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Late summer cocktail: Aviation


First: Welcome to all new readers who have found this site through the Capital Times article published yesterday! I’m excited to make contact with a new audience in Madison, and would love to hear about things you’re interested in, either for new classes or new site content. Stay in touch! I look forward to meeting many of you as I settle into this new part of the country. (Also, know that I don’t usually post recipes with such uncommon ingredients … this is a slight diversion from my normal sort of recipes. Stay tuned for a simple smoked salmon frittata recipe, coming soon!)

First Second: I can still post a “summer cocktail” recipe, right? I’ve started organizing my photos into a “Fall 2013” folder, as I usually do after my birthday, but here in Madison the intense heat of the end of summer is only now threatening to break, and I know Southern California is still feeling the heat.

Second Third: I generally do a pretty good job of picking recipes to post here that would be easy enough for most people to make at home, whether it’s a matter of finding the ingredients or of the complexity of the techniques involved. Today, however, I’m breaking that rule.

Not that there’s any sort of crazy technique involved in making this cocktail (shake, strain, garnish with lemon rind), but it’s probably not as likely that you’ll have violet and Maraschino liqueurs lazing about on your home bar. We bought a bottle of violet liqueur in Austria a few years back and picked up a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur specifically to make these cocktails on my birthday last week, and we’re now really excited about using both of them in various ways.

To start, violet liqueur (aka créme de violette) consists of a base spirit (sometimes brandy) infused with violets, giving it a floral flavor and a deep, blue-violet color that will give anything it’s put into a beautifully subtle purple tinge. It sounds like it might be difficult to match, but my research shows that it pairs particularly well with gin, lemon, and cherry flavors.  It was actually unavailable in the United States for many decades after prohibition, which is why many bars serve Aviations without this ingredient, but in 2007 an import company began bringing in Swiss-brand Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette, which is now available at larger liquor stores that carry a wide selection – BevMo! carries a 750ml bottle for $24.99, just as a reference point. It’s also possible to make your own version if you have access to violet flowers; Google turns up a number of results for “homemade violet liqueur.”

Maraschino liqueur is a little more versatile, slightly herbal like an Italian amaro but with notes of cherry that you’d expect with a name like “Maraschino.” (But don’t even think about associating it with the flavor of those day-glo American Maraschino cherries, which share almost nothing with true Maraschinos.) Maraschino liqueur is thin and clear, in no way syrupy, and a really interesting element to switch in for both more herbal/savory elements like vermouth or cherry elements like the splash of cherry you might add to a Manhattan. We’ve been adding a splash of it to bourbon, which is really fantastic, and I’ve heard it also works well in a gin martini. (And if you don’t have Maraschino liqueur, up the amount of violet liqueur in the recipe below to 1/2 oz. to make a Blue Moon.)

So, back now to the Aviation. It’s a fairly simple cocktail, once you have the ingredients on-hand: just gin, lemon juice, and these two liqueurs. Slightly herbal, slightly floral, slightly tart, slightly sweet, and easy to put together. Great for a warm evening on the porch and perfect for serving to guests, with its unique ingredients and interesting color. Enjoy!


Makes 1, scales easily

Note: If you don’t have access to Maraschino liqueur, increase the violet liqueur to 1/2 oz. to make a Blue Moon. Without the violet liqueur, the recipe below is what most American bars served as an “Aviation” for many decades, and is still delicious. 

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo makes a good brand available at most good liquor stores)
  • 1/4 oz. violet liqueur (also known as créme de violette; Rothman
  • Lemon rind, for garnish

– Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lemon rind (either thick, made with a vegetable peeler or knife, or thin, made with a garnishing tool).

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