The paper plane cocktail is one of those drinks that's greater than the sum of it's parts. It's fresh, sweet, bitter, and delicious. It's also ridiculously easy to make (and make-ahead in batches!).
This drink is super well-balanced, and perfect for people who are just entering the world of cocktails. It's perfect for a party too!
The paper plane cocktail is an easy-drinking classic. It's easy to prepare, and is absolutely a hit with crowds.
What is a Paper Plane Cocktail?
A paper plane cocktail is a drink made with equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice.
The drink gets its name from the fact that the proportions of the ingredients are traditionally measured by folding a small piece of paper into a plane and using it as a makeshift measuring tool (Although, there's ongoing debate around this - see below).
The paper plane cocktail is a popular choice at bars and is known for its balanced flavor and easy-drinking nature.
History and Origins
The origins of the paper plane cocktail are somewhat disputed, but it is believed to have been created by Sam Ross, a bartender at Milk & Honey in New York City (but it was made for the Chicago bar The Violet Hour).
According to legend, Ross came up with the recipe while experimenting with different combinations of spirits and liqueurs in the bar's back room. He is said to have named the drink after the makeshift measuring tool he used to mix the ingredients: a small piece of paper folded into a plane shape.
However, there's another tale here for the name. Apparently, it's actually a play on the M.IA. hit "Paper Planes", which was a song that Ross loved at the time.
The paper plane cocktail gained widespread popularity after it was featured in an article published in Imbibe Magazine in 2007. Since then, it has become a staple at bars and cocktail lounges around the world and has been featured on numerous cocktail menus.
What does it Taste Like?
It is a mixture of bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice, so it has a combination of sweet, bitter, and sour flavors. The bourbon adds a rich, smooth flavor with notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak, while the Aperol adds a slightly sweet and bitter orange flavor.
The Amaro Nonino contributes a complex blend of herbs, spices, and bitter flavors, and the lemon juice adds a tart and citrusy kick. Overall, the paper plane cocktail is a well-rounded drink with a harmonious blend of flavors that make it both refreshing and satisfying to drink.
What is Amaro Nonino?
Amaro Nonino is a brand of amaro, which is an Italian herbal liqueur. It's made with a blend of herbs, spices, and other botanicals, and usually, people are drinking it after dinner.
Amaro Nonino is made by the Nonino family in Friuli, Italy, and is known for its distinctive flavor and complex, full-bodied character.
It's very delicious on the rocks, or you can add it to tons of different cocktails (like this one!).
Is there a Substitute?
Amaro Nonino is a pretty specific flavor profile, so if at all possible, try to get your hands on some. Sometimes though, the liqueur gods are stacking the odds against you.
If you are looking for a substitute for Amaro Nonino, you can try using another amaro or a similar liqueur such as Averna, Fernet-Branca, or Montenegro. These liqueurs are all made with a blend of herbs, spices, and other botanicals, and they have a bitter, herbal flavor.
They're not an exact match in terms of flavor, but will totally work in a pinch.
You can also try using a different type of liqueur such as a flavored brandy or a fortified wine like port or sherry. Just keep in mind that these substitutes may change the overall flavor profile of the finished dish or cocktail.
Here's what you need to make this drink!
- 1 oz bourbon
- 1 oz Aperol
- 1 oz Amaro Nonino
- 1 oz lemon juice
You'll also need a cocktail shaker, ice, and a cocktail glass to serve the drink in. To garnish, you can use a lemon peel.
How to Make a Paper Plane Cocktail
This is how we're going to make the cocktail: it's one of the easiest you'll ever make! Let's go through it step-by-step:
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Add the bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice to the cocktail shaker.
- Shake the cocktail shaker well to combine the ingredients and chill the drink.
- Strain the cocktail into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a lemon peel, if desired.
- Serve the cocktail immediately and enjoy!
Making it in Batches, and Ahead of Time
To make a batch of paper plane cocktails at once, you'll need these ingredients (same as above, just more):
- 8 oz bourbon
- 8 oz Aperol
- 8 oz Amaro Nonino
- 8 oz lemon juice
- large cocktail shaker, mixing glass, or pitcher
- cocktail glasses
- lemon peels (optional, for garnish)
- Fill a large cocktail shaker, mixing glass or pitcher with ice.
- Add the bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice to the container of choice.
- Shake or stir the ingredients well to combine and chill the drink.
- Strain the cocktail into cocktail glasses.
- Garnish each glass with a lemon peel, if desired.
- Serve the paper plane cocktails immediately and enjoy!
This recipe will make 8 servings of the paper plane cocktail. If you want to make a larger batch, simply adjust the amounts of the ingredients accordingly. The paper plane cocktail is a classic choice that is sure to be a hit with guests at any party or gathering.
Make it Ahead of Time:
Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher. Place in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Pour into glasses, and then garnish with lemon peels (or mini paper planes!).
Other Awesome Classic Cocktails:
Paper Plane Cocktail
- Cocktail shaker
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 oz Amaro Nonino
- 2 oz Aperol
- 2 oz lemon juice
- Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add all the ingredients and shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds. Pour into coupe glasses and serve with a lemon peel garnish.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.