The Aviation is one of the last great cocktails created before Prohibition, having been invented just a few years before the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment. It made its first appearance in print in 1916 in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin, who bartended at the Hotel Wallick gin Times Square near 43rd and Broadway.
It’s unclear whether Mr. Ensslin created this cocktail as an homage to a specific aviator—perhaps Adolphe Pégoud or René Fonck, who were some of the first flying aces, battling the Germans in the air during World War I—or as a more general tribute to the Pioneer Era of human flight. What is clear, however—as clear as the blue sky in fact—is Ensslin’s purposeful use of Crème de Violette to achieve a light violet hue reminiscent of the skies that mankind was barely beginning to explore.
By 1930, however, it appears that barmen began dropping the Crème de Violette from the Aviation recipe, as evidenced by its omission from the Savoy Cocktail Book which was published that year. Perhaps this was because Crème de Violette was an increasingly difficult ingredient to come by as a result of Prohibition. Luckily we are in the second Golden Age of the cocktail, where once-defunct products like Crème de Violette are available again, making authentic Aviations a newfound possibility.
2 oz. Beefeater Gin
0.75 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
0.25 oz. Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: chilled coupe
Method: Shake ingredients with ice and strain into your glass.
A rather refreshing yet dry cocktail. As far as shaken gin cocktails go, the Aviation is right up there with the Gimlet. Tart, dry, floral and complex, with a hint of cherry and stone fruit, the Aviation is one of my summer mainstays.
The recipe in the PDT book does not ask for a garnish, but I sometimes enjoy a lemon twist in the drink, as it adds wonderfully bright lemony top notes to it. Or maybe as a Lakers fan I'm partial to the purple-yellow combo.
*This post is part of a series in which Payman takes on the task of making and writing about every cocktail featured in the PDT Cocktail Book, as well as providing an awesome photo of each drink taken by Vanessa Bahmani Photography.
**Got a question? He can be found on twitter @paystyle, you can email him at email@example.com, or simply drop him a comment below.