Rediscovering the Aviation Cocktail

Rediscovering the Aviation Cocktail

By Sweet Jane
I was a little kid in the late 60s and early 70s. In my suburban home, just on the edge of Chicago's southwest side, our world at that time was more Mad Men than hippies and flower power. In fact, I watch Mad Men in more awe of the sets and fashion than of Don Draper (well, not always). Because that was my mother's kitchen. Those were my father's suits.

And those were my parents' cocktail parties.

If the many black and white photos don't lie, they threw some doozies. There was a laugh of laughter. Far too many cigarettes. Clearly, some coveting of neighbors' wives. And real cocktails. Sure, you'll catch the occasional bottle of Schlitz in the background, but by and large the partygoers are holding classic martinis (gin, but you knew that) and highballs in these pictures. And what I loved the most: They were dressed to the nines. The women in their Little Black Dresses and pearls. Every man in a suit and tie. They might be drunkenly dancing on coffee tables or lounging across a piano, but they looked fabulous doing so.

So I suppose I was destined to admire everything about the cocktail. To me, it's more than just an alcoholic beverage (that's beer). A cocktail is something carefully, artfully prepared, and served with romance, a sense of possibility. What happens next?

I love to play with classic cocktails, some still popular, some forgotten but in need of a renaissance. In this spirit, I share with you a lovely number call The Aviation, which first surfaced in the late 50s. The key ingredient is crème de violette, a violet liqueur. It was not available for many years, but a recent return of several brands has bought The Aviation back to life. Don't be afraid—the "violetness" of the liqueur is subtle. Gently floral, but never overpowering. (I suggest you try Rothman & Winter, in the fab art deco bottle.) And lest you worry that the maraschino liqueur will make this drink too sweet, fear not. The fresh lemon juice takes care of that.

And the very best part? It's stunning. A soft, gorgeous shade of, well, violet. Wear your pearls.

The Aviation
(This recipe originally appeared in the October 2009, issue of the late, great, never to be equaled Gourmet magazine.)

2 ounces gin
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce maraschino liqueur
¼ ounce crème de violette liqueur

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.

Published by