The Aviation Cocktail

Post 27 of 52

The history of cocktails is so interesting because it is so closely related to our history and society; not only is drinking alcohol one of the oldest habits we have, but we sometimes invent beverages in order to celebrate an important event or person. The following cocktail wasn’t created for these reasons, but still through its name celebrates one of mankind’s greatest inventions: aviation. The Aviation cocktail is an interesting little beverage created about one hundred years ago by a bartender named Hugo Ensslin.

Ensslin was head bartender at the New York Hotel Wallick, where he invented the Aviation cocktail at the beginning of the 20th century. At about the same time we find the first written account of the recipe, in the book Recipes for Mixed Drink, published in 1916. In the book, Ensslin’s recipe was something like this:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of El Bart gin
  • 3/4 ounces of lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of Maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes of creme de violette

All the ingredients were mixed together and served in a cocktail glass with a Maraschino cherry as garnish; however, today many recipes omit the creme de violette which gives the Aviation cocktail its trademark color. The creme de violette, a rather unique ingredient, is a pale blue or violet liqueur made from a base of brandy or neutral spirit and flavored with natural and artificial violet flower flavors. Thus, it has a very sweet and floral aroma, and a very particular taste that not everyone enjoys. It has been produced since the 19th century when it was either served straight or with dry vermouth.

This liqueur is rather difficult to get by, but not impossible; the best brands are made in France, and Switzerland, precisely in the Alps. As for our Aviation cocktail, although it had gained some notoriety, it suffered in popularity because the creme de violette was so difficult to find. A cocktail recipe book published in 1930, the Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, presented the recipe without the creme, asking instead for the use of two-thirds gin, two dashes of maraschino and one third lemon juice. Following his advice, numerous bartenders started preparing the recipe thus because the creme was rare.

Today, one of the official recipes for the Aviation cocktail is:

  • 60 ml gin
  • 15 ml lemon juice
  • 15 ml maraschino liqueur
  • 7.5 ml creme de violette

The ingredients are well shaken in a shaker filled with ice, and then strained into a cocktail glass, preferably chilled. the classical Maraschino cherry garnish is still used, and it adds a touch of charm to its overall appearance as well. There are also some related cocktails, such as the Blue Moon cocktail made from gin, lemon juice and creme de violette, but without the maraschino. The Moonlight cocktail asks for ingredients like gin, Cointreau, lime juice and creme de violette.

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