October 15: The First Flight

BalloonIn June of 1783, French inventors the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their new invention, a hot air balloon. In September of that same year, the Montgolfiers would demonstrate the safety of traveling above the ground by sending a sheep, a cockerel and a duck up in the balloon on a tethered flight on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. Impressed with the results of the demonstrations, King Louis XVI demanded that the Montgolfiers stage a manned, but tethered, flight. So, on today in 1783, the Montgolfiers sent the first human beings into the air.

Interestingly, Louis XVI initially wanted two convicted criminals to be the first men to fly, presumably hedging his bets that there wouldn’t be too many protests if something went wrong and a few convicts got injured. However, the Montgolfiers’ friend and assistant Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, with the help of the Duchess de Polignac, was able to convince the King that the honor of being the first in flight should go to men who were of higher standing than common criminals. So, de Rozier and and the Marquis d’Arlandes were named the official “pilots” for the first manned voyage The tethered flight was a success, and a month later, de Rozier and d’Arlandes would take to the sky again in history’s first untethered flight.

Now, how do we celebrate the early days of aviation? With the classic cocktail Aviation, obviously. Invented by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at New York’s Hotel Wallick, the Aviation was included in master barman Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book. Interestingly, Craddock omitted the violet liqueur crème de violette as even by the 1930s that ingredient had become a bit hard to find. However, we’ll be using that hard to find ingredient, but you can feel free to sub in Creme Yvette for crème de violette, because not only is the violet flavor essential to the drink, but it also gives it a fittingly sky blue color.


  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce Crème de Violette (or Creme Yvette)

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Tomorrow: “Here she comes, you better watch your step. She’s going to break your heart in two, it’s true.”


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