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The Great Aviation Cocktail Mystery

The Aviation

The Aviation

By Camper English, contributor

October 15th, 2010

Last week I was in Berlin for a bar show and attended a seminar on the German influence on American cocktails, lead by historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller. It turns out that many of the great cocktail book authors of the late-1800’s and early 1900’s were of German origin. 

One of these German-born bartenders was Hugo Ensslin, who authored Recipes for Mixed Drinks in 1917, the last major cocktail book published before Prohibition in 1920. The book was not all that well-known until it was recently reprinted.

One of the most famous cocktails first printed in Ensslin’s book is the Aviation, but for a long time bartenders used the Aviation recipe from the more popular Savoy Cocktail Book that has been in print for many years. 

Though bartenders loved the simple gin drink, they could never figure out why it was called the Aviation. It was a cocktail mystery for many years. 

As it turns out, when Craddock was copying Ensslin’s recipes to include in his own book (common practice at the time), he forgot to write down one ingredient from the original: the liqueur Crème de Violette. 

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 pale blue color, just like the sky. Cocktail mystery: Solved! 



2 fl. oz. Gin
.75  fl. oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
.25 fl. oz. Maraschino Liqueur (not maraschino cherry juice!)
.25 fl. oz. Crème de Violette 

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. 

posted in: Blogs, drinks, cocktails, camper english, gin, creme de violette, aviation, classic cocktails
Comments (1)

Kim_L writes: I often wondered where the to violet or not to violet debate stemmed from. Thanks for shedding some light on it.

That is an utterly insane amount violet to use though. I find any more than splash is completely overpowering. Much like the first time you mix with orange flower water. Posted: 3:51 am on October 20th

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