Each week the iFanStaff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail (or beer, or wine, or booze) and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.
The Aviation cocktail is a beautiful drink with a great story. Right before the golden age of comics, there was a golden age of cocktails. But then Prohibition happened, many spirits necessary for mixing good drinks became unavailable, and the history of American cocktail culture altered in ways we’re only beginning to recover from. The Aviation is an exemplar of both our fall and our rise. First, the recipe.
- 2 oz gin
- 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur (this is NOT the stuff with cherries in it, don’t make that mistake)
- 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 oz crème de violette
- Lemon peel for garnish
- In a shaker filled with ice, add all the ingredients except the garnish
- Shake vigorously
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve up with the lemon twist
In my experience, this recipe takes some practice. You may want to play with the proportions of the maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, and crème de violette until you figure out what works for your palate. And I always recommend that if you’re working with new unfamiliar ingredients to just taste each ingredient individually so you start to figure out how the individual flavor profiles blend into the final drink. Made correctly, this drink will be sky blue and delightfully refreshing, which brings me back to my story.
If you go out to your local liquor store and ask if they have crème de violette, you might get a funny look. Don’t be discouraged. Crème de violette was one of those fancy European spirits that stopped coming to the US during Prohibition, and stayed unavailable even after the 21st amendment was passed. For decades the Aviation cocktail remained on menus but was made without the crème de violette and instead was a clear, sort of sweet, and frankly not a very good drink. Even the name of the drink became something of a mystery. Was it because it was clear like a clear sky? Nobody knew, but not knowing the origin of things is part and parcel with cocktail history, so I don’t think anyone was that worried about it.
Then in the early 2000’s a man struck up a deal to bring the sprit back to our shores, and bartenders with knowledge of history knew that the Aviation would benefit from a splash of the floral purple liquid and sure enough, a wonderful sky-blue cocktail emerged.
The pairing of a drink named after flight with The Rocketeer was easy enough, but the more I thought about both the history of this drink and the history of the Rocketeer book, the more I knew I was really on to something. Both harken back to a different time, both are gorgeous to look at, both have a good story, and both lost an essential ingredient and have taken a long time to recover.
By Dave Stevens with colors by Laura Martin and letters by Carrie Spiegle
Reprinted by IDW
It’s impossible to talk about The Rocketeer without talking about its creator Dave Stevens, who died of hairy cell leukemia in 2008. His style for the book was so connected to the book itself that for a long time it was just left on the shelf. Then last year IDW announced that they were going to do a Rocketeer miniseries utilizing some of the best talent working comics today, and the result was awesome. Unlike the Aviation, this isn’t a recreation of that beloved original ingredient, but the dedication to the original property made the book an homage cocktail of sorts that did due diligence to the initial book.
And I realize that I haven’t even talked about The Rocketeer in and of itself. If you’re completely new to the story here’s the basics to get you off the ground. In 1938 we meet Cliff Secord, a pilot who is awkward on land but at home in the sky. He has a smoking hot girlfriend modeled after Bettie Page and they’re often at each other’s throats. Then Cliff stumbles upon a jetpack, which doesn’t belong to him but he decides to anyways, he makes sweet helmet and adventure ensues. The comic is breezy, fun, exhilarating, and did I mention easy on the eyes? Its pulp done by a modern master, both meta-textual but never too serious about it.
With the resurgence of classy cocktails, and the resurgence of Rocketeer comics, I think it’s high time you enjoyed both. The drink you’ll have to make yourself (unless you live near a good bar) but the books have been made for you by a great artist lost too soon, and lovingly carried on by some modern stellar talent. So put on a vest, or a sweet double-breasted leather jacket if you’re lucky enough to have one, and sup a treat for your taste buds while enjoying a treat for your eyes. Cheers!
Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy. Smile more.