Monday, March 1, 2010


I've returned to The Passenger. Given that it's just a few blocks from where I live and my intent to explore bars as thoroughly as I can, I returned to be surprised. The Passenger takes pride in its ability to make recommendations for cocktails not commonly known based on your tastes. I told our friendly server that my choice spirit is gin. He gave me a few options and I chose "Aviation." The Passenger's Aviation is a medley of Plymouth Gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and violet liqueur. I had never had maraschino or violet liqueur and I was hoping it didn't mean my drink would be candy-sweet.

Upon researching maraschino liqueur it was noted not to confuse it with maraschino cherries. It is rather a "relatively dry liqueur made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed pits which give it a subtle bitter almond flavor. The cherries are processed and distilled much like brandy, and later combined with a pure cane syrup before it is aged and filtered" as noted at the webtender. Violet liqueur seems to have roots in Toulouse, France and was a popular ingredient in the 20s and 30s. It has recently been reintroduced back in the States and is gaining popularity. Lisa Bramen of "Food and Think" on has written a great piece on the background of violet liqueur and the revival of floral flavors in the US. It also mentions the Aviation, which apparently dates back to 1916. The Atlantic has also written a piece on the rise of the importation of rare spirits in the US, Creme de Violette being one of them. Apparently Creme de Violette and violet liqueur are one in the same.

The Aviation provided to me at The Passenger was something completely new for me. Its presentation was striking. It came in a martini glass and the drink had an almost steel color to it - a sort of gray/metallic hue. At the very bottom of the glass sat a ruby-red cherry. It took my taste buds a while to orient themselves, but what they tasted was amazing. It was not overly sweet at all. It had a balance of bitterness from the maraschino that complimented the sweet floral notes. You could taste the gin which served as a binder of all the ingredients. The lemon juice gave the drink a nice acidity and a clean finish.

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