Clear spirits get no respect in the whiskey community. For the most part I agree; bottom shelf vodka and gin are disgusting and not worth your time (or liver). However, there exist some very fine examples of gin that are delicious in martinis and cocktails. This month, I present to you two of the finest examples. The Aviation and Last Word are pre-Prohibition cocktails which means they existed before gin cocktails were used primarily to disguise the hideous taste of “bathtub” gin during Prohibition. This is significant in my mind as the drinks were good enough to stand out on their own and have indeed stood the test of time. For a refreshing libation during hot summer nights, you will be hard-pressed to do better than these two classics.
Jimmy Z’s Aviation
1 3/4 oz Gin (I prefer Highclere Castle)
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 barspoon Crème de Violette Liqueur
Jimmy Z’s Last Word
1 oz Navy Strength Gin (I prefer Plymouth)
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse Liqueur
3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
Preparation (for both)
- Add all ingredients to a Boston shaker.
- Add cubed ice.
- Shake vigorously for approximately 10 seconds.
- Double strain into a chilled small martini glass or coupe.
Aviation: Lemon twist with a maraschino cherry added to the bottom of the glass.
Last Word: Lime Twist
Of the two cocktails The Aviation is the more “martini” like: meaning the more gin forward. As such, I used a relatively new London Dry gin whose botanicals are harvested at the famed Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame. This fantastic gin dials back the pine needles of juniper for a more refined, floral pallet that marries perfectly with Crème de Violette. Speaking of that purple liqueur, it is very powerful. I see many recipes calling for a full quarter or even half ounce, but that overpowers and unbalances the drink, in my opinion. A bar spoon is more than enough. As for the Last Word it is an herbal bomb due to the complex Green Chartreuse. Here, I find you can go all out with a powerful Navy Strength gin (57% ABV) like my beloved Plymouth London Dry. The traditional recipe calls for equal parts, but I find a half an ounce of lime juice to be plenty. This allows the gin and Chartreuse to take center stage. Finally, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur is used in both drinks and, honestly, I wouldn’t use another brand. These two cocktails were made for this syrupy, cloying spirit to work its magic.
Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later than You Think” Louder than Last Time (Independent) 2014
Both cocktails bring me back to New Orleans. This upbeat, irreverent number, featuring vocals from my favorite jazz singer Meschiya Lake, has lyrics that double as great life advice.