The Aviation may not be the most popular of all time, but it offers a unique flavor profile and taste quite unlike any other drink. This beautiful, clear violet cocktail features one of the most elusive liqueurs of all time: Crème de Violette, which is what gives it that amazing violet-blue color. It offers this spectacular azure cocktail a subtle floral bouquet and a light flavor profile that’s perfectly balanced when mixed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
The Aviation Cocktail: Stunningly Violet, Lightly Floral
To get that magnificent purple color, you need a liqueur that’s been elusive for many years, particularly after prohibition. Crème de Violette was essentially impossible to find stateside until 2007, when Rothman & Winter produced a version made from Queen Charlotte and March Violets. Imported by Haus Alpenz, this French liqueur has a lightly sweet taste reminiscent of the tiny purple flowers, which are actually edible.
If you can’t find Crème de Violette, you can still enjoy this blue-violet cocktail. For decades, the French liqueur was not available in the U.S., so bartenders made do without it, simply cutting it right out of the recipe. However, be cautious if you’re leaving out this ingredient. If you overcompensate with lemon juice, this cocktail can quickly become too sour. Be sure to have the right balance of all the ingredients.
A Turbulent History
This cocktail has a rocky history with more turbulence than a jet trying to fly through a thunderstorm. This cocktail’s invention is credited to Hugo R. Ensslin, who put the recipe in his 1916 book entitled Recipes for Mixed Drinks. His recipe called for Crème de Violette, but this French liqueur became impossible to find after prohibition. When Harry Craddock published the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, the Aviation recipe was included—sans Crème de Violette.
If you’re not a fan of violet liqueur, you can still enjoy this drink without it. Actually, it was served for almost forty years based on the Craddock recipe, without the violet liqueur as one of its ingredients. While the version with no violet liqueur is undeniably delicious, it’s also much sourer than the subtly floral and sweet original recipe. If you can’t find Crème de Violette, substitute Crème Yvette—it’s also a violet liqueur but contains additional spices that will inevitably alter the cocktail’s taste.
- 2 oz gin
- 1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
- 1/4 oz Crème de Violette
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- Garnish with two cherries, a candied violet, or a lemon curl
- Gather all the ingredients
- In a shaker filled with ice, combine the gin, liqueurs, and fresh lemon juice
- Shake well to mix
- Strain into a pre-chilled mixing glass
- Add your choice of garnish, serve, and enjoy
This unique violet cocktail is unlike any other popular drink available at the bar. Its key ingredient of Crème de Violette gives it a delicate, floral flavor and blends perfectly with the tart lemon juice and sugary Maraschino liqueur. You can also make this drink with no Crème de Violette, as that’s also an accepted recipe. However, the original calls for Crème de Violette. This underappreciated violet beverage is sure to impress any cocktail connoisseur.