The Aviation is one of those drinks which, a few years back, could probably pretty conclusively be described as dead. Decommissioned. Out of service. It was an elegant creation that simply didn’t sit well with a contemporary climate for mixed drinks consisting entirely of pitchers of Woo-Woo, Sea Breeze or Sex on the Beach, not least because of the relative difficulty locating one of the key ingredients (Crème de Violette), but also because of the tastes of the time. However, with the revival of the classic cocktail, I’ve noticed the Aviation migrating from menu to menu recently, seemingly turning up when I least expect it. And this is nothing but a good thing – the Aviation is an incredibly unappreciated concoction, a twist on the gin sour which tastes surprisingly like an alcoholic lemon sherbet.
Its most recent landing spot is Pleased to Meet You’s pleasantly extended cocktail menu, which offers it in its most classic no-frills format of gin, lemon, crème de violette, and maraschino. Other destinations on the Aviation’s long-haul tour of the Toon have included Livello, Tokyo, MSA, and Jalou (sadly no longer offered there, but perhaps it may make a return for the summer? Just a suggestion…). Westgate Road’s Tokyo and MSA (Music Slash Art) are also both adherents to the original century-old recipe which has, honestly, yet to be topped – and they both adhere to it very well indeed. As to the others, Livello are currently offering a pleasant twist on the original which they have christened the Aviation Mach – essentially your standard Aviation upgraded to business class via the addition of being fire-poured over fresh rosemary. Another interesting detour can be found at the newly-reopened Popolo quayside location. Their variation (christened the Aviatrix, the product of the 2011 CLASS bartender of the year Tristan Stephenson) uses egg white powder and cologne spray to add a distinctly masculine edge to the drink. In general I’m not a fan of egg white, feeling that it adds an unnecessary frothiness to already foamy drinks such as the Whiskey Sour. In this case, however, I think that it works – perhaps the drink being served without ice prevents the unwanted milkshake effect. Of these two new twists I’d have to say I preferred the rosemary twist from Livello, purely because of my own personal dislike of egg white (and I’m also quite a fan of rosemary). Needless to say, though, it’s largely a subjective choice as the cocktails served at both venues were otherwise superb. However, if in doubt, you absolutely can’t go wrong with PTMY, MSA, or Tokyo’s offering of the original. As a note, the vast majority of locations are electing to serve their Aviation’s with Bombay Sapphire or Bombay Dry gin (other than Popolo, who are opting for Hayman’s). It works perfectly serviceably with the drink, though I feel that a slightly less floral gin and one more citrus-based, such as Beefeater, may be better suited to the overall flavour of the Aviation. Just a thought.
The first place where I noticed the Aviation making its reappearance in Newcastle, however, was the perennial Alvino’s. It seemed to be a menu staple there for quite some time, until their move last summer to an entirely in-house cocktail list featuring their own creations meant that it was sadly removed. However, the incredibly knowledgeable bar staff have never had a problem serving one up for me on the occasions when I’ve ordered one there (which is actually *a lot*…because they make them really, really well). They even introduced me to the tweaked non-maraschino version known as a Blue Moon. I’ve never been a particular lover of maraschino liqueur (which is kind of odd since I’m such a fan of this drink, of which it is such a major part), and so they suggested the alternative. Which was nice.
With that, here’s my own recipe for making a proper Aviation (or Blue Moon if, like me, you’re just not that into maraschino liqueur).
45ml Gin (I recommend Beefeater, or a London Dry Gin with similar body)
15ml lemon juice (roughly half of one average sized lemon, squeezed)
15ml Crème de Violette (available from Fenwick Wine Store, or online from retailers such as The Whisky Exchange)
15ml maraschino liqueur (omit this to make a Blue Moon, instead using 30ml of crème de violette)
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake for roughly 20 seconds, or until the shaker turns frosty. Strain straight-up into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry; or a slice of lemon peel if you’re making a Blue Moon. You can thank me later.