The Aviation Cocktail

The Aviation is a pre-prohibition era masterpiece, invented by Hugo Ensslin in the early 1900s. Though little known in his time, Ensslin is regarded as one of the greatest cocktail creators the world has ever known. His book, the dryly titled “Recipes for Mixed Drinks,” contains hundreds of timeless recipes. Enslinn ran the bar at the Hotel Wallick, a second-tier watering hole in the heart of New York City. The building was eventually razed in the 1950s, and the drink’s proper formulation was nearly lost to time when the when the Savoy Cocktail Book omitted the signature creme de violette from the recipe in 1930. Syrupy and sweet, violette’s popularity declined; in the 1940’s it disappeared in the US, rendering the original cocktail impossible to recreate. 

Fortunately the Aviation reemerged in 2007 with the introduction of Rothman and Winter creme de violette into the United States. Rothman and Winter make their violette from flowers steeped in grape brandy and saturated with cane sugar. The liqueur is syrupy, sweet, and not great for much other than aviation cocktails, so if you buy a bottle expect to hang on to it for a while. Violette is increasingly available in liquor stores. 

Without the dollop of violette, the drink can get a little sour for some palates. I prefer my drinks on the sour side, so I opt to add in the cap full of violette post shake to create an elegant layering. I also opt for lime, and for a lime wheel instead of the original cherry garnish for an added measure of tartness.

Cocktail with lime garnish


  • 2 oz gin (Beefeaters)
  • 0.5 oz maraschino liquor (Luxardo)
  • 1 cap of creme de violette
  • 0.75 oz lime juice (about a fresh small, lime’s worth)
  • Cherry or lime wheel garnish


  1. Pour fresh lime juice, maraschino liquor, and gin into cocktail shaker
  2. Shake for 20-30 seconds
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass
  4. Fill the cap of the violette bottle with violette
  5. Pour violette down the side of the cocktail glass so that it settles to the bottom. You can also use a bar spoon.

Original Recipe | For reference, the original ingredients are listed below. All ingredients are shaken at once and then strained into a cocktail glass

  • 1.5 oz Gin
  • .5 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
  • .25 oz Creme de Violette
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