I still vividly remember the first Aviation Cocktail I ever had.
I was broke and living in a $200 a month apartment, and any cocktails I was having were usually of the “thai whiskey” and coke variety.
But even when I was broke I always had an interest in fancy things. So for my birthday that year, I got dressed up in the only collared shirt I had (which I bought for $5 on the side of the street), and I hopped on the skytrain to get to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
There’s a lot of fancy hotels in Bangkok, but the Mandarin Oriental on the banks of the Chao Praya river is arguably the most famous. It’s been around for over a century and has hosted everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Ernest Hemingway (although where hasn’t that guy
The Mandarin Oriental is home to a jazz bar called The Bamboo Bar. In an ironic series of events, all of these years later, I’ve noticed that this bar is now on the World’s Best Top 100 Bars list – making it the very first top 100 bar I visited, years before this was ever a quest I’d had.
While I was there, I only had one drink: an aviation. It cost me $10 and I nursed that thing for 2 hours, while making a meal of the free olives and nuts they kept replenishing.
At the time I couldn’t believe I was spending TEN DOLLARS on a cocktail.
To most, this still sounds ridiculous. But given the prices of most of the bars I’ve written about on this site? 10 bucks is a steal.
Ever since, the Aviation has held a special allure to me.
What is an Aviation Cocktail?
An aviation cocktail is a gin based drink that’s most heavily characterized by its beautiful lavender color that comes from an old school liqueur called Creme de Violette.
Frankly, a well made aviation might be the most elegant looking cocktail in the world.
The pale lavender drink served in a coupe class, is contrasted beautifully by a lemon peel for garnish.
The aviation consists of:
- Lemon juice
- Maraschino Liqueur
- Creme de Violette
- Optional: Simple Syrup (more on this in a minute)
A classic aviation cocktail has some gimlet vibes, and the maraschino evokes some elements of a Last Word cocktail, although it’s much less herbal and boozy since it doesn’t contain the punchy green chartreuse.
How to Make an Aviation Cocktail
Fortunately an aviation is a cocktail that’s really easy to make.
The most difficult component of the drink simply stems from the fact you probably don’t have any creme de violette laying around if you’ve never made this drink before.
That’s not to say there aren’t other cocktails that use it, but they’re pretty few and far between. (Google an Elizabeth Taylor cocktail for a lovely French 75 variation that uses creme de violette).
I’ve had the same bottle of Rothman and Winter Creme de Violet for about 4 years now, and I’m only about a third of the way through the bottle.
Considering you only use 1/4 to 1/2 ounce in the drink – it’ll last you awhile.
There are a few different recipes for what ratios to use with the ingredients, and I’ve seen some include simple syrup while others do not.
Personally I think adding half an ounce of simple syrup helps make for a more broadly enjoyable cocktail. Without it, the maraschino doesn’t do quite enough to sweeten the drink and I’ve found it can be a little too sour for many people.
Try it both ways, and let me know what you think, but the recipe below is the one I’ve been most pleased with.
Making the drink is about as easy as it gets though. Throw all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake, and strain.
Garnish with a lemon peel.
If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary cocktail, that looks beautiful and is still easy to make? I can think of few better than an Aviation.
Aviation Cocktail Recipe
- Cocktail Shaker
- Hawthorne Strainer
- Coupe Glass
- 2 oz Gin
- .75 oz Lemon Juice
- .5 oz Maraschino Liquer
- .5 oz Simple Syrup
- .25 oz Creme de Violette
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass
- Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds
- Double strain into coupe glass
- Garnish with lemon peel or brandied cherry
For more classic cocktail recipes, check out: