If you’ve been reading Spirit.Ed since we’ve launched, you’ll notice that I’m big on gin as a spirit, most notably for the summer months. While vodka is an approachable base spirit that takes on the flavors of whatever you add to it, that also makes it a boring first choice, but gin shines in cocktails and especially so in the classic Aviation.
The history of the Aviation can be traced to Hugo R. Ensslin, the lead bartender for Hotel Wallick in New York. In his 1916 book, simply titled “Recipes for Mixed Drinks,” the Aviation’s recipe is ultra-specific to what was perhaps available at the time.
In Ensslin’s version, his Aviation called for 1 1/2 oz. El Bart gin, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, 2 dashes maraschino liqueur, and 2 dashes crème de violette, shaken over ice and served up in a cocktail glass. The recipe has been altered over time, and some bartenders have replaced the violette, which gives the drink a beautiful purple color, with other liqueurs.
The updated style that most bartenders of note use now is what I’ll share below. It’s the same one I employed for my version, using the old trusty gin of Beefeater London Dry, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette. If a better version of the violette exists, I’m not aware of it as it took quite a bit of work to find this one in my local stores.
2 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz. Crème de Violette
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry if you can, or use a lemon twist. Some versions call for a drier style, adding just a 1/4 oz more of gin.
Once complete, it should look something like this…
As you can see in the photo above, the drink is bright, and I’ve seen versions of it where the purple is much deeper. In further reading, I’ve learned that this is actually what the drink should look like given its name as it should evoke emotions of one with the blue sky and among the clouds.
The taste is slightly sweet, slightly tart, and immediately refreshing. While tequila is definitely the spirit of the summer for many, this is an approachable cocktail for those who say they don’t like gin but want to expand their palettes a bit.
Photo: D.L. Chandler