The Aviation Cocktail had one of the biggest comebacks in the American history of cocktails. After the classic gin cocktail had all but disappeared from the scene for almost 50 years, it made a comeback in the USA.
Luckily, the Aviation cocktail is no longer missing on bar menus across the country. And first mentioned by Hugo Ensslin in 1916 in his cocktail book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, the cocktail also has quite a long history.
Aviation cocktail ingredients
The classic Aviation recipe consists of four ingredients: Gin, Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and Crème de Violette.
The result is a beautiful, floral, purple-colored Gin cocktail with a sophisticated vibe. Based on the proportions of the ingredients, you can adjust the shade of the drink.
Crème de Violette
Crème de Violette is a liqueur made of violet flower flavoring and is usually based on Brandy or neutral spirits.
The flavor profile of Crème de Violette is pretty floral with lots of sweetness. Plus, as the name suggests, it is the reason for the beautiful violet color of your cocktail. -The main characteristic that made the Aviation cocktail famous.
There is no specific recipe for a Crème de Violette, which leads to all products having slightly different flavors. Also, the alcohol content can vary. In Europe, though, it's set to a minimum of 15% vol for alcoholic Crèmes.
A Crème de Violette that works great in an Aviation Cocktail is, for instance, the one from Rothman & Winter (22% ABV) made from violet flowers from the Alps.
Other products we can recommend for the Aviation Cocktail are the Crèmes from Giffard (16% ABV) or Monin (16% ABV).
The name and color of the sweet liqueur are derived from the French term Violette, referring to the violet flower. And it is also the forerunner of the Parfait d’Amour liqueur.
Maraschino Liqueur is an Italian Liqueur made of Marasca cherries. That is a type of cherry that grows wildly along the coast of Dalmatia.
The bittersweet, cherry-flavored Maraschino Liqueur also has an almondy note and is an essential ingredient in many cocktails. It is not as sugary as the Creme de Violet and usually has an ABV of 25% to 35%.
The best-known and most-sold Maraschino Liqueur is the one from Luxardo. However, you can also opt for a little more affordable products, for instance, from Lazzaroni.
Gin for the Aviation Cocktail
Since there are so many types of Gins available, you can find many options that don't work too well in an Aviation Cocktail. I recommend using a Gin with a classic, dry flavor profile. Mainly because Crème de Violette is already quite sweet. So you want to balance the sweetness with lemon juice and a Gin that is not too sweet. A typical London Dry Gin should be fine. Alternatively, you could also opt for a Plymouth Gin.
Here's only one thing I have to say, really: make it freshly squeezed lemon juice. Using store-bought citrus juice in cocktails almost always is cutting one corner too many.
You can also consider aging your lemon juice for a few hours to get rid of the bitterness from fresh lemons.
The garnish of the Aviation Cocktail
Using Maraschino liqueur in a cocktail often calls for garnishing it with a Maraschino cherry speared on a cocktail pick. And it's no different here.
If you don't want to spend a fortune on real Maraschino cherries, you can make some at home or look for the more affordable Amarena cherries instead.
However, stay away from the bright red, candied cocktail cherries. Those are cheap imitations, unpleasant to eat, and no good fit for your Aviation.
Aviation cocktail history
While working as a bartender at NYC's Hotel Wallick, bartending legend Hugo Ensslin mentioned the original Aviation recipe in his cocktail book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published in 1916. The purple drink soon gathered quite the fanbase and consequently got published in many other cocktail recipe books, as well.
The end of the Aviation cocktail
The first big downfall for the Aviation Cocktail came in the 1930s when one of the most influential cocktail books in history, the Savoy Cocktail Book, mentioned it. What sounds like a success at first was a tragedy for the drink. Because, regrettably, the author left out one of the core ingredients of the Aviation, the Crème de Violette.
Since the book was so famous, the error spread quickly and was republished hundreds of times without its purple component.
And then, the next big blow came: In the 1960s, Crème de Violette had been discontinued in the US market altogether.
At this stage, it was simply impossible to recreate the classic Aviation recipe according to Ensslin's concept. A disaster and the end for this drink as one of the classic Gin cocktails for the time being.
The comeback of the Aviation
In 2007 the big comeback started. A Minneapolis-based importer named Haus Alpenz decided to bring Crème de Violette back to the US market.
They imported the version from Rothmann & Winter mentioned above. And as soon as the ingredient came back on the market, cocktail bars across the country began putting the Aviation back on the menu.
In the past decade, with the help of platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, the Aviation gained traction. Now it is back in its place as a well-known classic again.
As I mentioned earlier, you can change the hue of an Aviation by altering the proportions of the elements of the drink. Our recipe below uses 1/4 oz of Crème de Violette, but if that purple shade is not what you had in mind, you can slightly increase the amount.
But don't overdo it. Otherwise, your cocktail will turn out way too sweet and floral. And you certainly don't want something resembling a potpourri in your cocktail glass.
- 1 Jigger
- 2 oz Gin London Dry or Plymouth
- 0.5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
- 0.25 oz Crème de Violette
- 0.75 oz Lemon juice
- 1 Maraschino cherry as a cocktail garnish
- Add all ingredients to your cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice and shake until the drink is chilled.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Finally, garnish your Aviation with a Maraschino cherry speared on a cocktail pick.
3 comments on “Aviation - The comeback of a classic Gin cocktail”
Just visited Denver in late November, the bar tender asked my wife what she wanted to drink. She said suprise me. He made her the Aviation. She loved it. The only issue was now I had to purchase all the ingredients. This was not cheap. Giffards Violette, $48.00, luxardo maraschino $58.00, And Peninsula premium cocktail cherries $21.00 Total over $120.00 to purchase all the ingredients. We had too! In the past 10 months, i been traveling through 14 States. Only 2 states heard of the drink. Colorado where we first had it and New Jersey. It seems the Violette is the issue. Plus most bar tenders just mix drinks without any care.
Hope it continues to grow.
I feel you. Buying ingredients for extravagant drinks like the Aviation really can cost a small fortune. But I'm really glad it was worth it. 🙂
You can get this in Des Moines at Proudfood & Bird. I was so thrilled to see it on the menu. But I tend to just make it at home anyway.