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The Aviation

One of the most searched-for cocktails on the internet, the Aviation was created around 1911 by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York. Fist referenced in Ensslin’s 1916 publication “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” its name is derived from its subtle blue hue, harnessing the romance of an era when aviation was a sport and adventure, not merely a mode of travel.

Then things get murky. Take a short intermission (Prohibition); add the lack of an essential ingredient, stir down with a competing, authoritative source for the recipe and something strange emerges. The cocktail came to be made sans Violette. Sure, Crème de Violette was nowhere to be seen for close on 50 years and Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” first lists the drink without the Crème de Violette in 1930 (a point in history when the key ingredient was available).

So is the question “to blue or not to blue”? And if the answer is “just make the bloody thing anyway” we probably need to listen to that soft voice in the background asking at what point does a drink become something else entirely? So many questions! We feel you should ask them before you race off and ruin some perfectly good Gin. When done right the Crème de Violette provides the beautiful, sky blush, floral lift and balancing sweetness of the drink that makes for an eye catching, sweet and sour delight. Without it you get an edgy sour, dominated by Maraschino, with no relevance to its name and far from those pretty, mouth-watering pictures you saw on Instagram.

We have included Hugo’s original, 1916 recipe. It is a classic in the first instance. The trick is to balance the sour element. Use a floral accented Gin to lift the Violette character or go the citrus route to accentuate the lemon without boosting the sour. Go easy on the Maraschino – you can always add more. Lemon juice’s acidity can vary, so bring some simple syrup to the equation if you feel the need for it.

  • Use 50ml of high quality London Dry gin (see suggestions below)
  • 25 ml of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and
  • 2 dashes crème de violette.
  • Method: Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass (or coupe-style glass). Garnish with maraschino cherry (or a lemon twist).