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Aviation Cocktail Recipe

Don’t be confused by its deep blue color. The Aviation cocktail is a serious cocktail for serious drinkers. Read on to learn how to craft the classic gin cocktail at home in just five minutes.

Toy Plane and Aviation Cocktail

Based on its appearance, you might think that the Aviation Cocktail is a fruity-tooty cocktail. You would be wrong.

Despite the Aviation’s fun blue color that flirts with purple, this pre-prohibition cocktail’s flavor is far from fruity. Instead, a handful of ingredient combine to form a profile that skews tart but with a floral finish.

After discovering the classic yet obscure cocktail while researching drinks to craft with our bottle of Luxardo maraschino liqueur, we were intrigued by the Aviation gin cocktail both for its name and its ingredient list.

Also, did we mention that it’s blue?

What Is the Aviation Cocktail?

Crafted Aviation Cocktail
We crafted and drank this Aviation cocktail while grounded in Lisbon.

The Aviation Cocktail is sour gin cocktail that lived under the radar for more than a century. This sad status likely had ties to the scarcity of one of the Aviation’s key ingredients – crème de violette. Plus, maraschino liqueur isn’t exactly a home bar staple.

But, for those who make the extra effort to procure both crème de violette and maraschino liqueur, ‘the sky’s the limit’ with this classic drink. As it turns out, the Aviation is as easy to craft as it is to imbibe. As a bonus, you can surprise guests at a cocktail or dinner party with the striking drink’s ‘stratospheric’ azure color.

How Did the Aviation Cocktail Get Its Name?

Aviation Aviation Cocktail Next to Yellow Flower on Ledge Next to Yellow Flower
The Aviation is a true blue cocktail that catapults your drinking experience to the edge of the universe.

You may be wondering how the Aviation cocktail get its name. After all, nothing about the drink’s recipe or consumption involves aircraft. To answer this question, you just need to look up.

Planes fly in the sky AND the Aviation’s color is sky-blue. Plus, the cocktail’s exclusive ingredient list conveyed a level of luxury and fantasy that correlated with the exclusivity of air travel a century ago.

We equate the cocktail’s name to the way we use fantastical names for products we consume today like Starburst, Mars Bars and even Comet Bleach. Not that we would ever think of drinking bleach…

History of the Aviation Cocktail

Aviation Cocktail Next to Colored Tiles
Unlike many classic cocktails, the Aviation’s history is not a mystery.

The Aviation cocktail’s history is almost as old as the aviation industry.

Innovative bartender Hugo Ensslin invented the Aviation cocktail recipe at the Hotel Wallick in New York City and included it in his book Recipes for Mixed Drinks in 1916 – just 13 years after Wilbur and Orville Wright flew their plane at Kitty Hawk. While that auspicious plane flight only lasted 12 seconds, the cocktail has survived for more than a century.

Admittedly, it’s been a bit of a bumpy flight. While plane travel soared over the ensuing decades, the Aviation cocktail almost crashed into obscurity. But why?

First came prohibition when serving alcoholic beverages was taboo. Then there were issues with the drink’s ingredients. Crème de Violette, the liqueur that provides the drink’s blue hue and floral flavor, was practically impossible to buy in America for much of the 20th century. And to further complicate matters, Ensslin’s original gin of choice, El Bart, ceased production in the 1950s.

Aviation Cocktail Next to Black Wall
Would you call the color of our Aviation blue or purple? We chose to call it stratospheric periwinkle.

The nail on the proverbial coffin almost came in 1930 when The Savoy Cocktail Book included an Aviation cocktail recipe without Crème de Violette. Clearly, that version didn’t go over well since the Aviation took a nose-dive in popularity before it coasted on the fringes with hard-core cocktail connoisseurs.

Thanks to a 21st century return to craft and the availability, albeit limited, of Crème de Violette, the Aviation has risen from near-oblivion. And, to that, we say cheers!

Aviation Cocktail Ingredients

Aviation Cocktail Ingredients and Tools
These are the only ingredients and tools that you need to craft a Aviation cocktail at home.

We’ve already touched on the Aviation cocktail’s short list of ingredients. This is the full ‘crew’:

  • Dry Gin
  • Maraschino Liqueur
  • Crème de Violette
  • Lemon Juice
  • Maraschino Cherry (for garnish)
  • Ice Cubes (for shaking)
Aviation Cocktail Liquor Bottles
Despite its deceptively frivolous color, the Aviation doesn’t mess around with an ingredient list that includes three different liquors – gin, maraschino liquor and Crème de Violette.

