The Violet Hour
by Remy Tumin
Tuesday afternoon seemed as good a time as any to ring up my mom to see if she cared to join me for an afternoon cocktail. She obliged, so we headed to Jean-Georges, a New York City establishment since 1997 and an occasional treat usually reserved for birthdays and graduations in my family. But on this day, an ordinary Tuesday, we were merely celebrating the start of spring and a chance to get in some much needed gal time.
We took our seats at the bar and ordered away.
“I’ll have an Aviator,” I said.
The traditional Aviator, also called the Aviation, calls for gin, lemon juice, maraschino liquor and crème de violette, a liqueur made from the violet flower and sugar. The bartender used Rothman and Winter crème de violette made with Queen Charlotte and March violets.
“Have you ever made an Aviator without the maraschino?” my mom asked, the very thought of the bittersweet liqueur making her nose wrinkle.
“No,” the bartender said with slight bewilderment. Obviously he had never met my mother before.
“I’ll have an Aviator without the maraschino,” Mom said. We shared her special order and my classic version of the drink served in chilled martini glasses (a detail that felt warranted amongst the glitz and glam crowd). We poured over the details of the drinks. The classic drink with the maraschino gave it a silkier viscosity, a more purple finish and the intensity of a cocktail needed after a long day in the city.
But we both agreed that gin, lemon and the crème de violette was all we would need after a warm summer day on the Vineyard, preferably on our back porch overlooking Sengekontacket after an afternoon swim at State Beach. Or in this case, a reminder that spring really was coming.
The simplicity of the new version of the drink, much to the chagrin of our bartender, allowed the floral and earthy tones of the violet liqueur to fill our noses. It felt like a martini you could return to for another round again and again.
“This is good,” Mom declared. “I vote for this with a floating violet on top. That would make me so happy.”
Violets have always made my mom happy. They were her mother Phila’s favorite flower. On the first of May each year on Phila’s birthday, my mom and I would head out in search of them, collecting them into tiny bouquets.
Over the lilac colored drinks my mom and I talked about my recent trip to Mexico, her writing project, repeat offender heartbreakers and the next time we would make a trip to the Island. And I think we both quietly thought about those violets and hoped they’d make an appearance sometime soon.