Invented in 1911 by one Hugo R. Ensslin of New York City’s Hotel Wallick, the eye-catching Aviation cocktail flourished for nearly two decades. But by the middle of the 20th century, the drink had faded from US cocktail culture, with several factors contributing to its downfall. First, the 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book omitted crème de violette, the critical flavor- and color-giving component, from its Aviation recipe, leaving the drink a (literally) pale shell of its true self. Then came the rise of Tiki culture on these shores in the 1940s and 50s, which nudged the drink further to the sidelines. And then—and most importantly—came the complete scarcity of crème de violette. By the 1960s, you couldn’t buy the stuff, which is produced by steeping violets in wine or raw spirits, anywhere in the country. As a result, the Aviation disappeared.
Cut to 2007, at the height of the 21st-century cocktail renaissance, when Rothman & Winter released a classic crème de violette, making the fabled elixir available in the US for the first time in more than 40 years. Later that year, David Wondrich’s book Imbibe included an Aviation recipe, and the drink came back in a big way. There are now several brands of crème de violette available in the US, and the Aviation is a favorite among bartenders, who prize its elegant, floral qualities.