I recently stumbled upon a list of the 10 most searched for cocktail recipes of 2015 and was surprised to find that the Aviation clocked in at spot number 8. The Aviation recipe is attributed to a bartender from the Hotel Wallick in New York in the early 20th century. It was published in a cocktail book in 1916 and, as evidenced by its popularity as a search term last year, is still delighting cocktail fans to this day.
The drink is made with gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur (I recommend Luxardo) and creme de violette. The key ingredient in an Aviation is creme de violette, which is a violet flavored liqueur that makes the cocktail unique. This liqueur was one nearly extinct and, as such, many recipes for an Aviation describe this liqueur as being “optional” or calling for only the tiniest hint of it. Let me tell you that creme de violette is essential to this drink, giving it a soft floral sweetness and, of course, its unique blue hue. If you can’t find creme de violette, there are two liqueurs out there that can be substituted for it: Parfait Amour and Creme Yvette. Parfait Amour is also a blue-lavender color, but it has a strong orange flavor and a subtle violet note. Creme Yvette has a pronounced violet flavor, accented with orange and vanilla, but is a bright pink color. Both liqueurs will make a nice Aviation variation, with the Parfait Amour having a strong citrus flavor and the Creme Yvette delivering a pleasingly pink – rather than blue – drink, and are worth using if you don’t have a violet liqueur in your cabinet.
I would also like to point out that my Aviation, like most, as a relatively subtle blue-purple hue to it. Some photos of this cocktail online make it appear to be a vivid sky blue. While you might be able to find an artificially colored violet liqueur out there that will provide that gorgeous hue, most naturally flavored liqueurs are a bit more subtle in their coloration and produce a softer looking drink. I happen to enjoy this cocktail for its wonderful combination of flavors, not just its color, but you can bring out the blue by careful lighting when serving your drinks or enhance it by simply upping the quantity of violet liqueur to suit your tastes.
1 1/2 oz London dry gin
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz creme de violette (violet liqueur)
3/4 oz lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake until cold, about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry (preferably a Luxardo cherry).