While the original recipe called for now-defunct El Bart gin, we used Citadelle gin from France instead. Since any dry gin will work in this recipe, we recommend that you use your personal favorite. Better yet, use Aviation gin if you have access to the American dry gin produced in Portland. The name synergy is almost too good to be true.

Choosing the maraschino liqueur was an easier decision for us. After all, our bottle of Luxardo maraschino liqueur was the impetus for us making the Aviation cocktail.

Aviation Cocktail Next to Creme de Violette Bottle
Don’t bother crafting an Aviation until you find and buy a bottle of Crème de Violette. Violet liqueur is an important ingredient in the classic cocktail’s recipe.

And then there’s the Crème de Violette. After eating violet candy in Parma, we were intrigued to craft a cocktail with liqueur produced from the wild flower.

Produced in Germany, The Bitter Truth’s Violet Liqueur fit our bill with its deep color and 22% ABV. Distinctly floral, it’s not a liqueur that we’d choose to drink on its own. However, the purple potent potable is ideal in our Aviation cocktail recipe.

Buy bottles of Gin, Maraschino Liqueur and/or Violet Liqueru from Drizly or Total Wine if you live in the US.

How To Craft an Aviation Cocktail

Aviation Cocktail Next to Wood Wall
Making an Aviation cocktail is easy once you procure the ingredients.

As is the case with most classic cocktails, crafting an Aviation is both easy and fast. We crafted ours in just five minutes using the following basic bar tools:

Click here to discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

Measuring Creme de Violette for Aviation Cocktail
We carefully measured our Crème de Violette to ensure the proper color and flavor.

The first step is to squeeze fresh lemon juice and pour it into a cocktail shaker. You can use your hands to squeeze the lemon like we did unless you’d rather use a lemon squeezer.

The second step is to measure the three liquors (gin, maraschino liqueur and crème de violette) and pour each into the same shaker. We used a Japanese jigger to measure our liquors to achieve accurate measurements and clean pours. However, you can use a basic jigger or small angled measuring cup instead.

Buy a Japanese jigger if you need a jigger or want an inexpensive upgrade.

Aviation Cocktail in Shaker with Ice
Let the shaking commence! Crème de Violette even makes ice look cool.

The third step is to add ice to the shaker and shake it vigorously until all the ingredients are combined and chilled – about 10 to 15 seconds.

Warning
At this juncture, the Aviation drink (and your hands!) should be ready for the next step. Brrrr…

Straining Aviation Cocktail into Glass
Look at that color!

The fourth step is to strain the cocktail into a small martini glass. You’ll immediately notice the Aviation’s vivid color as the liquid hits the glass.

Pro Tip
Use a cocktail strainer to guarantee a ‘smooth landing’ into your glass.

Aviation Cocktail Next to Liquor Bottles
A Luxardo cherry on a fancy metal cocktail pick completed our luxurious Aviation cocktail experience.

The final step is to garnish the cocktail glass with a maraschino cherry. We recommend Luxardo maraschino cherries for this and other cocktails. Not only are these cherries the original maraschinos, but we consider them to be the best maraschino cherries in the world.

Discover why we’re obsessed with Luxardo cherries.

Aviation Cocktail Alternatives

Aviation Cocktail with Maraschino Cherry
Crafting an Aviation is the best way to find out if you like the Crème de Violette cocktail.

We suggest that you follow our recipe at least once before you set your course for the stars. When your’re ready to experiment, we suggest the following Aviation alternatives:

  • Tweak the ingredient ratios to adjust the flavor and/or potency.
  • Add one or two demi-spoons of Luxardo syrup to balance out the drink’s tartness.
  • Replace the gin with vodka and add absinthe to craft a Clean Aviation cocktail.
  • Replace the Crème de Violette with with Crème Yvette if you’re in a pinch.
  • Omit the maraschino liqueur to craft a Blue Moon cocktail.

Aviation FAQs

What is an Aviation cocktail?

The Aviation Cocktail is sour gin cocktail that’s crafted with maraschino liqueur and crème de violette.

What does the Aviation taste like?

The Aviation tastes different form other sour gin cocktails due to the inclusion of maraschino liqueur and crème de violette. These liqueurs add sweet and floral undertones to the Aviation’s flavor profile.

Where did the Aviation cocktail get its name?

The Aviation’s name is related to its sky blue color.

Where was the Aviation invented?

The Aviation was invented in New York City.

What are the ingredients in an Aviation?

Dry Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, Crème de Violette, Lemon Juice, Maraschino Cherry (for garnish) and Ice Cubes

What’s the best gin for an Aviation?

Any dry gin will work in this recipe.

Is the Aviation shaken or stirred?

The Aviation is shaken, not stirred.

