Nestled in the heart of the Spinningfields, the trendy up-and-coming area of Manchester where anyone who is anyone wants to be seen out and about, lies one of the most peculiar but outstanding bars I’ve ever been in. The Lawn Club is the very definition of the Manchester bar scene. Boasting a lovely grassed area that is usually adorned with yellow deck chairs so guests can soak up the northern sunshine, the bar, whilst offering nothing exceptionally special in terms of innovation or out of this world mixology, focuses, a little like myself, on getting the basics right, with a real eye for detail on the classics. These are the drinks that any discerning cocktail drinker looks for straight away to judge the type of establishment they are in and the standards they should be expecting. In The Lawn Club you won’t be disappointed.
As readers of my pieces know, I’m no restaurant critic; I leave that up to those in the know. I’m concerned with the cocktail I ordered. Having not seen it on that many cocktail menus in the city, I knew exactly what I was going to order – I could hear it calling my name. The much unloved Aviation cocktail is for me one of those drinks where, no matter the day you’ve had, the weather, or what may be occurring in the world, you take a sip and its complex flavour just seems to make it all better.
Created by Hugo Ensslin, the head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, the first published recipe was seen in Ensslin’s own 1916 cocktail book Recipes for Mixed Drinks where it called for the much sought-after Crème de Violette. As hard to find as an honest estate agent, the highly-perfumed liqueur leaves a heavy violet flavour and adds to the drink a slight purple hue that sets it apart from all others. The highly influential Harry Craddock omitted the Cremé de Violette in his 1930 masterpiece The Savoy Cocktail Book, the go to reference book for anything cocktail related. For those of you who don’t know who Harry was, consider him the Beyoncé of the bartending world during the 1920s and 1930s, exuding such an influence even to this day many modern bartenders will omit the precious spirit.
Created prior to Prohibition, many cocktail drinkers, and more importantly gin lovers, feared this cocktail would never see a resurgence. The complete dominance this era has over mixology is very significant. However, with the current resurgence of specialist and classic spirits on the market I, for one, could not be happier to see it making somewhat of a comeback.
Now, the contentious part of any cocktail is deciding on the base spirit choice. The Aviation is one of the all-time gin classics – but which gin should you use? Do you use the specialist Aviation Gin, or do you stick with a more traditional London Dry gin? This is a debate that I know we will never get a clear answer on, but at The Lawn Club they use Aviation, and I can’t find a bad word to say about its taste or balance.
So on behalf of gin drinkers around the world, please give this little beauty a go. Try it with and without those rare spirits and find a flavour that complements your palate. If you were to push me for an answer, I would always fall on the violet side, but whatever your taste, I know you won’t be disappointed.
- 50ml Aviation gin
- 15ml Maraschino Luxardo cherry liqueur
- 3 dashes Crème de Violette
- Garnish with a cocktail cherry
Add all ingredients to an iced Boston shaker. Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.