I made my first Aviation cocktail about a year ago. Even though I was struck by how beautiful it was, I’ve never been one who falls for looks alone. I knew I needed to find out more if there was going to be anything real between us. I learned that the Aviation was considered to be one of the classic gin cocktails, and that its color came from Crème de Violette, a not so easy to find liqueur. That part intrigued me right away. You all know by now how much I love to go searching for unusual ingredients! As far as the history of this cocktail goes, it was first seen in print in Recipes for Mixed Drinks, by Hugo R. Ensslin, bartender at the Hotel Wallick on Broadway and 43rd Street, in 1916. At that point the Crème de Violette was definitely listed as one of the ingredients along with gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. In 1930, the recipe was printed again in The Savoy Cocktail Book, written by barman Harry Craddock, and considered by many to be the definitive cocktail guide of that era. It is still available for purchase today. Craddock eliminated the Crème de Violette (which would have made the drink much more sour), possibly because it was becoming largely unavailable in both Europe and the United States. In fact, it disappeared altogether in the 1960s and was not available again in this country until Rothman & Winter brought it back on the market in 2007 when the cocktail renaissance was just beginning here. It’s both interesting and sad to me that this particular cocktail was made for many years without the one ingredient that gives it it’s signature color and unforgettable taste. So now there’s a tragic story behind the beautiful face, making this drink even more irresistible!
The recipe that I like best is from Death & Company Modern Classic Cocktails. I have tasted this drink side by side made with this preparation and other recipes that omit the simple syrup. This seems more balanced to me and I was happy for the opportunity to use the Plymouth Gin which I found to be considerably softer and smoother. I used Rothman & Winter for the Crème de Violette which I found in a liquor store in Chelsea Market in New York City. It’s also available locally from Benash Liquors and Total Wine and More, both in Cherry Hill. They’ll need a few days lead time to get it in the store for you, but you won’t pay any shipping costs. There are other Crème de Violettes available and I am on the hunt for them. I’ll report back as soon as I know more!
2 oz Plymouth gin
1/2 Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur*
1/2 teaspoon Crème de Violette**
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 brandied cherry for garnish
Place all the ingredients in the bottom of a shaker tin and add your 1 large cube and 2 small. If you don’t have the large format cubes, fill the shaker 2/3 with regular ice. Shake for at least 15 seconds or until very cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry and serve. Enjoy!
*Available at most liquor stores
**Death & Co calls for Crème de Yvette in their recipe but I wanted to stay as closely as possible to the original.