Crèmes: Rothman & Winter (left), Bitter Truth (center), Yvette (right).
A few evenings ago, we gathered our dudes to compare violet liqueurs. These are possibly the least essential of classic cocktail ingredients. We had three varieties on hand.
Now we'll attempt to piece together what happened, based on half-legible notes and some uncaptioned photographs.
We began the with the Aviation cocktail—a dude's chief reason to keep a bottle crème de violette in the liquor cabinet. Our notes begin with proportions for our test flight, in B.C. Burroughs' (Esq.) handwriting, and a marginal note, in my hand, that we were all wearing corduroys at the time.
Aviation (With Violet Liqueur, But Not Too Much Violet Liqueur)
- 2 oz. Plymouth gin
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. Luxardo Maraschino
- 1/4 oz. "purple shit": Rothman & Winter crème de violette, or Bitter Truth crème de violette, or Crème Yvette
Shake with ice. Strain into ornate glassware. Admire the shades of opalescent violet, pink, and blue, depending on your choice of sweet purple stuff. "I feel like I'm at a bridal shower," remarked participant R.R.O.
We shook three batches.
Batch No.1 involved Rothman & Winter crème de violette as its purple ingredient. Imported by Haus Alpenz, this is the violet liqueur one is most likely to encounter in Boston bars.
The resulting aviations were bright and acidic and floral. "Like drinking perfume." The color was a hazy lavender shade, almost grey.
Batch No.2 contained Bitter Truth crème de violette, which one is less likely to encounter on this side of the Atlantic, though it's produced at the same distillery as the Rothman & Winter variety. (We had picked up a bottle at Alex, our favorite shop in Heidelberg.)
These aviations were sweeter and heavier. It seems that the Bitter Truth product does more to mask the acidic bite of the lemon juice and even more to make the drink look like a cold blue sky.
Batch No.3 was, as expected, rather different, because we used Crème Yvette. Yvette is a violet liqueur that's also flavored with berries. Our notes say: "Sugar!" Less tart and floral than Batch No.1, but as heavy as No.2, with a distinctly raspberry finish. It was not sky-colored, unless one considers a pink winter sunrise.
Aviations: Batch No.1 (left) & Batch No.2 (right).
Our conclusion was that we preferred Batch No.2, with Bitter Truth crème de violette.
Barring that, Burroughs noted that, in Batch No. 2, "Yvette gets you most of the way there, even if it does pervert the thing with fruit."
Which is not to say that Batch No.1 was without its charms. If we were to try using Rothman & Winter crème de violette in an aviation again, increasing the maraschino to 3/4oz might help to balance the acidity and lack of sweetness. (Or it might be like macing yourself with perfume.)