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Aviation Cocktail

This Aviation Cocktail is a gin-based drink that gets its color from crème de violette liqueur. It’s an elegant sip that hearkens back to the early days of luxury air flight.

I love colorful food and with its lavender hue, this easy gin cocktail is right up my alley. The key ingredient is crème de violette liqueur, which gives the cocktail a gorgeous color reminiscent of lilac flowers. This easy cocktail is shaken and served straight up.

Why is it Called an Aviation Cocktail?

Sometimes also called an “Aviator” cocktail, the name of this drink is a nod to early pilots who flew planes amid twilight skies colored with shades of blue and purple. At that time air travel was something glamorous reserved for the wealthy, so naming this drink after the concept of flight lent it an air of luxury.

The Aviation drink was invented in 1916 by a bartender named Hugo Ensslin while he was working at New York City’s Hotel Wallick. The Aviation is considered a variation of the Gin sour. The key components are nearly identical, but with the addition of maraschino as a sweetening agent in this drink.

A close up of an Aviation cocktail

What is Crème de Violette?

Crème de violette is a brandy-based liqueur that gets its color from smashed violet flowers and tastes like them too. It is also what gives this cocktail its signature light purple color. Crème de violette is an essential ingredient in a Aviation cocktail so you can’t substitute it. Without it you’d essentially be making a gin sour.

Crème de violette originated in 1800s Europe but disappeared after the 1920s prohibition era. In 2007 a man named Eric Seed, who earned his living by seeking out obscure kinds of alcohol and importing them, brought it back. The Aviation cocktail surged in popularity soon afterward! These days you can find crème de violette in many liqour stores.

What Does an Aviation Drink Taste Like?

This cocktail tastes similar to a gin sour with a floral punch thanks to the crème de violette. The maraschino liqueur does balance the sourness a bit, but at its essence, this is a sour cocktail.

Ingredients for an Aviation Cocktail

What’s in an Aviation Cocktail?

You only need a few ingredients to make an Aviation drink. Here’s a quick rundown with notes. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

  • Gin – This liquor was originally made by monks and alchemists across Europe and used as a medicine. There are many varieties. It usually has notes of juniper mixed with herbal/floral notes and floral or fruit flavors.
  • Maraschino liqueur – Made by distilling Mascara cherries. This is not the same as the liquid that comes with Maraschino cherries at the supermarket. Luxardo maraschino is the easiest brand to find. It smells like cherries and tastes a little bit like almonds.
  • Creme de violette liqueur – A brandy-based liqueur that gets its color from smashed violet flowers. It tastes like violet flowers and can be found a larger, well-stocked liquor stores.
  • Lemon juice – Use freshly squeezed, not bottled lemon juice.
  • Luxardo cherry – For garnish. This is different than the bright red maraschino cherries you can find at the supermarket.
Purple Aviation cocktail with a luxardo cherry

What’s the Difference Between Luxardo and Maraschino Cherries?

Luxardo cherries are nothing like the bright red cherries you so often see in drinks like the French 76, Rob Roy or Shirley Temple. Instead, they are dark red – so red in fact, that their color almost looks black. They come jarred with thick, molasses-like syrup and taste a bit nutty, like Amaretto.

Luxardo cherries are expensive by comparison to the other kind of cocktail cherries but add a touch of class and elegance to drinks like this Aviation cocktail. They can also be used as a garnish for drinks like the Last Word cocktail and go especially well with sour cocktails.

How to Make an Aviation Cocktail

Making this drink is easy! Here’s how to do it:

  • Add ice to your cocktail shaker. Fill it about halfway.
  • Add the liquid ingredients. Measure and pour in the gin, maraschino liqueur, creme de violette and lemon juice.
  • Shake. Close your cocktail shaker and give it a good shake for about 20 seconds.
  • Strain it into a cocktail glass. An Aviation drink is served straight up without ice.
  • Serve. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

What Does Straight Up Mean?

Straight up means that the drink is shaken or stirred with ice, then strained into a glass, and served without the ice. Many classic cocktails – like the Martini – are served straight up.

Pouring an Aviation Cocktail from a cocktail shaker into a glass

The Original Recipe

This cocktail has changed a bit since it was invented by Hugo Ensslin, but here is his original recipe according to Taste Cocktails if you want to give it a whirl:

  • 1/3 lemon juice
  • 2/3 El Bart Gin
  • 2 dashes Maraschino
  • 2 dashes crème de violette

When to Serve an Aviation Drink

This cocktail is perfect for late night drinks, cocktail hour, or even dinner parties where you want to serve a drink that will make a statement. Thanks to it’s gorgeous hue, people are usually delighted when they are served an Aviation cocktail.

Purple Aviation cocktail with a luxardo cherry

More Cocktails to Try

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Aviation Cocktail

Purple Aviation cocktail with a luxardo cherry
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This Aviation Cocktail is a gin-based drink that gets its color from crème de violette liqueur. It’s an elegant sip that hearkens back to the early days of luxury flight.

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 4 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cocktail
  • Category: Cocktails
  • Method: Shaker
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz creme de violette liqueur
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • Luxardo cherry, for garnish

Instructions

  • Add ice to your cocktail shaker. Fill it about halfway.
  • Add the liquid ingredients. Measure and pour in the gin, maraschino liqueur, creme de violette and lemon juice.
  • Shake. Close your cocktail shaker and give it a good shake for about 20 seconds.
  • Strain it into a cocktail glass. An Aviation drink is served straight up without ice.
  • Serve. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Keywords: aviation cocktail, aviator cocktail, gin cocktail

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