Skip to main content

How to make the Aviation cocktail, a drink almost lost to history

The cocktail renaissance brought this classic drink back to the forefront

Aviation
istock

The cocktail renaissance of the last two decades has brought many classic cocktails seemingly lost to time back to the forefront. While the Old Fashioned is the most notable (and never really went away completely), the list also includes drinks like the Sazerac, Americano, Martinez, Boulevardier, and many more. But there’s one drink in particular that disappeared for decades and almost didn’t come back at all. We’re talking about the Aviation.

What is the Aviation?

Gin bottles
Annie Spratt / Unsplash

The last cocktail mentioned might not get the press of the Old Fashioned or even the Manhattan, Negroni, or classic no-frills Daiquiri, but it’s no less memorable. This elegant, flavorful, complex cocktail is historically made with only four ingredients. They are gin, maraschino, liqueur, lemon juice, and crème de violette. Some contemporary recipes opt not to use the latter ingredient.

When was the Aviation cocktail created?

Aviation
Mgg Vitchakorn/Unsplash

Aviation got its name because of the purple and blue sky-like color of the crème de violette. It was created in the early 1900s when the US was very excited about the newness of air travel. The first mention of the drink was in 1916 in the book ‘Recipes for Mixed Drinks’ by Hugh Enslinn, a bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York City.

Gin-based cocktails were very popular at the time, and the drink remained a favorite throughout Prohibition. But like many classic drinks, its popularity waned for a half-century or more. Part of the reason for its disappearance was the fact that crème de violette liqueur was discontinued in the ‘60s. Like many forgotten drinks, it returned to prominence with the cocktail renaissance after the liqueur was returned to the American market in 2007, and bartenders began to embrace classic cocktails again.

What you’ll need to make an Aviation

Sliced lemons close-up
Sama Hosseini / Unsplash
  • 1.5 ounces of London dry gin
  • .5 ounces of fresh lemon juice
  • .5 ounces of maraschino liqueur
  • .75 ounces of Crème de violette
  • Cocktail cherry

The Aviation recipe steps

Aviation

  1. Add gin, fresh lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and Crème de violette to an ice-filled shaker.
  2. Shake vigorously to combine all the ingredients.
  3. Strain the ingredients into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Add a cocktail cherry as a garnish.

Bottom line

Gordon's Gin
iStock

If you’re a fan of gin-based cocktails and you’ve never tried Aviation, now is the time to get on the Prohibition-era cocktail bandwagon. You don’t have to be dressed in a dapper suit or have a gal dressed as a flapper on your arm to enjoy this classic cocktail. You do, however, need a good London dry gin, fresh (not out of a lemon-shaped bottle) lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and Crème de violette.

Besides the gin and lemon juice, these clearly aren’t everyday cocktail ingredients. But if you want a cocktail featuring notes of juniper and herbal gin, fresh citrus, cherry sweetness, and floral flavors, you’ll stock up on these necessary ingredients.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
How to make a heavenly Sidecar cocktail
It's a classic cocktail for a reason — let us show you how to add the Sidecar to your cocktail repertoire
Sidecar cocktail

Cognac is back, and it's anything but your granddaddy's go-to drink. The grape-based spirit within the brandy family has undergone a renaissance and one of its best forms, the classic Sidecar cocktail, is coming back to life in bars across the country.

Western France's most famous distilled export jumped an estimated 15% in sales in 2023. It's being appreciated more and more for its wine-like complexity and inventive cocktail bars all over the globe are finding new ways to use the stuff.

Read more
What is pisco? Exploring South America’s grape brandy
Introducing this unique brandy and how to drink it
Pisco sour

What is pisco, you ask? Pisco is one of the many sub-ategories of grape brandy — a spirit distilled from fermented grape juice (aka wine). Just as Armagnac, cognac, and American brandy each have rules and regulations on how and where they can be made, so does pisco.

Pisco hails from South America and can only be produced in Chile or Peru. In the mid-16th century, Spanish conquistadors brought European grapes to South America, where they planted many vines for fruit. After a surplus of fruit due to Spain's decision to limit wine exports, locals were forced to think of other methods to preserve their wines and opted for distillation — a relatively new concept at the time. By the 17th century, the first piscos were made (at the time, they were referred to as Aguardientes), and they eventually made their way into North America, where they became popular in U.S. cities, including San Francisco. They can be sipped neat or as part of a cocktail like the pisco sour.

Read more
Blue Curacao is back in style — how to use it like a drinks pro
Blue Curacao 101
A Blue Hawaii cocktail at the beach.

Not too long ago, Blue Curaçao was out of style. Like banana liqueur and Merlot, it was the laughingstock of a large portion of the drinks industry. Well, trends change, and tropical blue drinks are back with a vengeance.

Yes, the latest cocktail trends are hard to keep up with, but that's what we're here for. Blink once, and Cosmopolitans are popular again. Blink twice, and the Espresso Martini is in the rubbish bin.

Read more