Cocktails of the day: Aviation Gin

Ryan Magarian, Portland-based bartender extraordinaire and co-creator of Aviation Gin was in town and behind the stick at The Varnish last night, slinging his gin into a host of delectable cocktails.

Alas, no photos, because it was dim (like I like it) and my iPhone camera doesn’t do well in dim, and I didn’t have my regular camera with me, and y’know, sometimes I just want to drink and talk and socialize and have a good time and not have to worry about lugging cameras around and popping off flashes in dim bars for the frakkin’ weblog. (Sorry, I love you all but I’m sure you understand.) I’m happy to write about it, though!

First cocktail was an Aviation Gin take on a classic Dry Martini, which Ryan referred to as a 7th Street Dry. “For a true dry Martini, I really think you need a London Dry Gin, which Aviation is not,” Ryan said. But treating Aviation as if it were in a 4:1 Martini was still mighty tasty. Take two ounces Aviation Gin, a half ounce of Dolin Dry Vermouth (specifically) and two dashes of Angostura orange bitters, with a nice big spray of oil from a lemon twist. The other botanicals in the gin, the cardamom and lavender especially, play beautifully with the herbal bouquet of the Dolin vermouth. Yummers.

The second one I had … well, I have to confess, it was so beautiful I kinda wish I did have a good picture of it. Amongst the Florence flasks full of cocktail ingredients that were arrayed along the bar was one containing a slightly foamy, brilliantly deep-red fluid that almost looked like Tru Blood. It was, in fact, fresh extracted red bell pepper juice, key ingredient in another of Ryan’s originals:


2 ounces Aviation Gin.
1 ounce fresh extracted red bell pepper juice.
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice.
3/4 ounce clover honey syrup.
2 mint sprigs.

In a mixing glass, lightly bruise one mint sprig (do not crush), then add the spirits, juices and cracked ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a cocktail couple. Spank the other mint sprig over the cocktail, and garnish.

This was really, really lovely. I love savory cocktails that have more vegetal flavors, and this one was perfectly balanced between sweet (with nice flavor from the honey) and sour, plus the bell pepper juice with its own sweetness and crispness … you can almost feel the texture of biting into a piece of pepper. Gorgeous color too. I wanted to go home and juice a bunch of red peppers! Ryan consulted on the cocktail menu at the Westside Tavern in West L.A. and this is on their menu, so head on over and have one or three.

Among the others we tasted were an Alaska Cocktail (2:1 gin to yellow Chartreuse, and 2 dashes orange bitters) and an Aviation (natch), plus we watched him make for someone else a Blackberry Honey Collins that looked and sounded delicious, but I needed to drive home, alas, so it was water by that point.

I didn’t ask how to make a Blackberry Honey Collins, but off the top of my head I’d say 2 ounces gin (Aviation, in this case), 1 ounce lemon juice, 3/4 ounce 1:1 honey syrup, four or five blackberries muddled in the gin first, shake and strain into Collins glass over ice, top with soda, stir, lemon wheel garnish.

Ryan was encouraging us to create new cocktails that play specifically to the flavor characteristics of Aviation, as a “New Western Dry” style gin, rather than simply drop it into coctkails thave been traditionally made with London Dry. Given that the liquor fairy just brought me a bottle, I think we’ll do just that. Let’s see if I can manage at least one or two by the end of the month. (Good luck with that!)