classic cocktail we served for our guests when we opened more than 10 years ago,&rdquo says Gary Crunkleton, owner of The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. &ldquoMy plan was to introduce the Aviation as a classic drink that was better than what was being served at the time. I hoped guests would like it given the Cosmo&rsquos popularity.&rdquo

With crème de violette now available from multiple producers, the Aviation may have lost a bit of its original mystique, but the cocktail has nonetheless secured its footing among the canon of classics.

2 oz. London dry gin
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
1 barspoon maraschino liqueur
1 barspoon crème de violette
¼ oz. simple syrup (1:1)

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: coupe or cocktail
Garnish: Amarena or Marasca cherry

Shake all of the ingredients with ice, double strain into a chilled glass, then garnish.


Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation cocktail – my favourite! So named for its pale lavender hue, which is said to resemble the colour of the sky. The Aviation cocktail is a classic and delicious gin cocktail. Fruity liquors, citrus and gin are shaken together to make the perfect party cocktail recipe. You will love it!

This cocktail is a riff on a gin sour with the addition of Maraschino instead of simple syrup as a sweetener. It’s a floral, dry, delicate cocktail that all gin drinkers will like. Good for springtime and dreaming of flying off on your holidays.

It is so called because of the pale blue hue given to the drink by the Creme de Violette, celebrating the glamorous hayday of air travel.

The History

According to liquor.com, the Aviation is a classic gin cocktail dating back to the turn of the 20th century, and it first appeared in Huge Enslinn’s book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” in 1916 while he was tending bar at New York City’s Hotel Wallick.

The Ingredients

Gin – I used Sipsmith® London Dry Gin which is one of my favourite gin brands. Choosing the right gin brand is very important when making the perfect Aviation cocktail.

Crème de violette liqueur – a springtime floral touch of velvety and fruity violet flavour!

Maraschino liqueur – the classic cherry liqueur made through infusion, distillation and then aging. Each bottle takes 4 years to make.

Maraschino cherries – are preserved, sweetened cherries, typically made from light-coloured sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties. The name maraschino originates from the Marasca cherry of Croatian origin and the maraschino liqueur made from it, in which Marasca cherries were crushed and preserved after being pickled.

Must try cocktail: Dirty Martini

The Recipe

Toss all ingredients except the maraschino cherries in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice cubes and shake well until chilled.

Then strain into chilled cocktail glasses. I used classic coupe cocktail glasses. Garnish each cocktail with a Maraschino cherry and a ¼ slice of lemon. Cheers!

“Cocktails are society’s most enduring invention.”

Elsa Maxwell


The Aviation was created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, in the early twentieth century. [1] The first published recipe for the drink appeared in Ensslin's 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Ensslin's recipe called for 1½ oz. El Bart gin, ¾ oz. lemon juice, 2 dashes maraschino liqueur, and 2 dashes crème de violette, a violet liqueur which gives the cocktail a pale purple color. [2]

Harry Craddock's influential Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) omitted the crème de violette, calling for a mixture of two-thirds dry gin, one-third lemon juice, and two dashes of maraschino. [3] Many later bartenders have followed Craddock's lead, leaving out the difficult-to-find violet liqueur. [4]

Creme Yvette, a violet liqueur made with additional spices, is sometimes substituted for crème de violette. [5]


Cocktail of the Month: The Aviation - Recipes

The Original Aviation

* 2 ounces gin
* 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
* 1/3 ounce maraschino liqueur
* 1/6 ounce crème de violette
* Maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake until cold, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

The Aviation is another one of those cocktails that everyone makes a little bit differently. This recipe was taken from Jay Hepburn’s Oh Gosh!, titled The Original Aviation.

This recipe replaces an earlier one I had on this page from The Art of the Bar, which omitted the crème de violette. Also using one part lemon juice to two parts gin, this was an extremely tart drink, with the lemon juice completely overpowering the other flavors. In an attempt to fix this, I first tried adding a little more maraschino liqueur. When this didn’t quite do it, I decided to take the edge off the lemon juice by adding a splash of simple syrup and mixing it again. While the result was still very much a lemon drink, this tempered the tartness and made it more drinkable, with a more pronounced maraschino flavor. 1

1. This maraschino flavor should not be confused with that of maraschino cherries — maraschino liqueur is made by distilling cherries along with their crushed pits, with the result then sweetened with cane syrup and aged. It’s slightly bitter and is not nearly as sweet as imagined by people who aren’t familiar with the liqueur.


Classic Aviation Cocktail

(13 votes, average: 4.46 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1 x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The Aviation cocktail is a 1900’s mixed drink with a lovely purple hue! This sweet tart classic cocktail is so tasty, it’s now back in style.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces ( 4 tablespoons ) gin
  • 3/4 ounce ( 1 1/2 tablespoons ) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce ( 1 tablespoon ) Maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce ( 1 tablespoon ) ​crème de violette
  • For the garnish: Luxardo cocktail cherry

Instructions

  1. Add the gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and ​crème de violette to a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice and shake it until cold.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry, if desired.

Keywords: Aviation cocktail, Purple cocktail

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