The aviation cocktail is a classic drink that has had a tumultuous history. It is a visually striking cocktail well-known for featuring crème de Violette. The floral taste is appealing, and the recipe is simple, harkening back to a bygone era. The combination of gin, cherry, violets, and lemon creates a unique flavor that stands out in cocktails.
However, the main drawback is that crème de Violette, the liqueur responsible for the drink's stunning color, is not always easy to find. While it was not widely available for several decades, it was revived in 2007 by Rothman & Winter (imported by Haus Alpenz). Authentic versions use real violets, resulting in a mildly sweet and floral taste. Although a few other companies produce it today, it remains a hard liqueur.
Despite this, crème de Violette makes the aviation cocktail truly special. Even though the cocktail had been made without it for four decades, it was still being enjoyed. Interestingly, some drinkers have reverted to the maraschino-only recipe, believing that modern crème de Violette does not compare to the original.
The History Behind the Aviation Cocktail
The Aviation cocktail is a mixture of gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de Violette, and lemon juice. Some recipes exclude the crème de Violette. It is typically served in a cocktail glass without ice.
Aviation was invented by Hugo Ensslin, the head bartender at New York's Hotel Wallick, in the early 1900s. The first published recipe appeared in his 1916 book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Ensslin's recipe called for two-thirds El Bart gin, one-third lemon juice, two maraschino liqueur dashes, and two crème de Violette.
Harry Craddock's influential book, Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), did not include crème de violette in his recipe. He called for a mixture of two-thirds dry gin, one-third lemon juice, and two dashes of maraschino. Many bartenders have followed Craddock's lead and excluded the hard-to-find violet liqueur.
Some bartenders substitute crème Yvette, a violet liqueur with additional spices, for crème de Violette.
1 oz. Gin
0.25 oz. Crème de Violette
0.25 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
0.25 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Brandied Cherry
In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and violet liqueur.
Fill the shaker with ice and shake well.
Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the cherry.
When making an aviation cocktail, if you decide not to include the signature crème de violette, it's important to be mindful of the balance of the drink. This small ingredient plays a significant role in preventing the cocktail from becoming overly sour.