Flying high with Aviations

Although my favorite cocktail changes almost as often as my hair color (which is to say, quite a lot), I’ve been stuck on the Aviation for quite some time. Not only is it a great blend of sweet and tart, and uses one of my favorite spirits (gin), but it’s irresistible pale purple color means that whenever I’m making it at a party, everyone asks what it is and asks for their own.

It is also the recipe I am asked for the most often, by a wide margin. I was even thrilled to once get a text message from my friend Mr. Manhattan (whose cocktails skills are far superior to my own) when he was out of town and wanted to make them for his family. So, in anticipation of being asked again for the recipe, I’m posting it here. The notes on where to find the ingredients apply to the San Francisco area, but I hope crème de violette has made its way to other markets as well.


1 part fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 part Maraschino liqueur
1/2 to 3/4 part crème de violette
3 parts gin

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Taste, and if it’s too tart, add a smidgen of simple syrup until it’s as sweet as you like. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a marasca cherry, if you have one. If not, serve as is.

A note on ingredients:

  • The most commonly available Maraschino liqueur, made by Luxardo, is best. It’s available at BevMo, some Italian delis, and better liquor stores. If you use Marasca brand Maraschino liqueur, which is somewhat less common, you’ll likely have to add a bit more simple syrup, because it’s not as sweet as the Luxardo.
  • The only brand of crème de violette that’s generally available in the U.S. is made by Rothman and Winter. They theoretically carry it at BevMo, but they’re often out at the one I usually shop at. In San Francisco they also usually have it at Cask, John Walker & Co., K&L Wine Merchants, and Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits. John Walker also sometimes carries the less common (and more expensive) Miclo crème de violette, which I prefer slightly to the Rothman and Winter, although, alas, it renders a pale gray cocktail instead of a pretty purple one.  In the East Bay, they also have it at Ledger’s.
  • As for the gin, I think Hendrick’s, which is a very mild gin, is perhaps best for this drink, but any gin that isn’t too intensely juniper-y will work. When I’m making multiple pitchers for a large number of people and need an inexpensive gin, I’ll use Tanqueray. It works just fine, since the maraschino and crème de violette really carry the day in this drink.

To make simple syrup, combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for a few minutes, until the sugar is well dissolved and it thickens ever so slightly. Let cool and then store in the fridge. Since it’s used in a lot of cocktails, I make big batches of it and keep it in my fridge. It will keep more or less indefinitely. You will likely need a bit of this to keep the cocktail from being too tart, but if you have access to Meyer lemons, which are a bit sweeter, the simple syrup may be unnecessary.

Italian marasca cherries, which are far superior to those neon-red monstrosities available everywhere, somewhat difficult to find. I buy them at Cask, in SF, and I understand they’re available at the Rockridge Market in Oakland as well. If you can’t find them, no worries: the drink is also delightful without them.


2 thoughts on “Flying high with Aviations

  1. […] for about 15 minutes, and then they found someone more interesting to talk to, like my old friends The Aviation and The […]

  2. […] up on obscure liqueurs or spirits at their suburban liquor store. I couldn’t even make an Aviation, since creme de violette hasn’t made it out to their neck of the woods […]

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