When I first started getting into classic cocktails back in the late ‘90s, there were a great number of drinks that remained elusive, thanks to a complete lack of ingredients. The unavailability of real pomegranate grenadine, high quality orgeat syrup, and real absinthe meant we were forced to either make our own ingredients or suffer through drinks made with the closest available thing.
And then there was the Aviation cocktail. The unavailability of both crème de violette and crème yvette meant that the drink had only been savored by a lucky few. Crème de violette is essentially a liqueur flavored and colored with, ideally, fresh violet flowers. Crème yvette is a close substitute, but with the addition of some other berry and vanilla flavors. But those two liqueurs went out of production during America’s dark days of shitty cocktails.
As we in the bar world revived—and in some cases rescued—classic cocktails from the doldrums of cultural neglect and poor ingredients, we couldn’t reach for the Aviation’s core ingredient. Sure, we had everything on hand we’d ever need to recreate how Hemingway drank his Daiquiris or Harry Craddock mixed a White Lady at the Savoy, but without violette or Yvette, we had to daydream about what this elusive classic cocktail, the Aviation, might taste like.
Fortunately for all of us, around the same time the Jacquin company released a crème yvette, and Haus Alpenz released its own version of crème de violette, and the cocktail world was back in business with the Aviation.
There are plusses and minuses to both. The Crème Yvette brings a round, soft, berry flavor to the drink, standing up well to the sour lemon juice, but it sort of lies flat on the tongue. Crème de violette has lighter, floral, perfumed flavors that mix well with the herbaceous gin, but to be honest it kind of tastes like an old lady’s underwear drawer. If that’s your thing, we of all publications would never judge your predilections there.
I’ll admit, either way you make the drink, it’s an acquired taste, but I like knowing that at least we have the ingredients again for people to learn whether this cocktail if for them. For me, it’s not my favorite, but it’s a fun, light, and floral cocktail that pairs delightfully with springtime boozing.
• 2 oz. London dry gin
• ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
• ½ oz. maraschino liqueur
• ¼ oz. crème de violette
Combine ingredients and shake with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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