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Cocktail Hour: The Aviation

DSC_0228Does it feel like Friday to you? I’ve been looking forward to Friday– and Friday night– all week. And Friday nights, for me, mean cocktail time!

Not to tread on Wine Girl’s domain, but she’s pretty busy with the Wine Festival this weekend, so I thought I’d throw in a post about one of my favorite cocktails: The Aviation.

I first had an Aviation at The Rookwood (it’s no longer on the menu, but if they’ve got the ingredients,they’ll make it for you).  I’ve also had it at Tonic as well as bars outside of Cincinnati.  It’s become a favorite– it’s refreshing, yet complex.  A little sweet, but not cloying.  Sophisticated, but not unapproachable.

The Aviation is considered a “classic cocktail”, one that predates Prohibition.  Cocktails pre-Prohibition weren’t the syrupy-sweet “tinis” we see today, but instead well balanced, well crafted, and thoughtful creations.  The Aviation is certainly that.  An extensive history of the cocktail can be found in Food and Spirits Magazine, which is a fascinating Omaha-based web publication.

The standard ingredients are as follows:

  • Gin
  • Lemon Juice
  • Maraschino Liqueur

The Savoy Cocktail Book (you saw that in last week’s “Obsession” post) describes the recipe as 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur.

The original version, from Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks included Creme Yvette, a brand name for Creme de Violette. (Correction: Not Yvette.)  It’s a brandy-based liqueur that has a purple cast, like the violet petals it’s made with.  It, and Maraschino Liqueur, can be found easily at The Party Source, which is where I found the ingredients for this drink.  The version of the Savoy drink I make at home contains just a teaspoon of the Creme de Violette– just enough to make it look a little bit like the sky you see out the window as you’re flying.  Oh, for the days when flying was romantic!

Maraschino liqueur– I bought the Luxardo version– doesn’t taste like those bright red cherries in a jar (which I used to love to eat as a kid).  It’s a little sweet, certainly, but has a bit of a floral aroma, and it’s definitely not bright red.  I bought some Luxardo “original maraschino cherries” to go with the Maraschino liqueur– tiny, deep-dark red Marasca cherries in a syrup of Maraschino liqueur.  They’re a bit expensive– $17 for a jar– but so much better than those unnaturally red ones that there’s no comparison.

As far as the gin goes, you can use whichever you like according to your taste, but a London gin is preferred– I used Beefeater for this drink.  According to Josh Durr, who put together the cocktail list at Tonic (via Michelle, thanks for that tip as I was making these drinks a few weeks ago..), it’s got a stronger flavor that helps balance the equally strong flavors of lemon and Maraschino.  Keep the Hendricks for another cocktail.

You can read more about this cocktail at Sippity Sup (I tried his version– I don’t like the simple syrup in this drink.  It shouldn’t be quite that sweet), too.  You can also read Michelle’s recounting of Josh Durr’s version of the Aviation.

Oh, and that Luxardo cherry at the bottom of my glass? Not traditional at all.  I believe a lemon twist is traditional, but I’ve seen them served with nothing at all, a cocktail onion, or a Luxardo cherry.

Next time?  The Manhattan (my favorite).




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