Cocktail Recipe: Aviation


The Aviation cocktail is so popular in Manhattan that — at least in places with a good cocktail list — it’s almost as easy to order as a martini. It’s not so ubiquitous around here — in fact the only cocktail list I know that has it is X20 in Yonkers — but it’s simple enough to make it at home.

The Aviation is named for its sky-blue color. It’s a classic from the 1930s, when air travel was glamorous and hope for the future was unbounded.

For many years, one of its main ingredients  — creme de violette — was nearly impossible to procure. But renewed interest in cocktails has spawned a cottage industry in bringing back old-fashioned flavors and liqueurs, including the creme de violette, which is made from the petals of violets. I found a bottle recently at Piermont Fine Wines.

Before that, I was using a bottle my friends snuck back in the country from London. And before that, even, I would make the drink without creme de violette at all.

But you can only get that blue color — which reminds me not only of the sky, but of the steely color of metal used to make, well, aircraft — by using creme de violette.

Maraschino liqueur is a little easier to come by. But if you can’t find it, don’t — by any means — substitute the syrup from maraschino cherries. Maraschino liqueur is indeed made from cherries (marasca cherries, in fact), but also uses their pits. It tastes more like a nutty grappa than a cherry.

Lately we’ve been fooling around with the proportions of the Aviation cocktail.

The first one is a bit sweeter, because it uses more creme de violette. It might be good for someone who isn’t too keen on trying a new cocktail:

For 2 drinks:

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/3  ounce maraschino liqueur
1/6 teaspoons creme de violette

This next version, we’ve found, is perfectly balanced between the aromatics of the gin, the brightness of the lemon, the thick viscosity of the creme de violette and the nuttiness of the maraschino:

For 2 drinks:

3 ounces gin
1 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 ounce lemon juice
4 teaspoons creme de violette

We tripled that for this batch of 6 cocktails.

Combine all in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Or two.

Last summer, I made my own maraschino cherries. (I know. Please don’t make fun of me.) But if you didn’t think ahead during sour cherry season, or you’re just not as obsessed as I am, may I recommend you get Morello cherries, which are far superior to the bright-red (is that Red Dye No. 2 or 4?) maraschino cherries you get at the grocery store.

Although, I used to love in Shirley Temples as a child. Hmm. I guess the cocktail obsession started early. Cheers!


About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.


  1. Liz, we’ve had the Aviation on the cocktail list at Pour since we opened. Also try using Aviation Gin in your next experiment, and for cherries try using Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, hard to find but well worth it if you do. If anyone is looking for hard to find liquers and spirits try, they have just about anything. Cheers


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