Today’s Drink of the Day is the Aviation cocktail. That’s because August 19 just so happens to be Orville Wright’s birthday. Naturally, it’s also National Aviation Day. The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but we’ve already spoken of FDR’s greatness on March 22, the anniversary of the day that he inflicted a fatal blow against Prohibition. At that time we explored his somewhat misbegotten versions of the martini.
The Wright Brothers
So today we’ll turn to Orville and his brother Wilbur. We all know these two as the inventors of the first heavier-than-air flying machine. Maybe Orville gets more credit because due to a coin toss he was the first airborne, but Wilbur was actually part of the whole process. These two brothers, you see, were tinkerers to the core. They shared a passion for a new craze – bicycles – and opened their own shop. They also followed the research of Otto Lilienthal, a German working on his own flight experiments. But when Otto somehow unceremoniously turned the glider he was flying into a lawn dart the Wright brothers decided they would be better off developing their own design.
In working on this they noticed that birds angled their wings for balance and control, and in turn they developed the concept of “wing warping.” When they added a moveable rudder they found they had the magic formula. They even filed a patent on three-axis control, which is the defining characteristic of controlling an airplane. You know the rest, so let’s turn toward the Drink of the Day.
The Aviation Cocktail
Fortunately for us there is an eminently appropriate cocktail for National Aviation Day and its name just so happens to be the Aviation cocktail. That’s our Drink of the Day. Hugo R. Ensslin was the head bartender at the Wallick hotel in New York and he first published the recipe in his 1916 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Presumably the color of the drink reminds one of the slightly lavender color near the horizon shortly before sunrise.
Before we get to the recipe itself, you do of course remember our visit with Mr. Potato Head on his birthday, May 1. With that in mind when we note that the ingredients of an Aviation include a base spirit, a sour element and a sweetener you immediately recognize it as a variation on a classic sour. Same family as a whiskey sour (whiskey, lemon juice, sugar), a daiquiri (rum, lime juice, sugar), a margarita (tequila, lime juice, triple sec) or a Sidecar (cognac, lemon, Cointreau). As Mr. Potato Head noted, most great cocktail recipes are just a variation on a theme. By the way, if you don’t have any Creme de Violette liqueur around you might want to try the very similar Casino cocktail.
And the Aviation is just a variation on a gin sour. Here’s how you do it:
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1.5 oz Gin the spirit
- ½ oz Lemon juice the sour
- ½ Luxardo Maraschino liqueur sweetener
- ¼ oz Crème de Violette liqueur sweetener
- Garnish: cherry
- Shake with ice, strain into your Nick and Nora or coupe glass.