Today we spotlight the elegant and beautiful Aviation Cocktail. Much adored and maligned across the years, it still finds itself a staple of elegant gin drinks.
The Botanist Recipe
We aren't other blogs. We don't force you to read through 23 pages of someone's ridiculous rambling about their personal lived experience with soy based, nut allergy safe, non-gmo, BPA delimited, essential oil full chicken casserole that complies with the never-ending demands of a three year old child living with a blogger treating them like the second coming of Xerxes I in order to get the recipe. Instead here it is:
1.5 oz gin (preferably not too herbal, dry gins tend to work the best)
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz maraschino liquer (Luxardo is the most easy to come by but Vergano if you can get it)
Optional but almost mandatory .5 oz crème de violette liqueur
2 Luxardo Cherries Garnish
Add the three principle ingredients and shake/double strain into chilled glass. Slowly drop the violette if desired against the side of the glass to drop to the bottom. Garnish and serve.
Enjoy that floral, sour elegance. If you want the drink sweeter, stir the violette otherwise leave it alone and take those Instagram pictures. That wasn't that hard. But now, sip that drink and learn a bit about the cocktail and the specifics that make it "good to great." Once finished, rinse and repeat.
All drinks have a history, good or bad. The Aviation cocktail is one of the "lost recipes" of the cocktail world. During the initial rush back to the pre-prohibition craze, the original source was traced back to a mixologist Hugo Ensslin in 1916 for a Hotel Wallick in New York. The source prior to that eliminated the violette and was contained in Savoy Cocktail Book, and was largely overlooked prior to the revolution in the 80's. After a brief period of being a "bartender handshake" cocktail for those in the know, it was supplanted by the modern crazes of sensible recipes for discerning patrons like martinis and gin and tonics. Yes, let's get crazy with these sophisticated modern times by making two ingredient drinks that are absolutely clear and unchanged from approximately the 15th century. Aviation's have been disparaged by a number of famous bartenders which they say should relegate the drink to the annuls of history, never to be resurrected again. I disagree..
There are less than 20 true base drink recipes. The rest are just swaps for the base liquor, modifiers, sweeteners, or all three. This is true for the Aviation as well. It is a daiquiri plain and simple, much like approximately 85% of the drinks served in the US. Swap the rum for gin, the lime for lemon, and the maraschino for simple syrup and viola.. gin daquiri with class. In fact, the use of swapping citrus and/or adding maraschino to nuance the daiquiri recipe is quite the genre of itself. Hemmingway daquiris are a great example. The base of dry gin, brings that beautiful juniper/citrus combination to the forefront. The maraschino brings the sweetness and cherry flavor to add just a bit more acid to the lemons and complexity to the backend. The violette brings the sweetness up for those wishing a less balanced but more palate matching drink in addition to giving it that sexy layering purple. I prefer to allow the violette to be on the bottom, to allow my patrons to decide which they prefer. Shaking it in makes that decision for them.
This is the technical portion. Meant for people who are in the know, or are interested in the chemistry and specifics of the more intricate details of the drink.
Glassware: Nick and Nora's or Coupes are the standard, show that layering off and there is no carbonated off gassing to worry about. Narrow necks are out as there is a bouquet to be had, and large martini glasses don't do the drink justice. Scale the recipe for the glassware, but don't fill to the top. We want that citrus/maraschino on the nose, not the drink spilling off the side
Temperature: Chill the glass in whatever way you are comfortable. Ice and soda water is just fine. Chill that shake to condensation level but not to glazed ice. The temperature in my experiments is optimal at -3 to 0 C. Any lower and it kills the citrus and you lose your sweetness. Any higher and the drink is insipid and loses its life.
Garnish: Go with cherries just out of the syrup, let those drops fall, they add to the cherry back flavor and add visual interest to the drink. You can use a lemon rind as well in a pinch, but its not as aesthetic.
Shake/Strain: Use the standard circular roll to get the temperature correct without too much dilution or ice shards. The vigorous two handed Gin Fizz beatdown is as counterproductive here as it is in most drinks. Double strain if you prefer like I do to remove pesky ice shards, but you can leave those little light reflectors if it suits your aesthetic potentially at the sacrifice of drink balance.
Spec and Ingredients: Experiment with the volumes to bring the balance you desire to the drink. You can try making a more gin forward variant with 2-2.5 of gin and/or lowering the volume of the modifier/sweetener to .5. I like playing with the flower liqueur for a different feel and taste to the drink (try Tempus Fugit Violette) or drop it our all together. There is no "right way" to make the drink. Different gins will give different balance and heart tones to the drink. I prefer spec drinks with Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater. My findings have shown that the more Herbal variants like Hendricks or Taq wash the whole drink out. Let that lemon and maraschino shine.
Who is this drink for?
This is the drink for people willing to take the next step out of the Collins, Gimlet, G&T series before moving to the more eclectic gin recipes. This is also the drink for individuals wanting a beautiful photo op that just so happens to taste amazing. Coincidentally, it is also my go to drink of choice at high end cocktail bars to see if they know what they are doing. Mix in the violette, no. Use Aviation gin and assume it must be made with that, no. Serve it too cold or in a rocks glass, no. Garnish with a lime, and I am doing Churchill martinis the rest of the night because it is hard to screw up iced gin. For the ultimate "I am in the know" order, get an Aviation, float the violette, with a shot of green Chartreuse (The penultimate liqueur) on the side. A good mixologist will give you a nod of approval and know that you.. are.. the Man/Woman.
Thanks for enduring, and as always we leave you with a cocktail quotation, this time from our founding father.
"There can not be good living without good drinking"