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The Aviation cocktail is a 1900’s mixed drink with a lovely purple hue! This sweet tart classic cocktail is so tasty, it’s now back in style.

Aviation cocktail

Here’s a classic cocktail that’s come back en vogue: the Aviation! This purple cocktail tastes as great as it looks: it’s sweet tart, with a hint of cherry and a floral nuance that come from maraschino liqueur and ​crème de violette! To be honest, Alex and I had avoided this drink for quite a while because of the unique specialty ingredients. But that first sip was so intriguing that we immediately agreed: they’re worth the purchase. It’s a great drink for the adventurous home mixologist who doesn’t mind adding another liqueur or two to their collection. (Us.) Here’s how to make it!

What’s in an Aviation cocktail?

The Aviation cocktail is a gin drink created back in the early 1900’s by a bartender at a hotel in New York City (Hotel Wallick). It’s a sour cocktail that combines gin with sweetener and citrus: it’s like a fancy spin on a gin sour. The original recipe called for a unique violet liqueur called ​crème de violette. But a famous cocktail book published later in 1930 omitted it.

Some bartenders prefer to omit the violet liqueur because it can be hard to find. But with the resurgence in the popularity of classic cocktails, it’s now more easily available and you can make an Aviation cocktail at home. The Aviation is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, which defines the ingredients in an Aviation as:

  • Gin
  • Lemon juice
  • Maraschino liqueur
  • Crème de violette
Crème de violette

Why to buy a bottle of crème de violette

Crème de violette is a specialty liqueur that’s made with violets. Because this liqueur was just as specialty at the time as it is today, it’s thought the Aviation was probably only served at elite bars. Crème de violette stopped being made entirely in the 1960’s. It wasn’t until the resurgence in popularity of classic cocktails that it started to be made again! The company Rothman and Winter released it in 2007, and since then a few more companies have joined the pack.

If you’re into great cocktails like we are, consider buying a bottle of crème de violette as a chance to experience a cocktail that was lost to history! You can now find it at liquor stores. We were able to snag a bottle of Rothman and Winter at ours, which has a great art deco look.

All about maraschino liqueur!

The Aviation requires yet another special ingredient you might not already have: maraschino liqueur. And no, it’s not the liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries! Maraschino liqueur is a clear, cherry flavored liqueur. The flavor is mainly dry but lightly sweet, with hints of sour cherry and almond. There are several brands of maraschino liqueur: a popular one is Luxardo (which is what we found at our local liquor store).

What other drinks use maraschino? A few other great classic cocktails that use maraschino liqueur: the Martinez (so good!) and the Hemingway Daiquiri. We highly recommend them both!

Maraschino liqueur

How to make a bright purple Aviation

We are all about staying true to classics around here. But we also make slight tweaks to the original concept to make things even better. The original recipe for an Aviation cocktail calls for 2 dashes of crème de violette, and most recipes call for ¼ ounce. This adds only a hint of light purple shade to the drink.

But if you’re going to buy a violet liqueur to make a purple drink, you might as well go all out! This Aviation cocktail recipe calls for double the traditional crème de violette and maraschino liqueur, so you’ll use ½ ounce of each (equal to 1 tablespoon). This enhances the color and brings up the flavor slightly more floral, without it being overpowering.

Aviation cocktail

Garnish with a Luxardo cherry

The garnish is an important part of any cocktail: especially classic cocktails! The Aviation cocktail is traditionally garnished with a Luxardo cherry. What is it? Luxardo cherries are a cocktail cherry, but they’re so dark red they almost look black. They taste complex, fruity, and nutty: almost like amaretto. Nothing like a Maraschino cherry!

Luxardo cherries are often used as a garnish for the classic Manhattan as well. Where to find them? It’s easiest to order Luxardo cherries online.

When to serve an Aviation cocktail

The Aviation cocktail is a sweet tart, sophisticated classic cocktail that works anytime! Again, you’ll need two specialty ingredients, so it’s great for the adventurous home bartender. Serve it as a:

  • Signature drink (the purple color makes a statement!)
  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
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Aviation cocktail

Classic Aviation Cocktail

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Aviation cocktail is a 1900’s mixed drink with a lovely purple hue! This sweet tart classic cocktail is so tasty, it’s now back in style.


  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin
  • ¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons) fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) Maraschino liqueur
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) ​crème de violette
  • For the garnish: Luxardo cocktail cherry


  1. Add the gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and ​crème de violette to a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice and shake it until cold.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry, if desired.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Aviation cocktail, Purple cocktail

More sour cocktails

Sour cocktails are a family of cocktails with base liquor, sour, and sweet elements. Here are some more classics to try:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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  1. Too much lemon, it over powers the subtleties of the cherries and violets. Even using a strong juniper London dry the juniper was masked as well.

  2. We have served this drink for several guests and it is always a hit!!!! Not too sweet, just nice and smooth. I’d consider the Aviator our favorite cocktail.