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.