A GENIUS TAKE ON THE CLASSIC AVIATION COCKTAIL
In 2010, I tasted the very best Aviation cocktail I’ve ever encountered. And more than a few of these sky-blue babies have glided down my throat over the years. I was in Athens helping to judge the Diageo World Class Bartender Competition, and the bartender who prepared the cocktail was Takumi Watanabe who works (still) at The Sailing Bar in the city of Sakurai, Japan.
Takumi’s version of the Aviation took my breath away, and along with a Martinez made for me in London by Ago Perrone in 2006, these are the only two cocktails I’ve tasted in my entire life that have made such a long-lasting impression on me.
I never knew what it was that set Takumi’s Aviation apart from the rest, but I recently contacted him to talk about his recipe, and I got a lightbulb moment when he mentioned that since there was no crème de violette available to him at the time he had used Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, a liqueur that’s similar in color to the original ingredient but boasts orange and vanilla notes rather than the more floral notes found in crème de violette.
Takumi contacted the good folks at Diageo to confirm what he had told me, but nobody presently working there was in Athens in 2010, so nobody really remembers what he used.
Convinced that my Japanese friend’s initial memory of the drink was probably the most accurate record of what went down, I experimented with Takumi’s recipe, and I’m 99.99 percent sure it was Parfait Amour that made his drink so incredibly special.
INGREDIENTS IN THE TAKUMI’S AVIATION COCKTAIL
HOW TO MAKE THE TAKUMI’S AVIATION COCKTAIL
Add the gin into a shaker and stir to release the aromas.
Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake.
Fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
THE COUNT, THE SAGE, THE TEMPTRESS (SAINT LEO, OXFORD, MISS.)
Opened in summer 2016 just off Oxford’s charming town square, Saint Leo is the ubiquitous Neapolitan pizza place with Italian wood-burning oven that’s a dime-a-dozen in major food cities but a rare exception in these parts.
Opened by a local, Emily Blount, who grew up in the Bay Area and lived in NYC, the glowing restaurant’s big-city-quality ethos translates to the cocktails, as well as the food.
Drinks are straightforward, amari-based or inspired off classic aperitif cocktails, as with The Count, The Sage, The Temptress, a clear sipper of sage-infused gin, pineapple-infused Cocchi Americano aperitivo and blanc vermouth. It’s elegant, subtle and aromatic, cleaning the palate in between rounds of antipasti and pizza.
ABOUT THE TOUGH TO HEAR COCKTAIL
Hollywood bartender Chris Hewes would serve this spicy absinthe-based shot to a movie star who didn’t win an Oscar.
INGREDIENTS IN THE TOUGH TO HEAR COCKTAIL
HOW TO MAKE THE TOUGH TO HEAR COCKTAIL
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
Shake, and strain into a shot glass.
*Chile de árbol-infused St-Germain INGREDIENTS:
- Dried chiles de árbol
- 1 (750-mL) St-Germain
PREPARATION: Chop a handful of dried chiles de árbol and add them to the St-Germain in a large jar. Let it infuse for at least 1 day. (You can also use fresh jalapeño peppers instead, which only take a couple hours to infuse.)