Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics




2oz Gin (London Dry)

.75oz Maraschino

.5oz Lemon Juice

.25oz Creme de Violette

Maraschino Cherry


Add the gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and Creme de Violette to a chilled shaker glass. Add ice then shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker begins to frost. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


A hint of botanical sweetness and violet on the nose. Light, airy and smooth on the tongue, the gin and maraschino are well accented with violet, while the lemon juice takes over at the end with a mild citrus tart finish. This is another classic that is sure to please almost anyone, including those vodka drinkers, who “don’t like” gin.


The Aviation has an interesting story of obscurity, somewhat replaced by (in my mind) a completely different tasting variant for many years. Only recently has the cocktail been revived with its original ingredients.

Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks, was the last American cocktail book published before prohibition.

The Aviation was created in New York, by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick. The first known publication was in Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1916). Ensslin’s initial recipe is a little different from the one I presented above:

  • 1.5oz Gin
  • .75oz Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes Maraschino
  • 2 dashes Creme de Violette

I found that cutting back on the lemon juice and upping the maraschino makes for a much smoother, although sweeter cocktail with a less sour taste. I have found this version appeals to a much broader audience.

Some have suggested that the Aviation’s name came from its pale blueish color, which resembles the color of the clear blue sky.

Aviation 2

So what happened to Hugo’s creation? Well there were a few things contributing to the Aviation’s nose dive into obscurity:

First, Creme de Violette was unlikely to be a popular ingredient at the time, yet it gave the Aviation both its unique color and flavor. Prohibition didn’t help the matter and Creme de Violette became unavailable in the US for many decades.

Second, the much more famous Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), omitted the Creme de Violette due to a typographic error. This hugely popular book became the way that most bartenders learned to make an Aviation. As you can imagine, without the Violette, the Aviation is more of a gin sour, with maraschino as the sweetener. The taste and unique color of the cocktail is completely lost.

The modern cocktail revival has led to much research into the history of drinks, renewing interest in making the Aviation with Creme de Violette. Since 2007, Rothman and Winter Creme de Violette has been imported to the US, allowing Americans to once again taste (and see) the Aviation the way it was meant to be made.


Being one of my favorite cocktails, I have done a good deal of experimenting with the ingredients, ratios and additions. Most of these experiments have failed miserably.

Aviation St. GI know I said that I prefer the above recipe to the original, but when I make the Aviation, I typically use one more ingredient. This addition has led to all who have tried it to find this version the “best” Aviation they have had. What’s the mystery ingredient? St. Germain. The elderflower flavor is a great compliment to the violet and adds something magical to the Aviation, so much so that everyone I’ve made it for prefers it to the “real” recipe. Try it sometime and see what you think. Just add .25oz to the ingredients above.

14 Responses to “Aviation”

  1. St. Germain | The Straight Up

    […] however, I have found it to be a great substitute or addition to classic cocktails. Check out my Aviation recipe or add some St.G to an Americano or Champagne Cocktail to get a feel for its […]

  2. Lily’s Pad | The Straight Up

    […]  A light citrus mint and cucumber nose. This one tastes a bit like a spring inspired hybrid of an Aviation, New Martinez and a “refined” cucumber mojito. It is lighter and airier than a mojito with a […]

  3. Last Word | The Straight Up

    […] bring in so much more than simple syrup or other sweetener could ever bring. To me, much like the Aviation and my Lily’s Pad, there is also something special about maraschino in a sour that changes […]

  4. Minty Blues | The Straight Up

    […] Notes: Mint and berry dominate the nose.  Refreshing, light and smooth, semisweet in flavor. Think Aviation meets blueberry and mint dessert. The maraschino keeps this one silky smooth while adding […]

  5. Rogue Manhattan | The Straight Up

    […] hands and was not disappointed. Their menu of drinks spans from two of my favorite classics, the Aviation and Improved Holland Gin Cocktail to some unique originals such as the Thai spice infused Amigo […]

  6. Pineapple | The Straight Up

    […] with juice in them. While I definitely love a few shaken cocktails (here’s looking at you Aviation and Last Word), for the most part I’m a stirred kinda guy. That being said, this drink is […]

  7. Up to Date | The Straight Up

    […] record recipes for a few great cocktails, including everyone’s favorite bluish classic, the Aviation. The book was billed as “a complete list of the standard mixed drinks that are in use at […]


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