The Aviation Cocktail is one of those cocktails with a long and rocky past, though it is a fantastic classic cocktail that is always worth revisiting when the opportunity arises.
This mix is simple and in true old-fashioned style it requires just a few ingredients. The problem is that the key to getting the stunning blue color is a rather elusive liqueur. Often overlooked and rarely stocked, the creme de violette was revived with a 2007 release by Rothman and Winter.
This liqueur may make the Aviation what it really was meant to be, though even during the four decades of its absence the cocktail was still being made without it. Interestingly, some connoisseurs have reverted to the maraschino-only recipe because they believe the modern creme de violette is not what it should be.
The debate over how to properly make an Aviation will likely continue for years on end. Personally, I believe that the creme de violette is what makes this cocktail special and since we now have the ability to taste the drink in its almost original form, we may as well enjoy it.
If you choose to skip the signature creme de violette, do be careful about the cocktail's balance. Without this seemingly insignificant ingredient, the Aviation can quickly become too sour.
- Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake well.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.
A Brief History of the Aviation Cocktail
We really do not know who first created the Aviation Cocktail. According to David Wondrich's "Imbibe!", it was first printed in a 1916 book by Hugo Ensslin called "Recipes for Mixed Drinks". It has always been difficult to gauge how popular the cocktail was at the time and because the two key liqueurs were likely just as rare as they are today, it is assumed that this was a specialty drink served at only the most elite bars.
It was sometime in the 1930's that the creme de violette was dropped from the Aviation and the maraschino took over the drink. This can be noted in Harry Craddock's popular "Savoy Cocktail Book", which has been an influence on bartending guides since its first publication in 1930.
Few cocktails beyond the Aviation have called for creme de violette and by the 1960's it had disappeared from the U.S. market. This sent the Aviation even further into obscurity until our most recent cocktail renaissance and the re-release of the floral liqueur.
Today you will find the Aviation on lists of classics cocktails that should be experienced, though it still should not be expected that it can be ordered at any bar. Despite being available again, creme de violette is not part of the average bar's inventory, though there are some that are trying to revive the Aviation and will create a fantastic version for you to taste.