The AVIATION COCKTAIL Recipe and History


The Aviation Cocktail, basically a violet infused gin sour, was created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, in the 1900's. Published in Ensslin's 1916 "Recipes for Mixed Drinks" his recipe called for 1-1/2 ounces of El Bart gin, 3/4 of an ounce of lemon juice, 2 dashes of Maraschino liqueur and 2 dashes Crème de Violette, a violet liqueur which gives the cocktail its singular pale blue-violet color.

Harry Craddock's 1930 "Savoy Cocktail Book" lists the recipe as two-thirds dry gin, one-third lemon juice, and two dashes of Maraschino liqueur, leaving out the Creme de Violette completely. This is the cocktail you will likely receive in most bars because, until Rothman and Winter came out with their version in 2007, Crème de Violette was no longer in existence. It is still difficult to find (though can be found online at BevMo and other web retailers), but frankly, this recipe is not an Aviation, lacking both the floral notes of the violet flavor and distinctive periwinkle color and should not be called such. It's understandable that most bars won't stock Crème de Violette as it is not used in that many cocktails but if they don't stock it then an Aviation should not be on their drinks menu.

Crème Yvette is sometimes substituted in versions that call for Crème de Violette but it's not a true violet liqueur as it uses a combination of berries and orange peel with the violet. As a result, I find this liqueur too fruity, too heavy and the violet notes too faint for the original intentions of the Aviation. Besides, it's upwards of $50 per bottle! If I were to pick any substitution at all it would be to use the essence of another floral element, adding in a drop or two of hibiscus essence or even B'lure, though both would fly away from the wild blue yonder color of the original periwinkle colored drink, the hibiscus turning the drink a distinct pink color and the B'lure changing from blue to fuchsia as it interacts with the lemon juice. So, not an Aviation either!

If you want to stick as close as possible to the original Aviation, then buy yourself a bottle of Rothman and Winters Crème de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and some good dry gin like Aviation (which, BTW, was named after the Aviation cocktail). I find the cardamom & lavender in the Aviation are a nice complement to the Crème de Violette's florals*.

Aviation Cocktail Recipe Ingredients & Instructions



2 Oz. Aviation Gin (come on, you have to, it's called Aviation!)
1/4 Oz. Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo Recommended)
1/2 Oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 Oz. Crème de Violette

TOOLS: Coupe glass, Cocktail shaker, Hawthorn Strainer

GARNISHES: Lemon Twist, Homemade (or Luxardo) Maraschino Cherry


Chill your glass in the freezer.
Add the ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker and shake until well chilled.
Strain into your chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and a Maraschino cherry.


* Like Raymond Reddington (James Spader in NBC's The Blacklist) says in The Freelancer episode, "It's from the '20s, tastes like spring, doesn't it?"

BLUE MOON - Leave out the Maraschino liqueur.
MOONLIGHT - Replace the Maraschino liqueur with Cointreau.
CASINO - Leaves out the Crème de Violette, adds a dash of Orange Bitters.

National Aviation Day is on August 19th.

Updated 8-2021

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