Aviation Cocktail Recipe

Aviation Cocktail Recipe

Aviation Cocktail Recipe

When we stumbled across Arsenic and Old Lace last week, we were actually researching Aviation. The two have several things in common: a name that starts with ‘A’; a gin base; creme de violette; and their earliest known appearance in Ensslin’s 1917 Recipes for Mixed DrinksThe creme de violette is perhaps a bit controversial; Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, which for us and so many others serves as something of a classic cocktail bible, contains a recipe for Aviation without it. For a long time, Craddock’s was the earliest known version of the recipe, leading citizens of the current cocktail renaissance to think that creme de violette was a modern addition to the recipe. Even pre-eminent cocktail historian David Wondrich wrote an eloquent recommendation of Craddock’s violette-less version as the perfect Aviation recipe. Then, someone dug up Ensslin’s book. Just as when we were discussing Arsenic and Old Lace, aka Attention, 1917 comes before 1930. If a drink recipe called for creme de violette in 1917, and from 1931 onwards, but somehow didn’t call for it in 1930, maybe 1930 is wrong.

Here’s our theory (and not just ours): an editing error. Craddock’s recipe is identical to Ensslin’s except that the last line, ‘2 dashes creme de violette,’ is omitted. Recipes changed a lot, from bartender to bartender and over the years. Given how different Attention is in Ensslin and Craddock, it’s remarkable how little changed in the Aviation recipe–and a little fishy that the only change comes in the form of a single, but complete line of text. Who knows? Perhaps Craddock just disliked creme de violette. If that’s the case, though, how did he manage to keep it in 6 other recipes? So, maybe he or an editor just missed a line.

Whether or not that’s actually the case, it’s surely true as a Platonic ideal. The purple-tinged luminescence of the drink and the mildly floral flavor are what makes an Aviation an Aviation. Without violette, Aviation is just a Hemingway-esque sour.

Like with Arsenic and Old Lace, we moderns and Ensslin tend to disagree on the amount of creme de violette called for. Unlike Arsenic and Old Lace, moderns like more creme de violette than Ensslin. As with the Arsenic and Old Lace, our tastes are modern.


  • 2 oz dry gin
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz creme de violette


  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
  • Fill with ice to above the level of the liquid.
  • Shake for 20 seconds.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass.

Roberts & June