Ok, so the Wright brothers started it all in 1903 but it would take 13 years for early fliers to have a drink named after their pioneering exploits. The Aviation is one of the original cocktails, and deservedly so. The combination of four simple ingredients results in a perfectly balanced drink which exemplifies the same “Keep It Simple” mantra that has produced some of aviation’s greatest feats. What’s more, it still isn’t widely known and thus retains a hint of obscurity, although any self-respecting cocktail bar should be able to serve you one.
The Aviation was born in the bar of the Hotel Wallick in 1916 at the hand of head bartender Hugo Ensslin, who included it in his hilariously understated “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” – a book which has become much sought after among cocktail connoisseurs. It is a development of the classic gin sour, although when made correctly should be balanced perfectly by the sweetness of the maraschino liqueur.
The Aviation is my personal benchmark cocktail. If I’m in a bar I’ve not visited before, I’ll always order one first to decide whether it’s worth staying on for anything else!
When mixed correctly, the drink takes on a pale blue hue of a perfect sky, from which its name was inspired. Crème de Violette provides the colour, and until recently was very hard to obtain, particularly in the United States, which led to a version of the drink lacking this key ingredient. Despite a resurgence of the floral liqueur in recent times, some bars still find it acceptable to serve an aviation without – resulting in a cloudy liquid that lacks the balance of the original and tends to be either too sharp or too dry depending on the gin used.
I use Plymouth Gin because it has no bitter botanicals and less of a juniper flavour than other brands. It provides a subtle, clean base that elevates the other flavours without bias.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Some bars add simple syrup to the Aviation but if you use Luxardo Maraschino this won’t be necessary, as the liqueur has sugar added after distillation, following the original recipe from 1821.
Benoit Serres or The Bitter Truth Crème de Violette
We have found these two to give an authentic parma violets aroma. The slight bitterness balances the sweetness from the Maraschino and the sourness of the lemon juice and leaves a very pleasant floral aftertaste.
I’m sure it goes without saying that you should squeeze your own. The lemon juice cuts through the other flavours and provides just enough sharpness to enhance the Maraschino’s cherry punch.
- Chill a cocktail glass with ice
- Pour into a boston shaker:
- ½ measure Lemon juice
- ½ measure Maraschino Liqueur
- One measure gin
- Bar spoon of Crème de Violette
- Top with ice
- Seal and shake until ice cold
- Remove the ice from your cocktail glass
- Double strain your Aviation into the cocktail glass, to ensure that any ice chips or lemon fragments are removed
- Garnish with a maraschino cherry