The Aviation

A month or two ago I invited a friend of mine, whom I’ll call The Liquor Store Angel, to write a cocktail column for The Art of Reading. Being a grad student with expertise ranging from Shakespeare to Teen Wolf, a bad case of insomnia and a passion for mixology, she obviously said, “yes.” Gracing the internets in yet another incarnation, Liquor Store Angel (LSA) will provide cocktail recipes that thematically accompany something or other I’m reading (or paging through) for pleasure at the moment. So, to begin, I’ve been thumbing through Beryl Markham’s West With the Night, and LSA is mixing up an Aviation. Enjoy. And drink up.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham. (1983)

West With the Night by Beryl Markham. (1983)

Being alone in an aeroplane for even so short a time as a night and a day, irrevocably alone, with nothing to observe but your instruments and your own hands in the semi-darkness, nothing to contemplate but the size of your small courage, nothing to wonder about but the beliefs, the faces, and the hopes rooted in your mind — such an experience can be as startling as the first awareness of a stranger walking by your side at night. You are the stranger.

~ Beryl Markham


If you’re one of those people who enjoy staring up into the sky and having a nice cocktail while doing so, the Aviation might just be your ideal drink. The interestingly-hued gin-based cocktail is attributed to Hugo Ensslin, though it’s somewhat unusual to find a bar serving his original recipe. The grey-blue sky color that gives the drink its name comes from the addition of crème de violette, a liqueur which elevates the original Aviation far above the later Harry Craddock adaptation.

For those of us who don’t have the inclination or resources to build up an extensive bar, however, I offer you the Aviation’s bastard cousin, a more low-brow concoction which my friend Adriane has dubbed the Economy Class. To make it, you’ll need the following:

2 ounces gin (New Amsterdam is a good, reasonable option, but if I have the money I’ll usually go for Bombay Sapphire)

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons of liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries

Maraschino cherry and lemon twist, for garnish.

Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake (but not too much) to chill well, then strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry and lemon twist.

NB: A water bottle can serve for a shaker if you don’t have one, however, that is one investment I would definitely recommend making.

The end experience is a little artificial and kind of leaves you feeling like you’ve been cheated, but now you got all that lovely gin in your system. If your destination is Drunkville, a few of these will still get you there, albeit with considerably less style. And hey, it’s still a direct flight.

Of course, you can always choose to upgrade by getting your hands on a bottle of Luxardo, which is always a good decision, but that can lead you down the dangerous path of ever more complicated cocktails, and soon you’ll be seeking out that crème de violette and shaking your head over the price of Chartreuse so you can make Last Words. But that’s a drink for another day.

~ Liquor Store Angel