The Aviation is one of a handful of classic cocktails that were very obscure 25 years ago but now appear on drink lists across the country and are on the radar of even casual cocktail drinkers.
It’s a simple variant on a gin sour (aka Gimlet) with Maraschino, the Italian cherry liqueur, for the sweetener plus a dash of creme de violette, aka violet liqueur. The latter gives it a cloudy blue-ish hue which hints at the origin of its name.
While very approachable, the Aviation isn’t of those fruity sours you hungrily guzzle down without taking a breath (Strawberry Margarita anyone?). Both of the liqueurs are quite pungent, which adds an unexpected complexity, prompting you to pause and process the flavors as you sip. It's more of a thinking woman's cocktail.
2 oz gin
¾ oz lemon juice
½ oz maraschino
¼ oz simple syrup
scant teaspoon creme de violette
cherry for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice. Shake for 8-10 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the cherry.
If you make an Aviation, let me see!
Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.
Classic Aviation recipes call for just maraschino, but I like to cut it with some simple syrup. Too much maraschino overwhelms the other flavors, but too little doesn’t supply enough sweetness. Luxardo is my preferred brand here, which, thankfully is the easiest to find.
Creme de Violette
Creme de violette is one of those classic cocktail ingredients that was all but defunct 15 years ago but now you have several options to choose from, thank you cocktail nerds. I’ve always used Rothman and Winter’s. But all the other options are all solid as well.
It’s a potent ingredient and employing it is a balancing act. I think you need walk right up to the line of using too much to give it the requisite flavor and color, but it you overdo it the drink becomes overly floral and pretty unappealing. Pour with caution!
The History of Aviation…the Cocktail
The first book the Aviation appeared in was Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, which is often dubbed the last great cocktail book published before prohibition, and rightly so. For along time this book was out of print and overlooked, much like the Aviation itself, but thankfully both have been and unearthed and given their due.
Before Ensslin’s book, most used the Aviation recipe from the Savoy cocktail book in 1930, which does not included violette, making it merely a gin sour with maraschino. That’s a bad thing by any means, though I think addition of creme de violette gives the drink the curveball it needs to to set it apart.
As for the name, as David Wondrich discusses in “Imbibe!”, we don’t know exactly. Though air travel was a budding hot topic at the time, so it’s fair to assume that had something to do with it.