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Aviation

Aviation


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Maraschino liqueur sounds obscure but it's often hiding in plain sight. Seek it for this simple, classic cocktail.

Ingredients

  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce maraschino liqueur (such as Luxardo)
  • Maraschino cherry (for serving)

Recipe Preparation

  • Combine gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.

  • Place cherry in a martini glass and strain cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer or a slotted spoon into glass.

Reviews Section

How to Make an Aviation Cocktail

*Freshly squeezed and strained through fine mesh, if possible.

The Aviation cocktail is a tricky drink. Not necessarily because its ingredients are complex, but because it's not easily understood. Is it supposed to be white or purple? Does it taste good or &ldquolike hand soap,&rdquo as one bartender infamously said? There are those who&rsquod rather not touch the thing and those who swear by the Aviation&rsquos elegance. To understand that elegance, drinks historian David Wondrich said it best for Esquire when he urged everyone to forget air travel and all of its horrors as we know them now:

When you think of air travel as an art, the Aviation is your drinking companion. It speaks to luxuries we aren&rsquot often afforded anymore, like legroom on a trans-Atlantic flight. We make ours the old-school way, without crème de violette, for a slightly acidic, slightly sweet drink.

A Little Background

Google &ldquoAviation cocktail&rdquo and most of the results will show you a pale purple drink in a cocktail glass. Obviously, our isn&rsquot purple. That&rsquos because this Aviation recipe dates back to 1930, before bartenders started adding crème de violette to the mix to give it that purple hue, as well as an air of elitism. You see, both crème de violette and maraschino liqueur weren't exactly easy to track down back in the day. There was a span of years in the 20th Century when, if you ordered an Aviation with both, it really showed you knew your stuff. Over time, fewer and fewer people knew about the Aviation. Then, in the past decade, crème de violette became more readily available, enough to give the drink a boost in popularity&mdashbut not really enough to take it from a well-traveled tradition to a modern classic. Seriously, just try ordering one at an airport bar and see what they serve you in return.

If You Like This, Try These

In search of an old-timey gin cocktail? We have a few hundred we could toss your way, but for now, a Gimlet (just gin and lime) or a gin Martini will suit. Or perhaps a Tom Collins, a G&T, or a Silver Gin Fizz if you&rsquod like something lighter on the pallet. And the Prohibition-era Last Word cocktail has gin, Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice&mdashmuch like an Aviation&mdashwith a helping of green chartreuse.

What You Need

Here&rsquos what you need to do an Aviation justice, beyond what you might be able to dig out of the fridge or cupboard.


Like the world's finest gins, Aviation is distilled using a proprietary maceration recipe that produces a pure medley of botanical flavor.

STEP 1: INFUSION

It all starts with our precise blend of botanicals – cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise seed, sarsaparilla, juniper, and two kinds of orange peel. The botanicals are suspended in a pure, neutral grain spirit for 18 hours in macerating tanks.

STEP 2: DISTILLATION

The macerate is then pumped into a still along with pure water. Steam jackets heat the macerate, the vapors go into the condenser, which cools the vapors to form the gin distillate.

STEP 3: THE CUT

In a meticulously monitored process, the first fluid leaving the still, the "heads," is removed. Collecting the "heart of the spirit" throughout the run, the distillers then determine the end of the cycle and make the final cut, "the tails." This process takes approximately 7 hours and at this point, the "heart cut" is 142 proof.

STEP 4: BLENDING & BOTTLING

The "heart cut" is transferred to a blending tank where pure water is added, bringing the gin to the desired 84 proof. It is then sent to the bottling line for filling, capping, and labeling. Aviation is then hand-packed into boxes and ready to ship.


Best Practices: When Making an Aviation, Play With Proportions

The Aviation is included among the cocktails on the International Bartenders Association’s list of “Unforgettables” — 33 classic recipes well-versed barkeeps should be able to pull from their back pockets. In truth, at no point during its 100-odd-year history has the Aviation flown so high as other drinks on that list, or approached the altitude of the Manhattan or Martini. But that’s not to say this cocktail is somehow bland or unremarkable like a long haul flight. In fact, the Aviation is quite the opposite.

