How to Make a Classic Aviation Cocktail

An unusual mix of gin, maraschino cherry liqueur, lemon juice and creme de violette, the Aviation cocktail is a real knockout.

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Nearly forgotten for half of a century, the Aviation cocktail is making its way back into cocktail bars around the country. This gin-based drink is strongly floral, a bit fruity and a whole lot of fun. Find more classic cocktails to add to your repertoire.

What Is an Aviation Cocktail?

This pre-Prohibition drink first appeared on the scene in the early 1900s, when violet-flavored sweets were all the rage. Its creation is credited to Hugo Ensslin, then head bartender at New York’s Hotel Wallick. He included the cocktail in his book Recipes for Mixed Drinks, published in 1916. The drink was forgotten after the arrival of Prohibition in 1920.

Unfortunately, creme de violette went out of production in the 1960s. This ingredient lends the cocktail its light bluish-purple hue, reminiscent of the sky’s horizon as seen from an airplane. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that this floral liqueur made its way back to the United States. The gold standard is Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette ($26), an Austrian brand that kicked off the Aviation’s recent comeback.

What Does Creme de Violette Taste Like?

As its name suggests, creme de violette has a pronounced floral flavor. (It’s made from an infusion of violet buds and blossoms.) Citrus and herb notes are also noticeable.

Aviation Cocktail Recipe

Makes 1 drink


  • 1-1/2 ounces gin (This Aviation Gin would be an apropos choice!)
  • 3/4 ounce maraschino cherry liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce creme de violette
  • Maraschino or brandied cherry, for garnish


Finding the Aviation cocktail ingredients might take extra legwork, but trust us when we say it’s worth the effort! Creme Yvette can be substituted for creme de violette, if needed.

Step 1: Prep your shaker

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.

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Step 2: Add your ingredients

Add all of your delicious liquid ingredients to the shaker and cover tightly with the lid.

Step 3: Shake it up

Shake vigorously until the shaker becomes chilled to the touch (about 30 seconds).

Step 4: Strain

Immediately strain into a coupe glass like this.

Step 5: Make it pretty

Garnish the drink with a maraschino cherry and enjoy.

All in all, this vintage drink has quite a history. You can definitely toast to its recent comeback. We know more drinks that deserve another round, too.

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.