New York City (1911)

Here’s a drink that almost went extinct because of Prohibition – in its original form, anyway. Early 20th-century trendsetter Hugo Ensslin‘s Aviation owes its dry, sweet, tart, and floral balance to a key ingredient: crème de violette – a liqueur made by steeping violet flowers in neutral grain spirit with sugar to extract their perfume and color. In the bottle, it’s a deep violet; Mixed in a drink, it adds a pale sky-blue tinge (hence the name “Aviation,” no doubt). When Prohibition came along, many companies stopped importing their products to the US or just went out of business altogether. Such was the case with the original supplier of crème de violette – and that’s why recipes for the Aviation printed after 1920 simply omit this crucial accent. Without the violette, this cocktail just tastes like a Pixy Stix. Not nearly as interesting (or as eye-catching) as it should be. Thankfully, as the craft cocktail movement picked up steam, we started to see a revival of previously-lost ingredients, including crème de violette, reintroduced in 2007 by Rothman & Winter.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Cocktail pick, Hawthorne strainer (if using Boston shaker)
Ice: Ice cubes
Glassware: Cocktail glass
Spirits: London Dry gin (recommended: Beefeater, Tanqueray)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Maraschino liqueur (recommended: Luxardo), Crème de violette (recommended: Rothman & Winter)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon juice, Maraschino cherry

HOW TO

Chill a cocktail glass in the freezer at least ten minutes.

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

1 1/2 oz London Dry gin
3/4
oz lemon juice
1/2
oz maraschino liqueur
1/4
oz crème de violette

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into the chilled glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry pierced on a cocktail pick.

Pimm’s Oyster House, London, England (1840)

The Pimm’s Cup tastes like an iced tea that’s been out mowing the lawn. Earthy, refreshing, and simple to assemble, the Pimm’s Cup is made for sipping outdoors on a warm day. Bonus: its low proof means you won’t get smashed if you want to enjoy a couple. For some unknown (but brilliant) reason, these are popular in New Orleans, not just England.

Pimm’s (a gin-and-botanicals sling) was originally sold in 1840 as a digestive tonic at James Pimm’s Oyster House in London’s financial district. Over time, its popularity grew among the British elite at garden parties and sporting events, then spread around the world along with the Victorian British Empire. Thirsty for something more than the original gin version (renamed “Pimm’s #1” as the new versions appeared), its bottlings grew to Pimm’s #2 (Scotch), Pimm’s #3 (brandy), Pimm’s #4 (rum), Pimm’s #5 (rye), and Pimm’s #6 (vodka). As go empires, most of these have been discontinued, leaving just the original version to hold guard.

Simply combine Pimm’s #1 and some lemon soda over ice and garnish with a lemon wedge and cucumber slice. Yes, cucumber – trust me. It enhances the earthy sweetness in the mix. Lemon soda can be hard to come across – look for Lorina (sweeter) or San Pellegrino (drier) brands. If you’re coming up short, a lemon-flavored mineral water like Perrier will work. As a fallback, some people mix with 7-Up or ginger ale, but these will make the drink much sweeter than intended. A Pimm’s Cup is as close to an RTD (“ready to drink”) as I’ll ever be likely to recommend.

Last time I was in England, pubs were serving these all summer (although tricked out with strawberry and mint along with the traditional lemon and cucumber) so it’s nice to see that (at least in Old Blighty), traditions still endure. Foist one of these on an unsuspecting friend and you just may begin a new tradition in your home.

THE KIT

Hardware: Barspoon, Jigger, Straw (optional)
Ice: Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Mixers & Liqueurs: Pimm’s #1, Lemon soda (recommended: Lorina Original French Lemonade, San Pellegrino Limonata)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lemon wedge, Cucumber slice

HOW TO

In a Collins glass filled with cracked ice, add:

2 oz Pimm’s #1
3 oz lemon soda

Stir well to blend and chill, then garnish with a lemon wedge and cucumber slice. Optionally, serve with a straw.

Trader Vic’s (1946)

“I hate like hell to bring up unpleasant things at a time like this, but go easy on this one because it’s tough on your running board,” said Trader Vic in his 1946 “Trader Vic’s Book of Food & Drink.” Not sure what tequila he was using, but this really isn’t tougher than any other drink, certainly less so than his skull-cracking Navy Grog.

Vic gets high marks for including tequila in his tiki arsenal (in the ’40s, even) – a rarity that still hasn’t been fully addressed, if you ask me. This one also includes crème de cassis – a blackcurrant liqueur that’s delicious enough to chow down on by the spoonful. Some take to boosting the flavors in this drink by using fresh-muddled ginger, infusing the tequila with a slice of jalapeño, or adding bit of mezcal – and I say a resounding “¡ay, mami chula!” to that.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Barspoon, Straw (optional), Hawthorne strainer (if using Boston shaker)
Ice: Ice cubes, Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirits: Tequila (blanco or reposado, recommended: El Jimador, Espolón)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Crème de cassis (recommended: Gabriel Boudier), Ginger beer (recommended: Barritt’s, Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew)
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Lime wedge

HOW TO

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

1 1/2 oz tequila
3/4
oz crème de cassis
1/2
oz lime juice

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into a Collins glass filled about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Top with:

2 oz ginger beer

Stir lightly to blend and garnish with a lime wedge. Optionally, serve with a straw.

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