How To Make An Aviation Cocktail

A few weeks ago, my wife and I started cleaning out her mother’s kitchen of the ~40 years of detritus she’s been holding on to. In the fray, I managed to save some really beautiful glassware such as these coupes.

My mother-in-law works for a law firm and one of the attorneys gave her these phenomenal sets of crystalware at Christmas. She didn’t want to part with them out of guilt, but she also *never* used them.

“Take them!” she yelled with her thick Cuban accent. “If you’ll use them, take them!”

Now, I’ve never really been one for fancy glassware (excepting the various branded pint glasses I collected for years), but I’ve always secretly wanted to have a really cool bar setup for entertaining.

So, under the guise of acquiring some really nice crystal wine glasses that Barbie has always wanted to use, I brought home my favorites.

Tonight I’m going to (forgive the expression) break them in.

Now, over the last 18 months, I’ve become a bit of a cocktail aficionado. I mean, I was already into the tiki scene since, like, 2008-ish, but I never really thought about learning to make these drinks myself. All that changed when COVID decided that I couldn’t go out anymore.

At the same time, I rekindled my appreciation for Alton Brown by watching Quarantine Qitchen on YouTube. Brown and his wife Elizabeth live in my hometown and I’ve always considered him kind of a “TV uncle” along with LeVar Burton and Adam Savage.

Seeing Brown’s eclectic collection of glassware inspired me to look around for some interesting pieces on my own, but eBay prices are way too high and thrifting really wasn’t a thing for a while (I still want to pick up a couple of those vintage Delta in-flight service glasses, though!)

So, tonight, after an extremely difficult month, I’m finally going to sit down and enjoy one of my favorite beverages. It’s a classic gin cocktail from the dawn of an era:

The Aviation

First, though, I need to decide on a glass: Do I go with the classic “Marie Antoinette” round coupe or the more stylistic, angled “Martini” coupe?

For tonight, I’m going with Marie just because she’s about a half an ounce larger (also so I can pretend I’m Leonardo DiCaprio in that Great Gatsby GIF)


Okay, got a clean glass. First thing we’re gonna do is fill it with ice and set aside to chill.

First, let’s talk about hardware. Unlike many modern bartenders who prefer a fancy Boston shaker, I’m very partial to the Parisian shaker.

It’s got a nice period silhouette, but it’s only 2 pieces–unlike the cobbler variety most used by home gamers.

I like it over the Boston because (A) it just looks better, (B) doesn’t require a glass, and (C) seals better.

The Boston is for showing off, and I never strain with it (but many bartenders will tout that benefit anyway)

I can’t recommend a graduated jigger enough! Measurements get much faster and easier than eyeballing. Japanese or hourglass, it doesn’t matter (I just happen to like the look of the Japanese style)

Last thing is a good spring strainer. A Boston shaker can be used as a makeshift strainer, but if I’m going to strain a drink, I’m going to strain it!

This guy will get all those tiny ice flakes out so they don’t mess with the experience of a neat drink.

I’m going with the classic Savoy recipe here, but I’ve been playing around with the recipe some. Biggest change is that I’m going to be using violet liqueur instead of creme de Violette–because that’s what they had at Bevmo!

It’s really such a small amount only for coloring that it doesn’t appreciably affect the flavor. Despite what some purists will tell you!

Okay, let’s start with the good stuff! I am a fan of Sapphire going way back to my early 20s, but I haven’t bought it in over a decade. I switched to beer for a long time, and I picked up Beefeater for my tiki stuff since it was going to be so heavily mixed.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Beefeater! But if I’m going to be doing mostly gin, I want to taste my favorite.

That’s 1.5oz into the tin!

Maraschino liqueur fell by the wayside for a long time, but it is absolutely delicious and adds a nice, round cherry flavor to boozy cocktails like the Aviation, Manhattan, and Hemingway. We’re going to use 0.75oz for our concoction.

I don’t have any fresh lemons, but this will do for tonight. I need to get a couple of citrus trees for the apartment…. 😉 Throw in 0.5oz of lemon.

This is *not* the good stuff, but it’s what they had. Again, it’s really mostly for color and just a slight perfume of violet. Use 0.25oz at most.

Throw the ice from your glass in the tin and shake! (Yes, shake!) You don’t have to get violent here, just enough to mix and get the tin cold.


Strain it into that chilled glass. Don’t that look something!

Now for the garnish! Most plebes use some of those neon red cherries that come in Dole fruit cocktail, but I’m gonna fancy it up a little bit for my new glass.

My step-sister and I discovered these at Trader Sam’s when she was out here for a conference a couple years ago. They’re stupid expensive, but so goddamned delicious!

And there we have it! Of course, keeping with the aviation theme, I had to use one of my Southwest Airlines swizzle sticks!

Delicious! And, as promised, my best Gatsby selfie 🍸

Now, there is very likely a contingent of you who reel at the thought of shaking an aviation (“You’ll bruise the gin!”). I get it, especially with a top shelf gin like Sapphire, you don’t want to lose those nice top notes from the juniper and pine.

However, we have to take into consideration the complexity of the drink. By adding Maraschino, lemon, and Violette, we’re replacing much of the top notes with these new flavors. And when I shake a drink like this, I go just long enough to get the tin cold. On top of that, the ice dilutes the drink a little bit to give it a smoother texture. The shake also creates a tiny bit of foam, reminiscent of cirrus clouds, which help give the drink it’s distinct appearance (the drink is supposed to evoke the idea of an open sky, hence the name).

On the other hand, if this were a martini, you’d better believe I’d be stirring!

At the end of the day, it’s your drink! Make what you want how you want, and don’t let anyone shame you for being unorthodox. Just don’t be that asshole who drives drunk or ends the night praying to the porcelain gods!

Have fun, y’all. Hug your loved ones if you can.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.