An Aviation Cocktail Recipe from the 1900's pre-prohibition era that merges gin, Creme de Violette Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and Maraschino Liqueur to create a drink displaying a gorgeous purple hue. This classic craft cocktail hints at a delightful floral touch with a balance of both sweet and sour. Even though it is a quick and easy drink, it will prove to be a showstopper at your next party.
I started noticing a lovely purple cocktail showing up at several classy restaurants lately. I decided to take the plunge and order this alluring drink a few months back when a friend and I were out for brunch. I found its taste so intriguing that I decided to re-create this delightful libation at home, which did not disappoint. I tried varying measurements of the four ingredients and found this recipe to be the most desirable outcome.
Not only is it, in my opinion, a sophisticated craft cocktail, but its presentation is so thrilling and dramatic that I had to share it with you. Be forewarned though! This subtle deceptive drink definitely packs a powerful punch.
What is an Aviation Cocktail?
The Aviation is a gin cocktail that was constructed back in the early 1900s and made its launching in a recipe book titled "Recipes for Mixed Drinks," by Hugo Ensslin published in 1917. Interestingly enough this was the last cocktail guide published before prohibition. So if you want an accurate read of what people were drinking before that era, this is your book. I did a quick search on Amazon and found a copy of this paperback (publication date 2020). Not a 1917 publication but still very intriguing. I am now waiting for it to show up on my front porch.
What does this Drink Taste Like?
If you're familiar with a Gin Sour, you will find an Aviation Cocktail that tastes very similar but with an added sweetness from the maraschino liqueur and a unique "flowery" aspect from the Creme De Violette liqueur. The Empress 1908 gin with its distinctive purple tone hints of citrus, juniper, and spices which provides a robust base for the other two liqueur ingredients. Their combination brings together a delightfully rare cocktail that will have your guests talking for days.
What are the ingredients in this Aviation Cocktail?
Gin - Empress 1908 is what I used in this drink. You can employ any gin that you prefer, and most recipes you find online for an Aviation Cocktail use regular gin. But I fell in love with the sophisticated purple appearance that this delivers, and the unique flavor it yields to this particular cocktail.
Maraschino Liqueur - I prefer the Luxardo brand but there are other products on the market that you can choose from. This liqueur has a slight cherry flavor, somewhat bitter, and slightly dry. It also captures notes of almonds. The Maraschino Liqueur is what provides a slight sweetness to this drink.
Creme de Violette - a low-proof, dark blue liqueur that is made from violet flowers. My brand preference is Roth and Winter because it uses no artificial flavors or colors. Their liqueur is made with two different types of violets—Queen Charlotte and March violets from the Alps, along with a base of grape brandy distillate. I find it quite prestigious. They promote their product as a "magical bridging ingredient in classic cocktails like Aviation and Blue Moon."
Since there has been a re-awaking of popular classic cocktails recently, these three ingredients above are much easier to find. We were able to locate all three ingredients at our local liquor store.
Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice - this gives the drink a nice acidic balance.
Garnishments - I chose edible pansies and edible Rainbow Diamond Dust to give a stunning presentation.
How to Make an Aviation Cocktail at Home
Most cocktails can be made in under 5 minutes once you have all the ingredients pulled from your liquor cabinet. And this cocktail falls right in line with that truth. You'll find this drink to be as simple as 1-2-3, well, and 4 with the added 4th ingredient. Literally, the most time-consuming effort in making an Aviation is slicing and squeezing the lemon.
To Shake or Stir
Apparently, in the cocktail world, there is a controversy over whether you shake or stir an Aviation. When I made this drink, I experimented outside both those popular views which you can see below. Ultimately you can be the final judge of the three options.
Shaking. One popular option is to fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the four ingredients, and shake until the outside of the shaker is really cold. Then strain it into a glass. A general rule is if there is citrus in the cocktail, you want to shake it. In doing that, it aerates the cocktail and balances out the acidity of the citrus. My objection concerning this drink is that it changes color and makes it cloudy. Also with adding air from the shaking, the flavor is more muted.
Stirring. Another option is to fill a cocktail mixing glass with ice and pour the ingredients in and stir until the drink is cold then strain it into a cocktail glass. This process takes away a bit from the deep purple hue and it also dilutes the drink just slightly because of the ice, but still a really appealing end product.
