Aviation Cocktail

Aviation cocktail recipe

​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
181 Calories
0g Fat
6g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 181
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Protein 0g
Calcium 4mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The aviation cocktail is a fantastic classic cocktail with a long and rocky past. It's possible that this was the very first purple-colored drink and, without a doubt, it's the most popular recipe to feature crème de violette.

This floral mix is simple, and in true old-fashioned style, it requires just a few ingredients. The combination of gin, cherry, violets, and lemon offers a refined and fascinating flavor that is unique in the cocktail world.

The problem is that the key to getting the drink's stunning color is a somewhat elusive liqueur. Often overlooked and rarely stocked, crème de violette was revived with a 2007 release by Rothman & Winter. Genuine versions are made using actual violets (the purple flower) and have a lightly floral and sweet taste. Today, a few other companies produce it, though it's definitely not the easiest liqueur to find.

That liqueur makes the aviation cocktail what it really was meant to be, though even during the four decades of its absence, the cocktail was still being made without it. Interestingly, some drinkers have reverted to the maraschino-only recipe because they believe that modern crème de violette is not what it should be.


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for aviation cocktail
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
  2. Pour the gin, liqueurs, and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    Pour the gin, liquors, and lemon juice in tumbler
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
  3. Shake well.

    Shake well
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack  
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Strain into a cocktail glass
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
  5. Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.

    Garnish with a lemon peel
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
  6. Serve and enjoy.

    Serve and enjoy
    ​The Spruce / Cara Cormack 


  • Beyond Rothman & Winter, look for violet liqueurs from The Bitter Truth and Giffard. Best known for their drink syrups, Monin offers both a violet syrup as well as a liqueur.
  • The aviation cocktail is definitely a place to show off your best gin. Dry gins with a strong juniper profile are customarily used, though nearly any gin will work quite nicely. It's also a good idea to try it with Aviation Gin. Explore your options to find your personal preference, but always keep quality in mind.
  • If you choose to skip the signature crème de violette, be careful about the cocktail's balance. Without this seemingly insignificant ingredient, the aviation can quickly become too sour.
  • Try adding 1/8 ounce of 1:1 simple syrup to this recipe to really smooth out the flavor profile. It's not necessary, but you may find that you enjoy the cocktail more with it.

A Brief History

It's not known exactly who invented the aviation cocktail. According to David Wondrich's "Imbibe!," it was first printed in a 1916 book by Hugo Ensslin called "Recipes for Mixed Drinks." It has always been difficult to gauge how popular the cocktail was at the time, and because the two key liqueurs were likely just as rare as they are today, it is assumed that this was a specialty drink served at only the most elite bars.

Sometime in the 1930s, crème de violette was dropped from the aviation, and maraschino took over the drink. This can be noted in Harry Craddock's popular "The Savoy Cocktail Book," which has been an influence on bartending guides since its first publication in 1930.

Few cocktails beyond the aviation called for crème de violette, and by the 1960s, it had disappeared from the U.S. market. This sent the cocktail even further into obscurity until a recent cocktail renaissance and the rerelease of the floral liqueur.

Today you will find the aviation on lists of classic cocktails that should be experienced. Even so, don't expect to order it at every bar. Despite being available again, crème de violette is not part of the average bar's inventory, though there are some that are trying to revive the aviation and will create a fantastic version for you to taste.

How Strong Is an Aviation Cocktail?

Crème de violette is typically bottled between 30 and 40 proof, which is about the same as most maraschino liqueurs. Add to that an 80-proof gin, and you have a pretty strong cocktail. As lovely as it tastes, the aviation's alcohol content is a rather potent 27 percent ABV (54 proof). That's lighter than a gin martini and more along the lines of the cosmopolitan.