Yes, we are beer people first and foremost. But let’s talk about cocktails for a minute.
When we were lucky enough to inherit some barrels that previously held 209 Distillery’s gin, it took a little time to decide what we’d fill them with. There was only one beer style that immediately came to mind that matches gin’s junipery flavors, and… well, we made that too (link to Sahti post). But we had six barrels to fill and a hankering to do some experimenting, so we looked to our favorite cocktails for inspiration.
The top of the list was the Aviation.
This cocktail was all but forgotten until recently, thanks to a turbulent (pun definitely intended) history. The Aviation recipe was first published in the last US cocktail book before Prohibition ruined the party. According to Hugo Esslin, head bartender of the Hotel Wallick, a proper Aviation is:
1 ½ oz El Bart gin
¾ oz lemon juice
2 dashes maraschino liqueur
2 dashes creme de violette
We’ve added cherries and citrus to several of our beers, and we made several batches of Hibiscus Saison last summer so adding flowers to beer wasn’t completely uncharted territory for us. So we decided to go for it and brew our own version of an Aviation.
Aviato is a light wheat beer, with lactobacillus added to the gin barrels for the slight, clean tartness. We added the rest of the ingredients over the seven months this beer spent aging--cherries, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and finally, violets.
The finished beer is slightly tart, lemony, botanical, and… Well, a little weird, but in a really good way. While bourbon barrel aged beers tend to be heavy on the whiskey, the gin’s presence is much more subdued, balancing the tart and fruity flavors instead of dominating them. This makes for a delightfully light and drinkable barrel-aged brew.
It's not exactly the same as a cocktail, but it's pretty damn close.