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Flower power

(post, Jacob Grier)

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring . . . June cocktails? 

Here are three drinks featuring floral ingredients perfect for enjoying in the budding season.

The Aviation is arguably the most famous floral cocktail, and it's been one of the emblematic drinks of the past decade’s cocktail renaissance. If you walk into a bar and see an Aviation on the menu, odds are good that you’re in the hands of a capable bartender. 

But which Aviation? Two versions of the recipe were recorded, one of them featuring an obscure floral liqueur that until recently was lost to the U.S. market.

The version that was first revived is a simple mix of gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur, a spirit made with the fruit and pits of Marasca cherries. It’s a good, basic sour. However, the original recipe published in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks called for one more ingredient: crème de violette, a liqueur made with fresh violet petals. The addition of this liqueur elevates the drink to a new level.

Today there are several violet liqueurs available. The most prominent is the Rothman and Winter crème de violette imported by Haus Alpenz. It has a striking purple color and is delicious in an Aviation. A newer entrant to the market is the Liqueur de Violette from Tempus Fugit Spirits. It’s delicious, but its natural color is not as pronounced when mixed in a drink, so cocktails made with it will have a less dramatic hue. If you're willing to spring for overseas shipping, a third option is the Deniset-Klaingueur, which combines rich color with a sweet, floral taste. 

Regardless, any one of these violettes will work great in an Aviation, though you may want to increase the quantity of liqueur if using the drier offering from Tempus Fugit.


2 oz. gin
½ oz. lemon juice
⅓ oz. maraschino liqueur
⅓ oz. crème de violette
Lemon twist, for garnish

Shake together all the ingredients, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with the lemon twist, and serve.

This second drink features one of my favorite new ingredients, Dimmi liqueur. Made in Milan, Dimmi is flavored with peach and apricot blossoms, grappa, and other botanicals. It has a light fruitiness that pairs wonderfully with pisco or other fruit-forward spirits.

It also goes well with its better-known Milanese cousin, Campari. Together with the often-overlooked white port and blanco tequila, this slightly bitter cocktail makes a good aperitif.

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="The Sally Port Punk" credit="Photo courtesy Jacob Grier"]Sally Port Punk

1 oz. blanco tequila
1 oz. white port
½ oz. Campari
½ oz. Dimmi
Orange twist, for garnish

Stir together the liquid ingredients, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with the orange twist, and serve.

Liqueurs aren’t the only way to incorporate flowers into a drink. One of the oldest floral drinks is hibiscus, or flor de Jamaica._ The flowers from the hibiscus plant have a lightly tart flavor and impart a vibrant rich red hue when steeped in hot water. This herbal “tea” is enjoyed around the world, served both hot and cold, and sometimes accented with ginger or other spices. And, yes, it can be mixed with spirits.

Making a syrup with hibiscus flowers creates a cocktail sweetener with a brilliant color, which in this last drink contrasts nicely with fresh green cucumber. (The Roman Emperor Tiberius was reportedly such a lover of cucumbers that greenhouses were built to provide them for his table year-round, hence the name of the drink.) I originally created this to pair with Beefeater’s Summer Edition gin, which includes elderflower, hibiscus, and black currants among its botanicals, but any good gin will work.

Tiberius Fizz

1 slice cucumber, plus 3 slices for garnish
2 oz. gin
¾ oz. lemon juice
¾ oz. hibiscus syrup (see Note)
Soda water

Muddle the first slice cucumber and add the gin, lemon juice, and hibiscus syrup. Shake with ice and fine-strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda water, garnish with the remaining cucumber slices, and stir.

Note: To make the syrup, steep a handful of hibiscus flowers in hot water for a few minutes, then strain. Mix the resulting infusion with an equal volume of sugar.

reference-image, l