Recipe Comparison – The Aviation Cocktail

Every single cocktail book I have in my house has a different recipe for the Aviation Cocktail. Trader Vic’s version, oddly enough, contains equal portions of Dubonnet and sweet sherry, but all of the others have the same three ingredients in various quantities: gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. Gary Regan, in The Joy of Mixology states quite firmly that the whole of the cocktail and its ratios depend on the dryness of the maraschino liqueur.

From what I have been able to glean from the Aviation post on eGullet, the cream of the crop when it comes to maraschino includes Luxardo and Maraska. Assuming that they vary in funkiness, I still have 4 distinctly different recipes to work with. Obviously these slight variants account for the taste of the author, so let’s put the tasting team to the test. For all of the cocktails we’ll be using Luxardo maraschino.

David Wondrich

  • 2oz gin
  • 2t maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4oz lemon juice

From: Killer Cocktails

There was a very strong lemon taste and aroma that took over this cocktail entirely. Although perceptable, the marachino lost all of its funkiness as it struggled to be seen in the back of the auditorium. It leaves much to be desired.

Dale DeGroff

  • 2oz gin
  • 1oz maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4oz lemon juice (the amount was printed as 2/4, but I’m assuming that was a misprint)

From: The Craft of the Cocktail

Dale’s version is completely different, with the maraschino really playing a major role in the taste. The funkiness definitely came through, but the taste of lemon seemed just a touch off.

Dr. Cocktail

  • 2 1/2oz gin
  • 2 or 3 dashes maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4oz lemon juice

From: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

Very similiar to the first, this was my least favorite of the batch. It was by no means untasty, but you may be able to achieve the same taste by sipping gin by itself and licking a lemon as you go. The maraschino didn’t even make it to the show in this one.

Gary Regan

  • 2oz gin
  • 1/2oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1/2oz lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

From: The Joy of Mixology

I was getting worried that I may just have to give up on my quest and settle for a less than perfect version of the Aviation, but Gary Regan has saved the day. The balance of lemon juice in this version was perfect with just the right amount of tartness. The marachino helped balance out the whole ordeal, and even the juniper taste from the gin made an appearance. This recipe is clearly the winner.

Please feel free to do some comparisons on your own and put your comments in here. I’d be very happy to hear from others that I’m completely wrong and that I should dive right back in.

15 Responses to “Recipe Comparison – The Aviation Cocktail”

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15 Comments to “ Recipe Comparison – The Aviation Cocktail”
  1. EricNo Gravatar says:

    YES! I enjoy the taste tests muchly! How about a test of different Gins next?

  2. MariaNo Gravatar says:

    Greetings from an Aviation addict! It’s my favorite cocktail by a mile, and my husband loves it as well — it’s our house cocktail. I’ve tried various other maraschino-containing cocktails, and not liked any others nearly as much, with the exception of El Floridita, a daiquiri with a bit of maraschino. I started with Maraska, the only brand available here in Mpls-St. Paul, and then read so much about Luxardo I actually went on a one-person campaign to get it stocked here! I started with the larger liquor stores, who by that time had run out of Maraska and told me it was “no longer available.” I called a couple of larger distributors here, to no avail. Finally, I found the importer (Preiss) online, and sent a plea, which got me the info for the small distributor who *could* get it, and then I had to poke and prod him and his clients to persuade them to consider buying a case! (In case anyone reading this is in the Twin Cities region, it’s now at Surdyk’s.)

    Anyhow, I DO prefer Luxardo to Maraska– it’s drier and sort of spicy, whereas Maraska has a grappa-like quality, while being sweeter– not unbearable, just not as delectable to my taste. A friend living in Munich got interested in it all, and is mad about a brand he gets in Germany– can’t recall the name, but it’s REALLY different, sort of floral. They drink it in the Yale cocktail (I can’t find the recipe anymore– there are a couple of very different “Yale” concoctions, but this one is gin, Maraschino and maybe orange bitters). They reported that they didn’t care for the Aviation, but when I tried one with their brand, I wasn’t crazy about it either. Then I served them one with Luxardo, and they were amazed at the excellence of it!

    As for proportions, your preferred recipe is exactly the way I like mine: 2:.5:.5.

    And BTW– as a reward for my persistence on Maraschino’s behalf, Henry Preiss (the Luxardo importer) sent me an apron with a huge Maraschino label printed on it!

  3. RickNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the comment! It’s great to hear about other’s spirit quests. Luxardo was actually easy for me to get here in Pennsylvania (I know, a shock); I had to place a special liquor order (SLO), but I was able to order just one bottle.

    I’m currently on a mission to find Lemon Hart Demerara Rums – both the 80 and 151 proofs. Jeff Berry’s Grog Log calls for lots of it, and the best PA can do for me is by a case. As much as I’d enjoy two cases of this fine rum, that’s a pretty price to pay. I’m seeing what other methods I can use to obtain it, but so far it looks like I’ll have to rely on friends in other states to “offer gifts” when they visit.

    I wonder if I could get in touch with the importer and see if they’d be willing to ship the state less than a case. I’m guessing not too many people order it, so maybe it’s a possibility. How did you go about finding the importer for Luxardo?