My Experiment. I could possibly be banned forever from making cocktails because of trying this experiment, but hey, it's my home bar. Chill the bottles of liquor in the freezer earlier in the day so the drink will be cold without having to use ice. Measure each ingredient directly into the glass and give it a really good stir so that all the flavors fully interact. Of the three options, this one is more alcohol forward and the taste is definitely more potent.
Even after my experiment, which I thought was really good, I would probably go with the "stirring" option. It seemed to me to have the perfect amount of balance. Now it's your turn to try them all and decide for yourself which you like best.
How to Achieve that Deep Purple Color
You'll need both Empress 1908 Gin and the Creme de Violette to produce that rich purple look seen in these photos. Any gin, in particular, will give you a similar taste with a light purple color, but the deep purple comes from both of these ingredients.
What Kind of Glass is Best for the Aviation?
The Aviation is typically served in a coupe or a martini glass which displays the visual glamour of this drink. Also, it is always a nice aesthetic touch to chill the glass beforehand which will also keep your cocktail colder for longer.
What Garnishments Could You Use?
I chose two different garnishments to stage a dazzling appearance for the finale. First, I sprinkled edible glitter called Diamond Dust which gives it a midnight starry effect. Secondly, I snagged some edible pansies at my local nursery to float on top of the drink for a stunning display. If the pansies are out of season, you can always order freeze-dried edible flowers from Amazon.
Probably the most noted garnish for the Aviation is a brandied cherry that can either be added to the bottom of the glass or on a cocktail pick across the glass. Another pretty garnish is a twisted lemon peel which gives a pop of color next to the contrasting purple.
Can Aviation be Made Ahead of Time for a Larger Group?
Absolutely. If you are going to serve say 10 people, you would simply multiply each ingredient by 10. Add all of the ingredients to a large pitcher, cover, and store in the refrigerator for a day or two. When you are ready to serve, add ice to the pitcher and stir until fully chilled. Strain the mixture into individual glasses and garnish. Below is an example that would provide 10 servings.
- 20 ounces Empress 1908 Gin
- 5 ounces Marsachino Liqueur
- 7.5 ounces Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
- 2.5 ounces Creme de Violette Liqueur
If you are looking for an enchanting cocktail that is sure to delight your guests, highlight a romantic evening, or give a dazzling production to any brunch, this will be the perfect go-to cocktail.
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Aviation Cocktail Recipe
An Aviation Cocktail Recipe from the 1900's pre-prohibition era that merges gin, Creme de Violette Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and Maraschino Liqueur to create a drink displaying a gorgeous purple hue. This classic craft cocktail hints at a delightful floral touch with a balance of both sweet and sour.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 Cocktail 1x
- Category: Cocktails
- 2 ounces Empress 1908 Gin, chilled
- ½ ounce Maraschino Liqueur, chilled (I prefer Luxardo)
- ¾ ounce Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
- ¼ ounce Creme de Violet Liqueur, chilled (I prefer Rothman and Winter)
- Edible Glitter for garnish (optional)
- Edible Flowers for garnish, I used Pansies (optional)
- Pour 2 ounces Empress 1908 Gin, ½ ounce Maraschino Liqueur, ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, and ½ ounce Creme de Violet Liqueur into an ice-filled cocktail mixing glass. Stir for about 30 seconds until the drink is cold.
- Strain and pour the ingredients into a chilled coupe or martini glass.
- Sprinkle edible glitter on top and add an edible pansy (optional).
- You'll need both Empress 1908 Gin and the Creme de Violette to produce that rich purple look that is seen in this post.
- The Aviation is typically served in a coupe or a martini glass which displays the visual glamour of this drink.
- You can make a large pitcher for a group of guests by multiplying the ingredients by how many people you are serving. Add all of the ingredients to a large pitcher, cover, and store in the refrigerator for a day or two. When you are ready to serve, add ice to the pitcher and stir until fully chilled. Strain the mixture into individual glasses and garnish.
- Serving Size: 1 Cocktail Glass
- Calories: 211
- Sugar: 11 g
- Sodium: 0 g
- Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 21 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g
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