Cocktail Hour: The Aviation

DSC_0228Does it feel like Friday to you? I’ve been looking forward to Friday– and Friday night– all week. And Friday nights, for me, mean cocktail time!

Not to tread on Wine Girl’s domain, but she’s pretty busy with the Wine Festival this weekend, so I thought I’d throw in a post about one of my favorite cocktails: The Aviation.

I first had an Aviation at The Rookwood (it’s no longer on the menu, but if they’ve got the ingredients,they’ll make it for you).  I’ve also had it at Tonic as well as bars outside of Cincinnati.  It’s become a favorite– it’s refreshing, yet complex.  A little sweet, but not cloying.  Sophisticated, but not unapproachable.

The Aviation is considered a “classic cocktail”, one that predates Prohibition.  Cocktails pre-Prohibition weren’t the syrupy-sweet “tinis” we see today, but instead well balanced, well crafted, and thoughtful creations.  The Aviation is certainly that.  An extensive history of the cocktail can be found in Food and Spirits Magazine, which is a fascinating Omaha-based web publication.

The standard ingredients are as follows:

  • Gin
  • Lemon Juice
  • Maraschino Liqueur

The Savoy Cocktail Book (you saw that in last week’s “Obsession” post) describes the recipe as 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur.

The original version, from Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks included Creme Yvette, a brand name for Creme de Violette. (Correction: Not Yvette.)  It’s a brandy-based liqueur that has a purple cast, like the violet petals it’s made with.  It, and Maraschino Liqueur, can be found easily at The Party Source, which is where I found the ingredients for this drink.  The version of the Savoy drink I make at home contains just a teaspoon of the Creme de Violette– just enough to make it look a little bit like the sky you see out the window as you’re flying.  Oh, for the days when flying was romantic!

Maraschino liqueur– I bought the Luxardo version– doesn’t taste like those bright red cherries in a jar (which I used to love to eat as a kid).  It’s a little sweet, certainly, but has a bit of a floral aroma, and it’s definitely not bright red.  I bought some Luxardo “original maraschino cherries” to go with the Maraschino liqueur– tiny, deep-dark red Marasca cherries in a syrup of Maraschino liqueur.  They’re a bit expensive– $17 for a jar– but so much better than those unnaturally red ones that there’s no comparison.

As far as the gin goes, you can use whichever you like according to your taste, but a London gin is preferred– I used Beefeater for this drink.  According to Josh Durr, who put together the cocktail list at Tonic (via Michelle, thanks for that tip as I was making these drinks a few weeks ago..), it’s got a stronger flavor that helps balance the equally strong flavors of lemon and Maraschino.  Keep the Hendricks for another cocktail.

You can read more about this cocktail at Sippity Sup (I tried his version– I don’t like the simple syrup in this drink.  It shouldn’t be quite that sweet), too.  You can also read Michelle’s recounting of Josh Durr’s version of the Aviation.

Oh, and that Luxardo cherry at the bottom of my glass? Not traditional at all.  I believe a lemon twist is traditional, but I’ve seen them served with nothing at all, a cocktail onion, or a Luxardo cherry.

Next time?  The Manhattan (my favorite).

12 thoughts on “Cocktail Hour: The Aviation”

  • So, my friend ordered one of these last night at Tonic and the bartender explained that the Luxardo maraschino liqueur is BANNED in Ohio! It’s a completely different kind of Prohibition for this poor drink.

    • I’ve heard that from more than one person. Honestly, I don’t buy my liquor in Ohio– considering that the Party Source and Liquor Direct are about two exits from my house. Any Ohio store with a more extensive liquor selection is off my radar, honestly. However, I don’t think it’s banned in Ohio anymore– though it may have been at one time. It’s got a fixed price that I found on :

      6006B LUXARDO MARASCHINO $ 34.85 TO $ 35.35 $ 36.20
      OZS. PER BOTTLE: 25.4
      PROOF: 80.0
      AGE: NA

  • Its great to see a post on the aviation a truly simple yet amazing drink.