  4. MariaNo Gravatar says:

    Hello again! Sorry not to have checked back sooner– I could have gotten your quest under way last month.

    I found Preiss Imports through idle Googling, the kind of researching I do when I have all kinds of important work to do.;-) The fellow you’ll reach when you email is the owner, Henry Preiss. He strikes me as a very sympatico fellow– even cordial, if you can bear the pun!

    I would be very surprised if he’d ship less than a case, but you never know. What’s 12 bottles, anyhow? Won’t you buy at least a couple? And haven’t you addicted your friends to the Aviation? I’ve been doing my best to give the impression of popular demand here in Minneapolis by buying extra bottles for gifts to friends, and for storage at home in case of the Rapture, in which event my husband and I will luxuriate in Aviations with all the rest of our ne-er-do-well pals left behind here on the glorious Earth!

    I’d like to see some bars get hold of Maraschino. I never see it anywhere. Then again, I have no confidence in modern bartenders, who can’t be bothered to measure anything. That makes most of the vintage cocktails not worth bothering with, unless I get to make them myself. If they stare blankly when you try to get bitters in your Manhattan, you can be sure that a beer would be a better bet.

    Maybe you’ll get your own Luxardo Maraschino apron out of Henry Preiss!

    PO Box 829
    Ramona, Ca 92065
    Office (760) 789-6010
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  5. George SinclairNo Gravatar says:

    “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, by Hugo Ensslin (1916)

    * 2 oz Gin
    * 1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
    * 1 tsp Maraschino Liqueur
    * 1 tsp Violet Liqueur (Parfait Amour)

    Shake with ice.

  6. RickNo Gravatar says:

    After reading Paul’s post on Parfait Amour and seeing this recipe, I may just have to put in a special order for a bottle of Marie Brizard’s version.

  7. JohannesNo Gravatar says:

    This one is not an Aviation, but also very nice and interesting:

    * 4cl Gin (Tanqueray if available)
    * 2cl Maraschino
    * 2cl Fresh Lemon Juice
    * 2cl Cream of Coconut

    Shake well on ice, serve with cherry. Enjoy! :-)

  8. EricaNo Gravatar says:

    I just happened to happen upon this website and read Maria’s story. I just purchased Luxardo Maraschino at Surdyk’s yesterday and I realize I have her to thank for its availability, so…thank you, Maria!

  9. […] over at Kaiser Penguin did a superb job of combining several recipes from the bartending dream team. If confronted in […]

  10. […] of my favorite gin drinks. I went with Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology recipe, as found in the Kaiser Penguin recipe comparison. It’s my favorite Aviation recipe. As I’d hoped, the blue of the iris held out in the […]

  11. JLNo Gravatar says:

    Just stumbled on this thread. A correction on the original Ensslin recipe: My book specifies 2/3 gin 1/3 lemon, which would be 1 ounce, not 1/2.

    However, I think you’ve headed in the right direction. I back off the lemon slightly and up the maraschino, simply because I adore the flavor and balance it provides

    I tend to use 2 oz gin, 3/4 oz lemon, 1/2 oz maraschino and 1 tsp creme violette

  12. EmilyNo Gravatar says:

    JL’s ratios are exactly how I make my Aviation. I prefer Luxardo, Plymouth Gin and Rothman and Winter Crème de Violette.

  13. BenjaminNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve fallen in love with the Aviation Cocktail. Sadly, attaining the ingredients for many classic cocktails in the land of Cheese and Beer requires a trip to Sam’s in Chicago. The one thing I’ve noted in creating this cocktail is that a little Creme de Violette can go a long, long way. I believe a 1/4 TSP is serves as the proper amount in the recipes mentioned above. I’ve seen some recipes call for as much as 1 TSP which is far too much in my opinion.

    The resurgence in classic cocktails in Wisconsin, and Madison in particular, has been lead in large part by a micro-distillery in Madison, WI – Death’s Door Spirits. Their gin, a pre-prohibition style gin (sweeter gin) mixes as well as any Gin I’ve tried in classic cocktails.

  14. AuzzieNo Gravatar says:

    hey, the aviation, amazing!! definately for the refined palate. just a heads up sort of thing, recipe down under in most descerning cocktail bars is and ill do this is (mls)
    45 plymouth
    15 maraschino
    30 lemon
    Most bars leave out the cremde de violette even if they stock it, the cocktail just takes on a differnt balance and to me not a better one(just my opinion though) and i have a feeling that the savoy cocktail book agreed by famously leaving it out too… ive noticed that many recipes posted have equal parts lemon to maraschino???? this is the first place ive herad that but again just seeing whats out there… happy days!

  15. SWHighlanderNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll have to try Gary Regan’s version. I’ve used Flighty’s version (a.k.a. Alberta Straub from San Fran, “Cocktails on the Fly” website) for a few years which has similar ratio of maraschino to lemon as JL’s, but even stronger flavor compared to the gin:

    1 1/2 oz Gin
    3/4 oz Maraschino liq
    1 oz Lemon juice
    1 dash Simple syrup
    1 dash Creme de Violette

    I agree with Auzzie on the CdV – it doesn’t do anything good for the taste, but just a small dollup doesn’t affect the taste much and the coloring is cool. How else can you call it an “Aviation”?

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