Bar and Drink is reader supported. If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we might receive a commission at no cost to you.
Elegant, moody, and very eye-catching: the Aviation Cocktail was erased from bar menus for nearly forty years! Now, this popular beverage from the 1920s is back in full force.
History of the Aviation Cocktail
The first Aviation Cocktail was crafted in 1916. German bartender Hugo Ensslin created this recipe and over 400 other recipes during his time working in a New York Bar. He published these recipes in a guidebook for other bartenders, and inspired many cocktails at the time.
The Aviation Cocktail is a gin based drink that was inspired by the sour cocktails that were extremely popular during this era. Instead of only adding lemon juice and simple syrup to the base alcohol, bartenders also added Creme de Violette for a special twist.
If you have never heard of Creme de Violette you are not alone. This unusual ingredient actually disappeared from the US market for nearly four decades. When this crucial ingredient vanished from stores, the Aviation Cocktail vanished with it. The cocktail only returned to the bar scene in the 1960s when Creme de Violette was imported again. This time it was successfully imported into the US continued to sell well.
Originally, Creme de Violette was created in Europe as early as the 1800s. It is an ancient liqueur that is intensely floral because it is made with violet buds. In today’s market you could find a few different types of Creme de Violette, and all of them will be heavily floral in taste.
The use of violet buds results in a spirit rich in blue and purple hues. These colors inspired the name of the Aviation Cocktail: the blue tones reminded the bartenders of the skies, which were only accessibly by wealthy aviators and rich aeronauts.
Aviation Cocktail Ingredients
Gin is the base alcohol used for this cocktail. All varieties of gin contain botanical flavors. Most bartenders use a dry gin to prepare this cocktail. A dry gin relies solely on the naturally occurring botanical flavors of the alcohol. A gin that is rich in botanicals will provide greater complexity to the cocktail.
Creme de Violette offers a very intense floral flavor. When using any intensely flavored ingredients, always try to use as little as possible. Remember, you can always add more, but you can never take it away. You will need to properly store an opened bottle of Creme de Violette. It does not need to be refrigerated, but it is prone to spoiling, so be sure it is adequately set aside.
You may think that maraschino liqueur would be cherry red in color, but it is actually clear! It is a sweet and strong liqueur, and has undertones of roasted nuts. At first taste, there are hints of vanilla, but the liqueur injects bitter tones at the back of your palette. This liqueur is also used in the Manhattan Cocktail and other gin beverages.
Fresh lemon juice is essential for this cocktail. The acidity of the fruit will balance out the strong floral tones of the Violette, and will sharpen the botanical tones of gin. Lemon juice is one of the sweeter citrus juices, but just sour enough to give a playful nod towards other sour cocktails which are precursors for the Aviation Cocktail.
A skewered brandied cherry is added to the Aviation Cocktail for garnish. A branded cherry is different from a maraschino cherry. The former is soaked in simply syrup as well as brandy. The result is a boozy sweet cherry, that is deep red in color, and adds an extra oomph to your drink. Due to the brandy, it adds greater complexity, and is considered to be more sophisticated than a maraschino cherry.
Helpful Tips for Making the Perfect Aviation Cocktail
Serve your Aviation Cocktail in a tall stemmed, and clear cocktail glass. The initial wow factor of this drink is the blue-purple color of the drink. This saturated hue is very unique, and very unusual in the cocktail scene. Show it off!
Using a tall stemmed glass is always recommended for beverages which are served straight up (this means the cocktails has been chilled, but it is not served over ice). To prevent the drink from warming too quickly, it is essential to keep warm hands off the vessel of the glass as much as possible. That is why many chilled beverages are served in long-stem ware.
Creme de Violette can be used in other floral cocktails. The second most popular cocktail to use this ingredient is the Blue Moon Cocktail, which uses all the same ingredients as the Aviation Cocktail but omits Maraschino Liqueur.
If you are not partial to floral tones, you can make the Aviation Cocktail without Creme de Violette. Skipping this ingredient is one of the most popular recipe alterations that is requested by patrons at the bar. Nobody will look at you funny if you decide to ditch this unmatched liqueur.
Bartenders hoped to inspire a taste of luxury for anyone who ordered the Aviation Cocktail. So whenever you sip on this drink, imagine yourself being swept into a romantic dream of luxury and adventure that could only be offered in the roaring 1920s.
Aviation Cocktail Recipe
- Add all ingredients to a shaker, include a large scoop of ice
- Shake for 30 seconds to 60 seconds
- Strain into a coupe martini glass. Garnish with brandied cherry, and enjoy!