    As far as the Aviation is considered it is traditionally served without a garnish. The recipes over on Michelle’s site is a bit off from my recipe…. you want just a few drops of creme de viollete in the drink just under a 1/8 ounce works best. But I am a fan of Beefeater in this drink to be able to stand up to the Luxardo.

    As far as the issue with Luxardo I am working the politics in the state now to overcome this hurdle and get it listed again. So that you may once again be able to order one at the rookwood or tonic , or anywhere else that makes fine drinks.

    I recently assisted in getting Carpano Antica Formula listed in the state so please demand it at your local watering hole so we can keep it listed.
    If you have not had Carpano versus other Italian/Rosso vermouths do yourself a favor and have a glass at Tonic over ice. Or pick up a bottle from Party Source. Try it in a Negroni or a rye Manhattan and rejoice !

    • Thanks for the comment, Josh! Please don’t smack me for using a Luxardo cherry in my aviations. It’s just a cheap excuse to use them. 😉

      Seriously, though– why are certain things “on the list” and others not? Like I said, I noticed that Luxardo Maraschino is “on the list” with the Ohio Liquor folks– and indeed I just had some at Rookwood on Saturday night. Is this just byzantine regulation, or are folks really not supposed to have it (and other liquors)?

  • Simply put..Politics & Redtape

    Anytime you have the government control something things start to not make any sort of logical sense..

    So here is the problem. Without the distributors controlling the brand distribution in Ohio. Considering its a control state there is no communication to what is and what is not approved or listed / de-listed. Except if you search the government site regularly. Then there is no guarantee if it is listed that you can actually purchase it for your bar.

    So Luxardo for instance is approved in the state. But not in coordination with a distributor. So they ship directly to the state. So that means that there is no assistance or sense of responsibility to the state to make sure its represented at your state package store you as a bar are required to buy from. So if they don’t have it you can’t buy it.

    So you have to contact the state and have them ship it to your store. Which is easier said than done.

    So I have to contact the importer, which then contacts the state, which then contacts the store and ships. So we can then buy. Yet all this red tape takes time and in the mean time no one can serve the brand. Because they can’t buy it from there assigned store. Unless the stores stock up on it because there is a high enough demand by bars and consumers that come in the store.

    So I am taking it upon myself to contact quality brands and form and alliance in the city of bars committed to purchase these brands. So we can keep them readily available in our local spirit stores for purchase by consumers and bars alike.

    So every month I don’t have to go though all of this.

    Would you like to help me ? Getting the word out on quality brands that need to be placed in local stores. This could be a joint effort that would improve the diversity of offerings in your area.

  • Julie,

    Nice post Julie. Luzardo is the gold standard for Maraschino Liqueurs, although Maraska makes a very good one, and is the last surviving producer of marashino liqueur in Croatia, where the spirit originated along that nation’s Dalmation Coast. For the uninitiated, Marashino is a dry liqueur made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed pits which give it a subtle bitter almond flavor. The cherries are processed and distilled much like brandy, and later combined with a pure cane syrup before it is aged and filtered. Maraschino liqueur should not be confused with the juice from Maraschino cherries or other cherry liqueurs, that are both much sweeter. BTW, Craddock omitted the Creme de Violette in his Savoy Cocktail Book. I own a first printing and just confirmed that in my copy. If you substitute Parfait Amour (another newly resurrected from extinction liqueur that is now sold at The Party Source as well) for the Creme de Violette in an Aviation you have a Jupiter Cocktail.

  • Cocktail Kingdom is the real deal. Flawless reproductions of vintage cocktail books by Greg Bohem of Mud Puddle Books. They have an amazing selection of German and Japanese bar tools as well.

  • Josh is right, Cocktail Kingdom is a first class outfit. Check out The Mixicologist by C.F. Lawlor, who was a mixologist during the Golden Era here in Cincinnati.

Leave a Reply