I’ve been wanting to make the Aviation Cocktail for the longest time. I once had someone order it for me when we met at a local bar and I loved it. It’s probably the prettiest cocktail ever and as much as I love purple that could be swaying me but it’s not. It’s sort of a magical blend of gin, maraschino liqueur (so not having anything to do with fake red orbs) and Creme de Violette; the elixir that lends it’s name and hue most dramatically. While I’ve had this glass in my possession for some time just for this Aviation Cocktail, it’s taken a bit to locate the Creme de Violette and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur; I don’t live as close to a big super-liquor store as I used to and sometimes they are just what you need for procurement!
Still, the defining moment came when I was asked to feature Aviation Gin. How perfect could that possibly be? It was meant to be. Karma. Fate. Perfect.
The story of Aviation Gin started in the summer of 2005 at a small tiki party in West Seattle, WA, when a young bartender named Ryan Magarian was handed a complex botanical infusion by a friend from Portland, Oregon. Finding it unlike anything he had ever tasted, he quickly seeks out its maker, Portland’s House Spirits Distilling. Recognizing a common interest in spirit, cocktail, and food interactions, the distillers at House Spirits share with Ryan their idea for a renegade regional gin style. In June of 2006—after nearly 30 rounds of trials—Aviation Gin takes wing. Many believe this to be the first brand partnership between distiller and bartender in American history.
During these trials the parties worked to define a precise set of botanicals; those herbs, seeds and roots that are the trademark of gin. Juniper Berry is a given for its almost evergreen quality but the others that come together can be unique and with this gin they establish Aviation Gin as a definitively Northwest product. This is no gin wannabe; Wine Enthusiast named it the top gin with a 97 rating. That’s 5 points higher than Hendrick‘s and Bombay Sapphire. It means you need to try some!
As much as I have always loved a London Dry Gin and one in a blue bottle in particular, I can see my bar having both. This has such an amazing aromatic; as soon as the cap is released it wafted to my nose and I knew I was going to love it. It added so much character to this cocktail which is at this moment my new favorite. Word of caution though. I am very fickle.
The history of the Aviation Cocktail was long attributed to Harry Craddock, the author of the Savoy Cocktail Book which has been in publication since 1930. However, more recent information has proven that the cocktail was the brainchild of a German born bartender named Hugo Ensslin; the author of Recipes for Mixed Drinks published in 1917 and the last major cocktail book published prior to Prohibition which started in 1920.
Apparently common practice at the time, Craddock copied Ensslin’s cocktail for his book and in doing so forgot one important ingredient, the Creme de Violette. For many years there was some confusion as to the name, why the Aviation? Correcting that mistake with the discovery of the older tome and adding the Creme de Violette originally intended made the mystery clear; in addition to adding a nice violet floral note, the Crème de Violette lends its dark purple color to the drink. When mixed with gin and lemon juice, the drink turns a paler blueish purple color just like the sky. AHA…The Aviation!
My dad, Captain John Gregory (Jack) Bathe, liked a good drink every now and then; he was a fan of some classics and certainly enjoyed a Martini and a Manhattan. But he loved his gin and tonic during the summer so I know he was a fan of gin too. Add that to his history as a combat pilot during WWII and I think honoring him this week of Veterans Day in 2014 with this drink is fitting. He died early this year; I only wish someone could have served him one of these first; I’m sure he would have enjoyed that. He was very proud of his service and rightly so and taught us this song when we were kids and I’ve always loved it. So, here’s to you Dad, I’ll drink one of these in your honor and if you listen carefully you might just hear your favorite song too; complete with us kids practically screaming the last line!
OFF we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At ’em boys, Give ‘er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps!
Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder
Sent it high into the blue
Hands of men blasted the world a-sunder
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Nothing can stop the Army Air Corps!
Here’s a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old
Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the Army Air Corps!
Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true
If you’d live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
Flying men, guarding the nation’s border,
we’ll be there followed by more!
In echelon we carry on, Hey!
Nothing’ll stop the Army Air Corps!
NOTE: The song as we were taught it ended each chorus with the words ‘Army Air Corps which is what that branch of the service was called during WWII. It has since become the US Air Force but those words weren’t what we learned so I defer to the original.
This would be an elegant addition to a holiday cocktail party; what better time of year to serve something with this beautiful jewel tone in my absolute favorite color!
- 2 oz gin
- .5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
- .25 oz Creme de Violette
- .75 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Maraschino Cherries (I get mine online, none of that harsh awful red stuff for this cocktail!)
- Add all of the cocktail ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or lemon curl.
This is a sponsored post however all opinions are my own.