Classic Cocktails ~ No. 10

No. 10 ~ The Aviation

• 1916, NYC, Hotel Wallick
• Balance and Daring
• The Recipe

The Aviation - Daring Do for Those with the Right... Flowers?

The Aviation, as with many retro cocktails, was born of pedigree and muddied by mutation. In the case of this cocktail, two critical ingredients became nearly impossible to obtain, or a book editor left something out, or it was a government conspiracy. Whatever the reason, adaptations followed and it wasn’t until the original published recipe resurfaced that someone noticed the all-important Crème de Violette had been missing for many years. Another ingredient, Maraschino liqueur, fell somewhat into disuse, and also became rather a chore to locate.

But now those ingredients are again available in the States. There is no excuse not to make the authentic version. If you are a student of drinks history, this is the real McCoy. If you are all about the flavor, this is the richly layered, subtle, deep, transcendent recipe.

Barnstormer Roscoe Turner. Source: North Carolina State Archives

With its faint robin-egg blue color, it is a cocktail that evokes the jeopardy between the perils of early flight and the wonder of a bird’s eye view. It wedges itself between delicate floral nuance, nutty astringency, lemony acidity, and a whisper of sweetness. The Aviation reminds me that the early mixologists were artists in their own right who deserve not to be upstaged by the flash of today’s liquor practitioners.

The Aviation was reportedly first printed in 1916 in a book entitled Recipes for Mixed Drinks, by Hugo Ensslin. Reprints are available from time to time. Some have described this cocktail as “lean,” some say “just okay,” and still others cannot find the words. For them, only shifting eyes and a slow growing smile result as the delicate flavors trip over the tongue.

What follows is my favorite formula, quite similar to Ensslin’s version and pretty close to that of Robert Hess. Getting your version to take to the air lies in the delicate balance of ingredient proportions. As well, you might experiment with the brands of gin and maraschino liqueur, as the synergies of this drink will bring out previously unknown subtleties in these complex distillates.

The Aviation Cocktail


  • 3 oz gin
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice, fresh w/o pulp, juice from Meyer’s lemon is sweeter
  • 1 tbsp Maraschino liqueur
  • ½ tbsp Crème de Violette
  • 1 ea cherry, garnish, brandy marinated preferred, or Maraschino cherry
  • Method

    Set 5-6 oz cocktail glass (martini or antique) with crushed ice to chill. In pint shaker over several ice cubes, add all liquid ingredients. Shake vigorously, empty ice from cocktail glass, strain drink into glass. Garnish with cherry.

    Follow the recipe exactly, with spoon measures. Make notes on any brand preferences and alterations in quantities. Happy Flying! TPJ

    The Aviation Cocktail


    1 Comment (+add yours?)

    1. Otto Sheridan
      Dec 09, 2009 @ 14:19:46



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