What type of glass is best for the Aviation?

We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.

Aviation Cocktail Recipe

Aviation Aviation Cocktail Next to Yellow Flower on Ledge Next to Yellow Flower

Aviation Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The Aviation Cocktail combines gin with maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and crème de violette to create a drink that's simultaneously sophisticated and fun.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce crème de violette
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish
  • ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Pour lemon juice, gin, maraschino liqueur and crème de violette into a shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake until ingredients are mixed and chilled.
  3. Strain into a small martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Notes

  • Since crème de violette isn't available at all liquor stores, you may need to special order a bottle.
  • You can use a coupe glass if you don't have a small martini glass.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: May 6, 2021

peter sceats

Tuesday 29th of November 2022

El-Bart Gin is not defunct... el-bart.com it is my family gin brand started by James Sceats

Ryan I

Friday 9th of September 2022

This has been my go to cocktail for the summer after trying it in a restaurant earlier in the year… I’d highly recommend Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette over Bitter Truth and definitely stick with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur if you can get it. The other couple options on the market are pretty nasty. Also, be sure you’re maraschino liqueur- not cherry liqueur. They are not even similar.

Greg

Friday 12th of August 2022

I recommend using a bit more lemon juice (3/4 oz) and a bit less crème de violette (1/4 oz or a little less). Then add a bar spoon (~1/6 oz) of simple syrup. It’ll be much more balanced! If you’re also feeling adventurous, try adding about 1/4 oz of yellow chartreuse. Gives the flavor profile a nice twist.

Michael Mandel

Sunday 30th of January 2022

Spelled Fiolette at some point and towards end had with with Also, as an aviation drinker, I found that .25 oz Creme de Violette is the perfect amount.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Sunday 30th of January 2022

Thanks for both tips. We corrected the typo now and will try your recipe suggestion later.

Jane

Sunday 16th of January 2022

With a “spirit forward” drink like the aviation, why do you shake and not stir? I thought shaking was for juice heavy combinations.

Michael Meyers

Friday 30th of September 2022

@Daryl and Mindi Hirsch, and Jane, Jane, this drink is a gin sour (or punch) sweetened with maraschino and violette. The very definition of a punch is a drink where the strong (liquor), weak (water pulled during shake), sour (lemon juice), and sweet (the liqueurs) elements are in balance and no single one predominates. It's why the majority of mixed drinks served up to the drinking public are sours or punches, because it is such a friendly and palatable form to a wide swath of people (think Margarita, Daiquiri, Cosmopolitan).

I agree with other commenters here that the recipe proportions are not ideal for this drink. I would use 2 oz gin, .75 oz lemon juice, .5 oz maraschino, .25 oz violette. If you look at well thought out recipes for sour drinks these are the usual proportions, especially equal measures of the sour and sweet ingredients. Now in the case of this drink, I also find that the drink usually turns out a little imbalanced toward the sour juice. So in agreement with Greg, I usually add about a barspoon (.5 teaspoon) of simple syrup to get the proper sweet-sour balance. Otherwise this drink can tend to be a little tooth-strippingly tart.

You might ask "why not use more of the liqueurs to get the balance"? That's what it seems is the intention of the recipe presented here. Because both maraschino and violette are VERY forceful ingredients. They are both what are known in mixology land as "bullies". Better to keep them in check and get the needed sweetness from a neutral source.

A properly made Aviation should be a pretty faint blue with a gradient to purple caused by the cherry at the bottom of the glass. Elegant... subtle. I agree with Ryan, as well, that Rothman & Winter is a better violette choice. I've always thought The Bitter Truth is both wildly over flavored and over colored. Combine that with a recipe that calls for double the violette that is customary in this drink, and the result is something that looks like a 70's drink from Friday's, and most likely smells like a grandmother's underwear drawer.

And yes, this drink should be shaken. It greatly improves integration of the disparate elements, and aeration is a sour's best friend. I hope this helps if you take a stab at this one. Be patient and give it a few tries. Sours are much tougher than true cocktails to execute well, because they depend on critical balances.

And to Daryl and Mindy, whenever I've tutored someone in mixology, the first principle I try to get them to buy into is that to make a drink its best, you have to understand what it's trying to be. I've read a number of your articles recently, and every one of them, in my opinion, betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of traditional mixological principles on your part. There's obviously a lot of new interest in this area and a lot of people coming forward to present themselves as experts to guide those who want to learn. I know everyone has to pay the mortgage, I just wish that those who are trying to lead the blind, could themselves see more clearly.

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Monday 30th of May 2022

While we like to shake our aviation, you can certainly stir yours. It will surely taste good either way. Cheers!

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