The Aviation: Gin Flying High

The classic “Aviation” cocktail.

If you haven’t heard of an Aviation, you’ve been missing out.

It’s about gin and violets.

Violets? Yes. Read on.

Creme de Violette. Magic in a bottle.

Sometimes called an Aviator, the Aviation is its proper name, and it is, without question, one of the most perfect gin delivery systems around. The Aviation has its origins around the turn of the 20th century, when flying was a novelty. It’s got a stunning, pale blue color that cocktail historians attribute to either the color of jet fuel or the sky. An Aviation will set you flying rather quickly, with its potent mix of gin and two liqueurs. Be warned–these go down the hatch a little bit too easily. Although it has cherry and lemon overtones, it’s very well balanced, and not overly sweet like too many of the liqueur bombs currently so popular.

So, why in the world is this drink so fantastic? I credit it to the inclusion of Creme de Violette. Until recently, this heady purple elixir was unavailable in the U.S., but it’s once again available. Creme de Violette imparts the delicate flavor and aroma of violets, which complement the floral notes in gin.

Rob Iurilli, Abagail’s stalwart bar manager.

When I’m not mixing one of these up at home, I can be found enjoying them at Abigail’s, in Kendall Square, Cambridge. I had the good fortune to strike up a conversation with the their bar manager, Rob Iurilli (formerly of the B-Side)–and while many bartenders either haven’t heard of an Aviation, or sling what amounts to a gin sour–Rob does a masterful job. I mean, masterful to the point of perfect. I have road-tested this beverage in some of Boston and Cambridge’s finest establishments and no one comes close. I highly suggest you sidle up to the bar at Abagail’s, order up a few Island Creek oysters, and ask Rob to mix you the perfect Aviation. He’ll do so with a smile, and I can guarantee that there are few better ways than to start your evening festivities.

Island Creek Oysters. Perfection on the half-shell.

However, if you can’t make it Abigail’s, then I suggest you try this incredible drink in the comfort of your own home. Here’s the “Aviation” recipe, dating back to 1911. Make sure you get the proportions right! (The recipe below makes two drinks. Just cut ’em in half for one!)

  • 3 oz. good gin, such as Hendricks™, Blue Coat™, Cardinal™, or Bombay Sapphire™
  • 1 oz. Luxardo™ maraschino cherry liqueur
  • 1 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Creme de Violette
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish, or, a lemon peel if you prefer

Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry.

Abagail’s “Aviation” cocktail. I couldn’t wait until after the photo shoot to start enjoying it.

As always, please drink responsibly and I wish all of you dear readers a wonderful, tasty, and elegant holiday season. Santé!