During my on-going campaign to distance myself from my new interest that costs me so much money, I suffered a huge defeat last month when I purchased two liqueurs for one of my favorite cocktail. One ingredient can be found in several drinks (like another go-to fave, the Last Word), and that is Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, a delightful cherry-flavored liqueur. It adds sweetness but also a bit more complexity with it’s funky delicious flavor.
Then there is that rare liqueur that is not in many recipes (hardly any, actually) and is even harder to find. And that is creme de violette. A violette liqueur. Floral tartness, a unique perfumy sweetness, a slight grape-candy-like bite.
Put these together along with gin and lemon juice, you got the Aviation cocktail.
But after testing two different recipes, an ounce or a quarter of an ounce off can make a huge difference!
If you are interested in the history of the Aviation, read this blog post, a fascinating read about the misuse of the recipe, where a single typo in the early 20th century turned this cocktail into a shadow of its formal self, and it didn’t come back into popularity until the 2000s!
Anyway, back to me buying expensive ingredients…
After I bought the maraschino liqueur and creme de violette, I had to make the Aviation. I used the recipe from a “trusty” reference book, the Mr. Boston 75th Anniversary Edition Official Bartender’s Guide (you’ll see why I put quotes around the word trusty by the end of this post). It’s actually a very helpful book, and it has been my go-to book for creating the Aviation in my home for myself and to impress any and all guests.
Here is their recipe:
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. creme de violette
Shake with ice and strain into chilled glass. Garnish with fresh or maraschino cherry.
Not bad, right? Gin, lemon, cherry liqueur and purple stuff. It’s very tasty, not overly sweet, a pleasurable tartness, floral cooling flavor.
And it’s been, ehhhhhhhhhhh fine. It’s been OK when I’ve made it. It is certainly a very fancy drink so when I sip it oh my goodness it’s a great cocktail.
But after making this a few times for my friends (and myself…to become well acquainted with it) it lost it’s zing. It also tasted slightly more bitter than what I remembered at the speakeasies I’ve tried this at. I didn’t think much of it.
Until after Christmas, when I got a fantastic cocktail book.
Started in NYC in 2007, this bar was one of the first in the neighborhood, right at the beginning of the craft cocktail movement. These bartenders focused on making the best drinks possible, tweaking their recipes until they were perfect and creating amazing new drinks (like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, their most popular drink).
Point is, it’s a great recipe book.
So the other night two friends came over to drink cocktails, but more importantly to taste test. We would make the same cocktail using two different recipes. We chose the Aviation.
We made one drink from Mr. Boston’s book, and then we made one from this new book, Death &. Co. Here is their recipe:
2 oz. Plymouth gin
1/2 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/2 teaspoon creme yvette (essentially creme de violette…it’s what I used, anyway)
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice, strain into coupe glass. Garnish with brandied cherry.
Very similar, but LITTLE differences. So how did Death and Co. change from Mr. Boston’s recipe that I have been making for a month? Death & Co. changed the following:
- obvious difference: the addition of simple syrup
- gin stayed the same
- maraschino liqueur stayed the same
- much less creme de violette (.5 teaspoons = 1/12th fluid ounces)
- much more lemon juice, 1/2 oz. more
We used the same ingredients. Shook it in ice for the same amount of time. The results?
Death & Co.’s recipe was CLEARLY superior. I mean, by a landslide. This version of the Aviation that I’ve been making for a month and LIKING, for the most part, is forgettable compared with this much more balanced, enjoyable recipe.
Little differences matter!
This goes to show you how different the SAME dish/cocktail can be when different sources present it. It’s all about experimentation until you find that sweet spot. Keep experimenting with ratios/amounts/slight variations until you find something that is really worth making.