Cocktail Chatter: The Aviation

by Ed Sikov

"So, mutatis mutandis, the LGBT community..." Ted was lecturing about marriage equality from his podium on our living room couch.

"What?" I blurted. Cocktail "hour" was pushing 90 minutes. I should have served the lamb stew and couscous already, but I couldn't get out of the chair.

"The gay community must shift its praxis from the dystopic to the...."

"No, before that. You said 'mucous mucandies.' What the hell does that mean?"

"You have a Ph.D. and you don't know what mutatis mutandis means?" He was appalled.

"Fuck you," I explained.

We've been doing this for years. We're all academics or ex-academics. Dan has three degrees - B.A., MBA, and Ph.D. - all from Harvard. I have a Ph.D. from Columbia; Ted has one from Princeton and teaches at NYU; his partner, Eric, has an M.F.A. from Columbia and taught at Wellesley but now writes screenplays that actually get made into movies. You may have caught the farcical Brainiacs on cable; Eric wrote it. This dinner party demonstrated where he got his material.

We were flying on Aviations. I was in avast liquor emporium on the Upper East Side last week - I rarely go up there, since I'm deathly allergic to cashmere sweaters and simple strands of pearls - and saw Creme de Violette on the shelf with a little printed recipe for the Aviation. Maraschino, was nearby. I bought both.

By Maraschino, I don't mean the syrup in which innocent cherries are drowned in artificially flavored, carcinogenically colored sugar water so children can have their first drug rushes. I mean the clear cherry liqueur, which Italians make from Marasca cherries and their crushed pits. Et la Creme de Violette? Yes, it's really made from violets and thus wins the title of The Gayest Liqueur Ever, there being no Creme de Pansy.

I played around with the recipes I found online at the marvelous blog www.sippetysup.com, where I learned that the drink has the reputation of being a 1930s cocktail, but it actually dates from 1916, when only a few people ever saw an airplane, let alone flew in one. In those days, flying into the sky in a technological wonder seemed miraculous. The Aviation celebrates that magic. It has by far the loveliest color of any cocktail I've ever seen - watercolor-pale lavender. And it's extraordinarily luscious. Now that air travel is like taking the bus, except that the bus is on time, the aeroplanes's early thrill is long gone. Unless, of course, you make yourself and your smarty-pants friends Aviations, in which case you'll all quickly be even higher than your IQs.

The Aviation (a variation on the classic)

Note: Martini glasses are much larger now than they were in the early 20th century. This recipe fills one 2011 glass or two old-style glasses.

Half-cup of Beefeater gin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Maraschino

1-and-a-half teaspoon Creme de Violette

Half-teaspoon "really" simple syrup - mix equal parts sugar and water in a jar and shake until the sugar dissolves

Chill the martini glass(es).

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and chill in the freezer for five or 10 minutes.

Take glass(es) and shaker out, add a few ice cubes to the shaker, and shake as though your life depended on it. Strain into the frosty glass(es) and hope that a few shards of ice rise to the top.

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