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The paper plane cocktail puts a bourbon twist on a classic drink

This contemporary take on the Last Word is already a classic.

Paper Plane

The cocktail renaissance of the early aughts has returned many classic cocktails to the prominence they deserve. It’s also paved the way for talented, creative bartenders to create contemporary cocktails that will one day be referred to by the “classic” moniker. While there are countless complex cocktails crafted in the last few decades, one of the best is the Paper Plane.

What is a Paper Plane?

Bourbon bottle

Similar to a classic Last Word which consists of equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, lime juice, and maraschino liqueur, the Paper Airplane is made with equal parts bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, and lemon juice. While the two drinks might not seem similar, it’s the number of ingredients and equal parts that make them mirror images (albeit a bit foggy) of each other.

The bourbon and lemon puts it in the whiskey sour category and the Aperol and Amaro add a bittersweet flavor, making it a truly unique cocktail that needs to be tasted to be believed. It’s the kind of drink that you’ll order time and time again.

When was the Paper Plane created?

barman pouring paper plane cocktail
Maksym Fesenko / Shutterstock

If you take a look at this cocktail’s ingredients, you might assume that it’s a classic drink with its origins in the early 1900s. It was created in 2008 by bartender Sam Ross (the same bartender who created the now iconic Penicillin cocktail) at the Violet Hour in Chicago.

Eventually, he brought the drink to New York’s Milk & Honey and eventually, it became a staple at various cocktail bars throughout the country and eventually the world. Supposedly, even though it’s often garnished with a tiny paper airplane, it got its name from the M.I.A. song “Paper Plane” which was wildly popular when the drink was created.

What you’ll need to make a Paper Plane

Bourbon barrels
Katherine Conrad / Unsplash


  • 1 ounce of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of Amaro Nonino
  • 1 ounce of Aperol
  • 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice

The Paper Plane recipe steps

Paper Plane
  1. Add bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, and fresh lemon juice to a shaker.
  2. Add ice.
  3. Shake until combined.
  4. Strain the ingredients into a chilled couple glass
  5. Add a lemon peel garnish.

Bottom line

Zhivko Minkov/Unsplash

Before you try to make any cocktails (classic or contemporary), you should invest in a well-made shaker and strainer. If you only buy the bare minimum when it comes to home bartender equipment, make it those two items. Countless cocktails require a shaker and strainer and not much else.

That being said, while some cocktails seem overly complex and require multiple steps, the Paper Airplane is as easy to make as it is flavorful. First, you need a bottle of well-made bourbon. Don’t go cheap on this. Buy something you’d enjoy neat or on the rocks. Quality matters when it comes to crafting cocktails. The other ingredients are great for a bar cart as they can fit well into various other cocktails.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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