The Story Behind The The Aviation Cocktail
Once referred to as a “forgotten classic,” the Aviation became one of the most popular gin cocktails in bars across America for a time. The earliest written mention of the drink was in Hugo Ensslin’s book published in 1916, titled "Recipes for Mixed Drinks." The recipe called for gin, lemon juice, Maraschino and a then-obscure French liqueur, crème de violette. Some believe the drink may have been lost to cocktail history if it had not been later included in "The Savoy Cocktail Book" by Harry Craddock, which listed an alternative recipe that omitted the hard-to-find violette liqueur.
Soon after the turn of the 21st century, the Aviation started making a comeback as bartenders began reviving Prohibition-era drinks. “It seemed like one of the first shaken gin cocktails that guests and bartenders alike were familiar with,” says Ms. Franky Marshall, a highly influential bartender and educator based in NYC. “It was always a crowd-pleaser, even for people who weren't sure if they actually liked gin.”
Marshall says that as the Aviation’s popularity grew, so too did demand for crème de violette, which prompted Eric Seed of Haus Alpenz to start importing a crème de violette into the U.S. — so bartenders could make a “proper" Aviation.
The Aviation is a delicate balance of tart and floral flavors, but due to its attractive sky blue or blush purple hue for which it is known, it’s often tempting to be too heavy-handed with the crème de violette. “When made properly, it's easy, approachable, and has that ‘not-too-sweet’ profile that people always ask for,” says Marshall. “When made poorly however, it can be overly tart and pucker-inducing. And as much as I love anything with a deep purple hue, this drink should not be one of them.”
For this drink, ms. franky marshall recommends using a more “modern” style gin, vs. a juniper-forward London dry style. She also notes a variance in the amount of Maraschino liqueur used, because the level of sweetness often varies brand to brand.