• Weekly Cocktail #46: Sunny In The Garden


    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.

    We know spring just sprung, and hasn’t reached many of you at all, but we are already thinking about “long drinks” for summer. For those who are unfamiliar, long drinks are simply large volume cocktails, often six to eight ounces, with more mixer than spirits, usually served on the rocks and often associated with warm summer afternoons, garden parties and preludes to long naps. (We also like to drink them while gardening, but that is just us). The Tom Collins is probably the classic long drink, highballs like the Gin and Tonic also qualify, and there are other well-known classics like the Cuba Libre, Paloma, Pimm’s Cup and the Dark ‘n Stormy. All worth a try, and you may see some more here on the blog over the next few weeks.

    sungarden4sungarden5Part of the fun of long drinks is that you can take almost any mixer, add some spirits, and perhaps a few modifiers, and you have a new drink. The variations are almost endless and it is pretty hard to screw up. In most cases the mixer is non-alcoholic like juice, soda water or ginger ale, but we decided to make a long drink from an apéritif and just a splash of spirits. And if we mix with an apéritif, it will often be Lillet Blanc, one of our favorite ingredients. (See the Rose Pearl for another long drink, this time using Lillet Rose.)

    sungarden6Lillet Blanc is a fortified wine that combines white wine with citrus (mostly orange) infused spirits. It is sweet with citrus notes and a slight bitter quinine edge (if you like things a bit more bitter use Cocchi Americano) and is very easy to sip on the rocks. But we wanted to amp the orange flavor, tame some of the sweetness and add some “heat” from alcohol, but not mess with the core flavors of the Lillet. So we figured this might be the kind of cocktail that makes good use of the vodka gathering dust on our bar (gin tends to win out here at the farm). And while vodka is not always a respected mixology ingredient, it does have its uses, and this was one of those times.

    sungarden7The Sunny in the Garden combines Lillet Blanc, vodka, lemon juice, orange bitters and a large orange twist, served on the rocks. The aroma is wine, floral and citrus, perfect for summer. As for the taste, you get a big, sweet wine and orange sip up front, but balanced by the lemon juice and just a bit of kick from the booze at the finish. Is this the world’s most complex cocktail? Hardly. But is a very enjoyable sipper you can linger over, think “like white Sangria, but way better”. In fact, we may serve the Sunny in the Garden along with summer meals as a substitute for wine or Sangria. But summer is still a ways away, so for now we will just have to sip this while gardening. We can live with that. Now about that nap….

    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.

    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.


    • 4 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
    • 1 oz. vodka
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • Long orange peel, for garnish


    1. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and then strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with ice.
    2. Twist the orange peel over the drink and rub along the edge of the glass. Add the orange peel to the cocktail. Serve.
  • Bonus Cocktail: The Aviation

    Aviation Cocktail.

    This week’s bonus cocktail is a surprise to us. The drink itself is not a surprise, the Aviation is a classic cocktail. But we are surprised it took us so long to post it. We enjoy Aviations as one of our “go to” cocktails at home, and one of our local bars makes a great one. So I guess familiarity bred a touch of contempt.

    But there is nothing contemptible about the Aviation. One of the true masterpieces of pre-prohibition mixology, the Aviation combines dry gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and (sometimes) Creme de Violette, a violet liqueur. The drink is the creation of Hugo Ensslin, a bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York. He first published the recipe in 1916 in the book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”. And the recipe has been published, and tweaked, ever since.

    Aviation cocktail and ingredients.

    The basics of the recipe, dry gin, lemon juice and maraschino have been constant, but the ratios vary. And then there is the issue of the Creme de Violette. Creme de Violette is a violet liqueur that tastes a lot like violet candies. If you remember violet candy, you may also remember that some people love them, and some hate them. “This tastes like soap” being a common refrain for those in the “hate” category. For a while, this was a non-issue as Creme de Violette was almost impossible to find in the US. But our friends at Haus Alpenz, revivers of all forgotten liqueurs brought it back to life with Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette (remember the Allspice Dram in the Ancient Mariner). And this “new” Creme de Violette is good, sweet, floral and depending on your point of view, perhaps a bit “perfumey” or just downright soapy.

    The attraction of using the Creme de Violette is both the flavor and the light blue color it lends to the drink, if you use enough of it. The name of the drink, it is believed, comes from the pale sky-blue color that was so enticing in the early days of aviation. But this is where many mixologists differ.  The Savoy Cocktail book, David Wondrich and Gary Regan go without the Violette, the PDT cocktail book includes it. Paul Clarke suggests you simply make the Creme de Violette optional. As it is, we suggest you use the Creme de Violette very sparingly (just a dash, you will still taste it) or omit it altogether.

    Required summer reading.

    As a practical matter, very few people have access to Creme de Violette and there is no need to run out and buy it (of course, we did- but we are geeky that way). First, try the recipe without the Violette. You will lose the lovely color, but the botanical flavors of the gin, the bright, sour lemon juice and the sweet, earthy maraschino are a great combination on their own. This is a very tasty cocktail that works in any season and for almost any occasion. And most home bars have gin and lemon juice- and you should have Maraschino (Luxardo is fine) in your bar, as it is an ingredient in literally dozens of classic cocktails. So before you get the Violette, make sure you have maraschino liqueur.

    If you do have the Creme de Violette, you can add up to 1/4 ounce to the drink and the color will be quite beautiful. But unless you really like floral and perfumed flavors the drink might be soapy unpalatable. But a dash or two will add some pleasant flavor and aroma, if you like violets. One other note on the booze- the recipe specifically calls for dry gin. If you use a “modern” gin that features floral botanicals, like Nolet’s, the flavors may not play well together. Traditional London dry gin like Tanqueray, Beefeater or Gordon’s are the best choices for this drink.

    Few drinks look better in a cocktail glass than the Aviation.

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