Wednesday 10 August 2022
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The Sky in a Glass: The Aviation Cocktail

One of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions was to try an Aviation cocktail. This was inspired by my good friend and cocktail aficionado, Rosemary, who referenced the  periwinkle-hued cocktail a few times and even dubbed it the “it” cocktail for 2014.  But the drink eluded me throughout the year. It contains some semi-exotic ingredients including Luxardo,  made from Maraschino cherries. Not not like the kind in Shirley Temples that would be too easy. Luxardo is clear and made from Marasca cherries from the Dalmatia region of Croatia. The other ingredient lending the drink its signature azure hue is  Crème de Violette made from Violets. So it was not the easiest to order at your average bar.  I came close at a  July party-they even had the special  Aviation gin marketed for the drink- but alas no Luxardo and the  liquor stores were closed. (Unfortunately in PA we can not purchase such late night supplies at a super market) I had a bottle of  Rothman’s Crème de Violette at home and gin, and  I could have simply purchased a bottle of Luxardo, but life gets busy and then suddenly it’s December and the Aviation remains elusive.

Bottles resizedLuckily a few of my cocktail comrades were willing, despite a busy holiday season, to help me achieve my goal of trying The Aviation before 2015.  So on December 27  we found ourselves in my kitchen with leftover holiday cookies and all of the right ingredients. We used Plymouth Gin for its citrusy quality, which Rosemary advised would compliment the other liquors.

We discussed the power of Crème de Violette and how it was probably best to just use two dashes, as some of the recipes suggested. Too much might make it too syrupy.  I used 1. 5 oz of the Plymouth Gin.  1 oz of the Luxardo and lemon juice and then with “two flicks of the wrist” added the Crème de Violette. And lo and behold it was suddenly as if we had poured a glass of a late spring afternoon sky just before evening.

And when I held the glass up to the light,  I found myself transported back to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh where in 2001 I became entranced with John Singer Sargent’s painting Lady Agnew of Lochnaw  (1892). A  stunning portrait of a woman with a relaxed gaze, wearing the lightest of purplesque blue with a more violet sash. Here the pale purple of her dress and sash were echoed in my glass. But I also was reminded her gaze. Confident, peaceful. As if she had just sipped an Aviation. (Although the drink was not invented until 1916 by Hugo Ensselin the bartender at the Hotel Wallick in Times Square)


Lady Agnew of Lochnaw-John Singer Sargent American painter National Gallery of Scotland, EdinburghThis painting is in the public domain. For information click here.The taste is lightly floral, tart and acidic in a good way.  It reminded me in some ways of a sophisticated version of the candy Sweet Tarts that  I loved in middle school. We could not resist making a second round of which we paired with the wonderful ganache tart that Nezka had brought making for a wonderfully  decadent time! The Aviation is perfect for such slow evenings among friends when there is no dashing off to another event or party, household duties or other daily duties. When one can enjoy the luscious layers of an interesting cocktail and converse into the evening about books, art and life.

Women-Friends- Holding-The Aviation-cocktail

Cheers! My cocktail comrades from left to right: Rosemary, Nezka and Tonyehn.

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