If you’re a fan of floral liqueurs like St-Germain but you haven’t yet experienced the flowery delight of crème de violette, stop what you’re doing right now and go buy a bottle. Made with violet buds and blossoms, crème de violette is one of the oldest and most unique tasting liqueurs. Best of all, once you procure a bottle of the purple-hued spirit, you can make one of the most underrated cocktails of all time: the Aviation.
Made with gin, lemon juice, crème de violette and maraschino liqueur, the Aviation is the perfect trifecta of sweet, sour and floral. But which crème de violette? We drank our way through the liquor store to find the best bottles of crème de violette currently available in the U.S. Buy any of them and you’ll be five minutes away from the best Aviation.
The first violet liqueur to be released in the United States since it disappeared in the 1960s, this Austrian liqueur is still one of the best on the shelf. It’s made with two different types of violets—Queen Charlotte and March violets from the Alps—and a base of grape brandy distillate. Vibrantly floral, this liqueur produces an Aviation the way that it was intended to taste.
Made with neutral spirits and wild violets picked in the Alps, the liqueur is intensely aromatic and vivaciously floral on the palate. One of the most intensely purple violet liqueurs on the market, it produces an Aviation that is an almost psychedelic color.
Founded by Stephen Gould and Karen Knight, Golden Moon Distillery creates some of the finest craft spirits and liqueurs in the state of Colorado. The brand’s take on a traditional crème de violette is not only less sweet than others we’ve tried, but it is also bottled at a higher ABV (30 percent). Made by steeping violet flowers and buds in neutral spirits, the liqueur is complex, layered and subtly herbaceous. An Aviation with Golden Moon’s crème de violette is verdantly fresh and floral. This is one of the few liqueurs in the category that can actually be sipped straight.
Considering Giffard’s dedication to quality, it’s no surprise that this violet liqueur is plain delicious. An absolute stunner in both flavor and aroma, this bottling is the perfect balance of sweetness, acidity and depth. Almost creamy in texture, the liqueur has bright floral tones and a subtle, herbal grassiness. In an Aviation, Giffard’s violet liqueur lends a unique silkiness and an electric hue.
Here’s a departure from the standard, violets-only crème de violette. This liqueur adds a few other flavors to the mix, including blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and orange peel. It is a symphony of floral fruitiness and it shouldn’t be ignored—even if some bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts will tell you it doesn’t count as a crème de violette. Using Crème Yvette in an Aviation creates a sweeter, rounder cocktail that is intoxicatingly fruit forward.