Invented in 1916 by Hugo Ensslin, a German bartender working in New York, the Aviation combines gin, lemon juice, Maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette. Of those, the final ingredient — which gives this cocktail its signature sky-blue hue — proves most polarizing. Add with too much gusto, and the violet-infused liqueur can transform the drink into a potpourri of floral candy and soapy lavender notes. Add too little, and it misses the point.

For many years during the 20th century, bartenders even omitted crème de violette from their Aviation builds, in part because famed 1920s-era bartender Harry Craddock (intentionally or otherwise) did not include it in his version of the recipe in his renowned “Savoy Cocktail Book.” Even if they’d cared to include it, the ingredient was unavailable to American bartenders for most of the second half of the century.

Everything You Can Order Online To Stock Your Home Bar For The Long Haul

Crème de violette was finally returned when Eric Seed, founder of the influential spirits importer Haus Alpenz, reintroduced the intensely colored liqueur to American palates in 2007.

The Aviation enjoyed a brief moment in the limelight. It was a notable component of America’s cocktail renaissance. But nowadays, discerning palates disagree over whether the Aviation should actually be ranked among the good or the bad of the cocktails resuscitated by that movement. (All, at least, would agree that this drink most certainly is not ugly, thanks to the vivid hue imparted by crème de violette.)

Love it or hate it, the Aviation is one drink that all cocktail enthusiasts should know how to make. Perfecting the drink provides worthy lessons in balance, the subjectivity of flavors, and the downside of following recipes with religious obedience.

Ready for liftoff? Here are five timeless tips for perfecting the Aviation cocktail.

What to Do When Making the Aviation

Build the cocktail around crème de violette (and your tolerance for the ingredient).

While gin is the main constituent of the Aviation, crème de violette defines the drink. Given the liqueur’s strong, sometimes polarizing flavor, it’s often included by the bar-spoonful, rather than in fractions of ounces. But before you even pick up the shaker, some bartenders recommend first analyzing the version of the liqueur you have on hand, as different brands have varying flavor profiles.

“Build the cocktail around the violette you’re using,” says Brock Schulte, beverage director of Kansas City’s acclaimed cocktail bar The Monarch. Some examples, like Rothman & Winter, are bold and floral with a strong backbone, Schulte says. Others, such as Tempus Fugit’s Liqueur de Violettes, are lighter in style. By first tasting the liqueur, you can determine how much you want to include in your Aviation, and how much acidity (lemon juice) and sweetness (Maraschino liqueur) you will then want to add for balance.

For those looking to go full throttle with the crème de violette — up to ½ or ¾ ounce — introducing simple syrup also helps. “I’ve found that even Rothman & Winter crème de violette is not as complex as I want it to be,” says Boston-based bar consultant Ezra Star. “So I tend to up the quantity of the violette and add a bar spoon of simple syrup just to round it out really well.”

For those on the opposite end of the spectrum, Las Vegas-based beverage hospitality consultant Francesco Lafranconi recommends adding micro doses using an atomizer. “Add a couple of mists over your glass, strain in the shaken drink [minus the crème de violette], and spray two more mists before you serve,” he says.

While it requires some extra gadgetry, this (non-traditional) technique adds the bright, floral aromas with no risk of the liqueur hijacking the palate.

Decide on a style of gin, and adjust the recipe accordingly.

At this point, preparing a well-balanced Aviation may seem a bit like spinning plates, but there’s still one more considerable variable to add to the equation.

“The gin choice makes a big difference,” says David Yee, assistant manager at Columbus, Ohio’s Oddfellows Liquor Bar. From juniper-heavy London Dry to light and floral New Western, all styles are welcome in this drink, but the amount being added should be adjusted accordingly.

“If you’re going London Dry, I would use 1 ½ ounces. But if you’re using a more modern gin that has a lot of citrus peel, I would use 2 ounces,” says Yee. “You really want the gin to drive the drink.”

Serve in a Nick and Nora glass.

The Aviation is typically served inside a coupe or Martini glass, both of which provide visually striking presentation and shareability. When selecting glassware, though, there’s more to consider than how the drink looks.

According to Star, if the Aviation is instead poured into a chilled Nick and Nora glass, the glass’s slimmer profile helps promote the drink’s aromatic qualities.

“When you smell it [inside a Nick and Nora], it’s more concentrated and you get more of the florals,” Star says. “With glasses that are a little wider, I don’t think you can smell the violette as much.”

What to Avoid When Making the Aviation

Don’t be afraid to play with proportions.

Some cocktails, such as the Negroni, have recipes that are so well established they might as well be etched in stone. The Aviation is not one such drink.

Bartenders agree the four-ingredient recipe should be taken as a guideline rather than scripture. This is, admittedly, daunting for inexperienced home bartenders — and a tried and tested template is, of course, a great place to start. But don’t be afraid to tinker, bartenders say.

“At the end of the day, it should be about what you like,” says Lafranconi. “Some people like their Aviation sweeter, some like it more sour, others more aromatic — it’s all about experimenting.”

Lafranconi is also not afraid to riff on the drink by including non-traditional ingredients. A bar spoon of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur can up the floral complexity, he says, while a splash of Prosecco creates a more approachable version — a sort of Aviation-French 75 hybrid.

Never “float” the crème de violette.

Those seeking the perfect Instagram snap may be tempted to “float” the crème de violette on top of the cocktail rather than including it in the shaker with the other ingredients. The separation of the different colored solutions is, admittedly, visually stunning. But if you plan on drinking your cocktail, sink this idea.

“Never float the violette. That’s like, the worst way to serve this drink,” says Yee. He adds that crème de violette “is not a liqueur you want to serve warm.”

After all, you’ll want your Aviation to do more than float you’ll want it to soar.


Takumi's Aviation

In 2010, I tasted the very best Aviation cocktail I’ve ever encountered. And more than a few of these sky-blue babies have glided down my throat over the years. I was in Athens helping to judge the Diageo World Class Bartender Competition, and the bartender who prepared the cocktail was Takumi Watanabe who works (still) at The Sailing Bar in the city of Sakurai, Japan.

Takumi’s version of the Aviation took my breath away, and along with a Martinez made for me in London by Ago Perrone in 2006, these are the only two cocktails I’ve tasted in my entire life that have made such a long-lasting impression on me.

I never knew what it was that set Takumi’s Aviation apart from the rest, but I recently contacted him to talk about his recipe, and I got a lightbulb moment when he mentioned that since there was no crème de violette available to him at the time he had used Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, a liqueur that’s similar in color to the original ingredient but boasts orange and vanilla notes rather than the more floral notes found in crème de violette.

Takumi contacted the good folks at Diageo to confirm what he had told me, but nobody presently working there was in Athens in 2010, so nobody really remembers what he used.

Convinced that my Japanese friend’s initial memory of the drink was probably the most accurate record of what went down, I experimented with Takumi’s recipe, and I’m 99.99 percent sure it was Parfait Amour that made his drink so incredibly special.


Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation cocktail – my favourite! So named for its pale lavender hue, which is said to resemble the colour of the sky. The Aviation cocktail is a classic and delicious gin cocktail. Fruity liquors, citrus and gin are shaken together to make the perfect party cocktail recipe. You will love it!

This cocktail is a riff on a gin sour with the addition of Maraschino instead of simple syrup as a sweetener. It’s a floral, dry, delicate cocktail that all gin drinkers will like. Good for springtime and dreaming of flying off on your holidays.

It is so called because of the pale blue hue given to the drink by the Creme de Violette, celebrating the glamorous hayday of air travel.

The History

According to liquor.com, the Aviation is a classic gin cocktail dating back to the turn of the 20th century, and it first appeared in Huge Enslinn’s book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” in 1916 while he was tending bar at New York City’s Hotel Wallick.

The Ingredients

Gin – I used Sipsmith® London Dry Gin which is one of my favourite gin brands. Choosing the right gin brand is very important when making the perfect Aviation cocktail.

Crème de violette liqueur – a springtime floral touch of velvety and fruity violet flavour!

