The Aviation Cocktail

This one’s a longtime favorite around the house. Our favorite reaction when serving this cocktail has been from our friend Doug, who had never had anything like it when we served him one at a cocktail party several years ago. “This is an incredibly elegant drink,” he said. He’s right.

The earliest recipe for the Aviation was found in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks, which first appeared in 1916 and has been lovingly reprinted in a gorgeous facsimile edition by Mud Puddle Books (buy it and others here). Turns out the original was made with crème de violette as well which, if you could even get an Aviation in a bar at all for the longest time, would be omitted. The slight purplish-blue cast makes it look like a clear sky perfect for flying, which makes the name of the cocktail make a bit more sense.

The thing about this cocktail is that you can vary the proportions very slightly and it makes a big difference in the final result. Any of them make a good version, but will it make the version you like?

This is the a good version of the typical Aviation you’ll see these days.

Aviation

2 ounces gin (Plymouth is great here).
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur.

Shake with ice (10-15 seconds) and strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.

This is still a good drink, but a lot of people tend to overdo it on the maraschino, which leads to an overly sweet drink that doesn’t let enough of the other flavors shine through. A lot of the time people will reverse the proportions of the maraschino and lemon, and I think that throws it off balance, especially if you’re using Luxardo Maraschino. That’s powerful stuff.

Here’s the version that appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book which, for some reason, left out the violette (amounts adapted from the original recipe proportions).

Aviation
(Savoy version)

1-1/2 ounces Plymouth gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
2 dashes maraschino liqueur.

Shake and strain.

This is pretty tart, which is mighty fine with me but not so much for some folks. Erik Ellestad recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon of rich simple syrup to this version to help take the edge off the lemon, and that’s a good idea.

If you want to go back to the original you’ll need to add violette, and cut back on the maraschino a bit. Here’s Ensslin’s original, adapted with measured amounts:

Aviation
Original version, 1916

1-1/2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
2 dashes maraschino liqueur.
2 dashes crème de violette.

Shake and strain.

Here’s how we usually make them at home, either from Dave Wondrich’s adaptation of Ensslin’s recipe that’s a bit tarter, or ours that’s just a tad lighter on the liqueurs.

Aviation
(adapted from the Hugo Ensslin recipe by Dave Wondrich)

2 ounces gin.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1-1/2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur.
1/2 teaspoon crème de violette.

Shake & strain. No garnish.

 

Aviation
(Chuck & Wes’ version)

2 ounces Plymouth gin.
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.
1 barspoon maraschino.
2 dashes crème de violette.

Shake and strain. No garnish.

Experiment with proportions, and see which one you like best.

One Response to “The Aviation Cocktail”

  1. Original Drink: 40,000 Headmen « Tempered Spirits said:

    Oct 29, 11 at 3:00 pm

    [...] would Old West mercenary-type headmen drink, after all? The second thing that came to mind was the Aviation, namely for its cloudy-sky tint. Cutting out the maraschino and making the drink with High [...]