Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Aviaton at Merc Bar

A couple of days ago I had some time before work and decided to kill it with some exploration of SOHO. I came across Merc Bar which was located at 151 Mercer Street, NY NY 212-966-2727. Something about the open doors with the leather sofas in the front and the dimly lit bar in the back called out to me. Off inside I went.

The bar had five or six people sitting having varied cocktails while the bartender was prepping his station. I guess they just opened. I looked over the menu and a number of the cocktails had piqued my interest. The one that really stood out was a cocktail that I've been meaning to try for a while now: The Aviation. Why have I been meaning to try this cocktail for a while now? One of the main ingredients in this cocktail is Creme de Violette which until recently was not found in the United States. It is an aromatic liqueur that was re-introduced into the United States market by Rothman & Winter. Here is how they describe what Creme de Violette is:
For well over a century Crème de Violette has been an indispensible component to classic cocktails such as the Aviation and Blue Moon and champagne cocktail programs. This violet liqueur imparts a delicate floral nose and taste along with the stunning color of violets.

The Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette is produced from a careful maceration of Queen Charlotte and March Violets in "Weinbrand" (this distilled from grapes), with cane sugar added for sweetness. Over its three generations, Destillerie Purkhart has produced this liqueur by special request of its regional gastronomy customers. In these local markets, the buyer is most often the "Konditorei" who will use the Violette in special cakes and chocolates!
It is a very simple cocktail which according to Gary Regan in his article The Cocktailian: Creme de violette lifts Aviation to the moon:
As far as I know, the Aviation first appeared in print in the 1916 book "Recipes for Mixed Drinks," by New York barkeep Hugo R. Ensslin, but I don't really care for Ensslin's recipe. Two parts gin, one part lemon juice, and just a couple of dashes each of maraschino and creme de violette makes for a very sour drink indeed.
As how most Bartenders would do faced with a recipe they don't like, Regan went and changed it to his liking:
When I first got my hands on a bottle of creme de violette, I made myself an Aviation using three parts gin, and one part each of the liqueurs and the lemon juice. It worked very well, and the color - oh, the color. It's nothing short of glorious. To behold a cocktail that's almost gray, but tinged with the barest hint of violet, is as glorious as witnessing a September sunrise in Maine. Bring it to the lips and sip, don't gulp. This is truly one of the nectars of the gods. Stands head and torso above the Aviation sans violette.
Okie dokie. That's one helluva description. So what did I think of it? Here is the recipe based on the cocktail menu:
The Aviator
Fresh Lemon
Maraschino Liqueur
Creme de Violette
Brandied Cherry for Garnish
I'm going to assume that the cocktail used Bombay Dry Gin rather than Bombay Sapphire since the original recipe for the Aviation that is located on the Rothman & Winter website calls for Dry Gin. Since this was my first time tasting this cocktail I don't have anything to compare it to. I found it to be a very pleasing and balanced cocktail. The lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and creme de violette blend nicely and seem to compliment the dry gin who tends to be noticed near the end of the sip rather than at the forefront. The cocktail wasn't sweet in the least, closer to the tart side of the taste palate. To the nose it is a very aromatic cocktail with a slight hint of flowery scents, which I assume is from the creme de violette. The brandied cherry is an extra treat. It was simply delicious. Makes you wonder why bars continue to use those neon red cherries.

On a side note, if you want to make your own brandied cherries, check out the post by my friend Amanda Schuster Procrastinated and Befuddled Cocktail Cherries from the Alcohol Professor on how to make your own Brandied Cherries.

I'm on the hunt to try another Aviator to compare it with the Merc Bar's Aviator. Any suggestions on where I can have one?

My next will be on the second cocktail I had at the Merc Bar called the Sexy Sadie.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla