The Aviation, For When You Want a Classic Cocktail That Is Purple
Also: Do you really need a bottle of crème de violette?
If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while, you have probably figured out that I like to drink seasonally: Whiskey Sours and Old Fashioneds in the fall, Manhattans in the winter, Daiquiris and tiki drinks in the summer, Martinis in the early spring — and gin sours in the late spring when it starts to warm up, as it finally has in Washington, D.C., this week.
You’ve also probably noticed that I like holiday-themed cocktails, which ideally should be slightly gimmicky drinks that reflect the holiday somehow without departing from classic cocktail construction.
Partly this is because cocktails are great for sharing and bringing people together; good drinks are inherently social. And partly this is because, in my household, my role at holiday gatherings is to make drinks; with the exception of some summer grilling holidays, the cooking is all handled by another highly competent department. So I mix cocktails, set the table, and help clean up.
Around this time of year, then, I’m looking for something that is both a tasty classic or classic-inspired cocktail and also looks like something the Easter Bunny would drink after a long day at the office. Specifically: I’m looking for a drink that pours a nice pastel color — something mature, refined, and tasty that would nonetheless match the decor of an egg hunt.
There are a lot of brightly hued theme cocktails out there that are just gimmicks, and they tend to be wildly sweet and badly balanced. But the classic canon does have a few drinks that fit the bill — in particular, the Aviation, a delicious, subtly complex gin sour that pours a lovely light purple thanks to the inclusion of crème de violette, a flower liqueur that was nearly impossible to find for decades.
This drink raises two main questions for the home bartender: First, what’s the best way to make it? And second, do you really need a bottle of crème de violette in your bar?