Cocktail of the Week #4: The Aviation

For awhile, the typical version of the Aviation cocktail you could get was something of a puzzling misnomer. This was because the ingredient that gives this drink its azure color and namesake, Creme de Violette, was off the market.

Availability wasn’t the only reason for the change in recipe. Harry Craddock’s uber influential “Savoy Cocktail Book” omitted the Creme de Violette, leading many others to follow in his footsteps.

No disrespect to Harry (who, for some reason, I always imagine looking like Harry Crane from Mad Men), but it seems silly to continue calling such a drink by its signature name when you’re missing such an integral ingredient. But then again we live in spoiled cocktail times where one can get Creme de Violette, Creme Yvette, Boker’s Bitters, Old Tom Gin and a ton of other once-rare items with (relative) ease, so I’m sure my perspective is… skewed.

The recipe for an Aviation goes something like this:

  • 2oz of London Dry Gin
  • .75oz of Lemon Juice
  • .5oz of Maraschino Liqueur (like Luxardo’s, pictured above)
  • .25oz of Creme de Violette

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe (I used a Champagne flute above for photogenic reasons, and really any petite glassware will do).

Okay, first things first: Yes, Creme de Violette is made from violets and it gives cocktails it’s used in a floral and sweet tinge. There are very few brands out there that produce Creme de Violette, with Rothman & Winter being the most widespread and, thankfully, a high quality product. In general, it’s one of those ingredients that works really nicely as a rinse or in very small quantities, but be careful because the floral aspect of Creme de Violette can quickly become cloying if you use too much.

Which brings me to my next point: I tend to try to list ingredients as “parts” rather than ounces, but in this case the potency of the Creme de Violette along with how wonky the least common multiple (how I derive “parts”) worked out encouraged me to use ounces instead. Quick math check for all you cocktail whizzes out there: the “parts” ratio here is 8:3:2:1.

The Aviation is one of those shaken cocktails that packs way more of a punch than you’d expect, even with the heavy dose of Lemon Juice. But if stiff Gin drinks are your thing, you’ll find the Aviation to be right up your alley.

Here’s some things to try based on the Aviation:

  1. Creme de Violette as an unexpected rinse or ingredient. A few cocktails I can see it playing an interesting role in: Margarita, Pegu Club, Martini (with Lemon Twist, not Olive, but hey, you never know).
  2. If you have a few types of Gin, try substituting one of those for the London Dry called for here. Hendrick’s comes to mind, as does the Ransom Old Tom Gin that’s now on the market.
  3. If this recipe is too sour for you due to the Lemon Juice, try cutting back to .5oz and garnishing the drink with a Lemon Twist instead.

Questions? Comments? Discoveries you need to share before you go to bed half-drunk? Let us know.

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