Maraschino liqueur – the classic cherry liqueur made through infusion, distillation and then aging. Each bottle takes 4 years to make.

Maraschino cherries – are preserved, sweetened cherries, typically made from light-coloured sweet cherries such as the Royal Ann, Rainier, or Gold varieties. The name maraschino originates from the Marasca cherry of Croatian origin and the maraschino liqueur made from it, in which Marasca cherries were crushed and preserved after being pickled.

Must try cocktail: Dirty Martini

The Recipe

Toss all ingredients except the maraschino cherries in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice cubes and shake well until chilled.

Then strain into chilled cocktail glasses. I used classic coupe cocktail glasses. Garnish each cocktail with a Maraschino cherry and a ¼ slice of lemon. Cheers!

“Cocktails are society’s most enduring invention.”

Elsa Maxwell


The Aviation Cocktail

Once referred to as a “forgotten classic,” the Aviation became one of the most popular gin cocktails in bars across America for a time. The earliest written mention of the drink was in Hugo Ensslin’s book published in 1916, titled "Recipes for Mixed Drinks." The recipe called for gin, lemon juice, Maraschino and a then-obscure French liqueur, crème de violette. Some believe the drink may have been lost to cocktail history if it had not been later included in "The Savoy Cocktail Book" by Harry Craddock, which listed an alternative recipe that omitted the hard-to-find violette liqueur.

Soon after the turn of the 21st century, the Aviation started making a comeback as bartenders began reviving Prohibition-era drinks. “It seemed like one of the first shaken gin cocktails that guests and bartenders alike were familiar with,” says Ms. Franky Marshall, a highly influential bartender and educator based in NYC. “It was always a crowd-pleaser, even for people who weren't sure if they actually liked gin.”

Marshall says that as the Aviation’s popularity grew, so too did demand for crème de violette, which prompted Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz to start importing a crème de violette into the U.S. — so bartenders could make a “proper" Aviation.

The Aviation is a delicate balance of tart and floral flavors, but due to its attractive sky blue or blush purple hue for which it is known, it’s often tempting to be too heavy-handed with the crème de violette. “When made properly, it's easy, approachable, and has that ‘not-too-sweet’ profile that people always ask for,” says Marshall. “When made poorly however, it can be overly tart and pucker-inducing. And as much as I love anything with a deep purple hue, this drink should not be one of them.”

For this drink, ms. franky marshall recommends using a more “modern” style gin, vs. a juniper-forward London dry style. She also notes a variance in the amount of Maraschino liqueur used, because the level of sweetness often varies brand to brand.


Why Is It Purple?

Historically, Crème de Violette is what causes this nearly-forgotten classic cocktail to be violet in color. This may be where the drink got its name — perhaps the inventor imagined this deep-indigo hue was what pilots saw when flying at night. Or at least that explanation made total sense to us when we were three deep.

If you want to make the color really pop, use Empress 1908 gin. It’s infused with butterfly pea blossom, and it’s naturally blue. But when you add citrus to it (in this case, the lemon juice), you affect the pH balance of the spirit and it magically changes to purple. (Or maybe it’s a chemical reaction — we probably should have paid more attention in science class.)

If you already have a gin you love — we’re also partial to Aviation Gin — it’s fairly easy to make your own color-changing gin. Simply watch the video below to find out how (You can get the butterfly pea tea blossoms here.)


Aviation

The Aviation cocktail is made with gin and two liqueurs: maraschino, which tastes like cherries, and creme de violette, made from violet flowers, which gives the drink its pretty purple colour.

Preparation

Skill level

Ingredients

  • ice cubes
  • 45 ml gin
  • 15 ml fresh lemon juice
  • 25 ml maraschino liqueur
  • 5-10 ml violet liqueur
  • maraschino cherry, to garnish

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

  1. In a Boston shaker, pour gin, lemon juice, maraschino and violet liqueur over ice.
  2. Shake Boston shaker and a mixing glass vigorously, combining and chilling the ingredients.
  3. Pour cocktail through a strainer into a cold glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.

This recipe is from Richo's Bar Snacks on SBS Food (Channel 33). Stream episodes via SBS On Demand.