28 May 2009

Benito vs. the Cocktail: The Aviation

Always in search of a new flavor sensation, I turned my eyes towards a Prohibition-era favorite, The Aviation. Plus, this pushes the bull testicles off the top of the site for anyone that was repulsed by that.

Now, I must admit that to do this properly, and by the original recipe, you have to use ¼ oz. of Crème de Violette, a rare bluish-purple liqueur distilled from violets. But I omitted it here. Why? It's hard to find, expensive, and I'm not even sure if it's available in the Memphis area. On top of all that, it has very limited uses even among serious cocktail fans. I think if I purchased a bottle today, in fifty years my grandchildren would be throwing out a mostly-full bottle and wondering why on earth Granpa Benito held on to the damned thing so long.

I followed the recipe from Gary Regan's wonderful article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Aviation Cocktail
2 oz. Gin
½ oz. Maraschino Liqueur
½ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice (don't use the bottled stuff!)

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake the hell out of it, and strain into the glasses of your choice. Despite my photo trickery, this cocktail is clear, with little flecks of lemon pulp and ice scattered throughout. It's got an amazing flavor, a little sweet, a little tart, with an underlying nuttiness and complexity from the cherry pits used to make the Luxardo Maraschino. Note that this is a completely separate product from the red syrup found in jars of maraschino cherries. We're talking about a sophisticated product with hundreds of years of history that was beloved by European monarchs including Napoleon and Queen Victoria.

While I made the cocktail as an experiment before a dinner party, I was surprised at how popular it was. While I prefer to savor my cocktails and take them slow, I saw these disappearing quickly around the table, and ended up making three batches during the evening. Bear in mind this is a fairly strong cocktail, so pace yourself.


fredric koeppel said...

V. interesting. Creme de violette is apparently so difficult to obtain that my favorite drinks book, "Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century" by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead) doesn't even mention it in its recipe for the Aviation. It looks as if the only product available in the US is Rothman & Winter's Creme de Violette from Austria, imported since 2007. It's about $28 for a 750 ml bottle. As you imply, that's a lot of creme de violette.

Benito said...


At some point you have to draw the line, especially in a small house. Would I like to try the artichoke liqueur called Cynar? Sure, but I really don't want a bottle of my own. There are other products like Creme de Noyaux, made from apricot pits, that can be reasonably replaced by a more useful liqueur like Amaretto.

It may seem odd that I have four different orange liqueurs, until you look at fellow blogger Jay's collection of 23.


Samantha Dugan said...

Cynar is one of the most vile things I have ever put in my mouth, beyond bitter.

Benito said...


Glad to hear from someone who has actually tried Cynar! I mostly included it as one of the more ridiculous cocktail ingredients out there.