paper plane cocktails in glasses with lemon and bar tools

Fly High With Our Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe

A simple cocktail featuring equal measurements of four different ingredients, the paper plane cocktail is relatively new to the scene. This cocktail has been around for slightly over a decade, and it’s commonly known as a take on the popular last word cocktail. 

Bold, boozy, and a little bit sweet and sour, this cocktail is popular across the country for individuals who want to change up how they drink their bourbon.

Our article gives you more details on the paper plane cocktail, including details about its history and the flavor profile you can expect when drinking it. We also give you information on how to create this cocktail at home, so you can enjoy paper plane cocktails whenever the mood strikes you.

What Exactly Is a Paper Plane Cocktail? An Overview

The paper plane cocktail features equal measures of four ingredients – bourbon whiskey, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, lemon juice, and Aperol. This combination of ingredients creates a boozy, slightly sour, and bold drink that is best served chilled.

The appearance of the paper plane cocktail tends to be orange due to the addition of Aperol and the golden appearance of most bourbon whiskeys. It’s recommended that a higher-proof bourbon whiskey is used, as this gives the drink a heftier flavor. 

Today, the paper plane cocktail is perceived as a modern classic, and this cocktail is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants, cocktail bars, and for the home bartender.

What Does a Paper Plane Cocktail Taste Like?

A paper plane cocktail will have the distinct flavor of bourbon whiskey, especially if you use a higher-proof bourbon as recommended. This will give the drink heft and a boozy flavor that is then balanced out by the sour of the lemon juice and the citrus of the Aperol. 

The addition of the Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, a light and herbaceous Italian liquor, creates an overall refreshing and unique flavor for this drink.

You can use a lower-proof bourbon for the paper plane cocktail if you prefer your drinks to be slightly less boozy, but all drink measurements should be equal in this recipe. You can slightly tweak the ingredients to taste, but we recommended getting a sense of what this cocktail is intended to taste like before adjusting the measurement of ingredients. 

What Is the Alcohol Content of a Paper Plane Cocktail?

The alcoholic content of the paper plane cocktail is on the higher side. This is due to three of the four ingredients being alcoholic, plus the bourbon whiskey in the recipe being a somewhat higher proof. In general, you can expect a paper plane cocktail to have around 17 to 20 percent ABV depending on how it’s made.

Adding a little extra splash of bourbon when crafting this drink will make it stronger and bring the ABV up slightly.

What Is the History of a Paper Plane Cocktail?

The paper plane Cocktail was created in 2007 by Sam Ross, a bartender who worked in a New York City bar at the time. The drink was intended to be a take on the last word cocktail, which famously uses equal measures of four ingredients. 

Using a bourbon whiskey base, Ross crafted the paper plane and intended it to be a refreshing yet still boozy and slightly sour cocktail for the summer.

The paper plane cocktail first appeared on the menu of Chicago’s Violet Hour bar in 2008. The drink was originally created with Campari instead of Aperol, though the final version of this drink was revised to Aperol after the paper plane left the Violet Hour’s summer menu. 

Currently, the paper plane is gaining in popularity and appearing on menus throughout the country. It’s become a modern classic, having been around for slightly more than a decade, and many individuals love the boozy, citrusy, and bold taste of this refreshing drink.

How to Make a Paper Plane Cocktail

The paper plane cocktail is a fairly straightforward cocktail to make, and the recipe is easy to follow even for individuals who are new to crafting their own cocktails at home. Follow the steps below to learn how to make the paper plane.

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 1 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 1 oz Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice

Pour all of your ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until the outside of the cocktail shaker is chilled and frosty (this takes about 15 to 20 seconds), and then quickly strain the drink into a cocktail glass. You can chill the cocktail glass for added iciness, as this drink is best enjoyed cool.

Garnish your paper plane with a twist of lemon and consider adding a splash more bourbon if you want a stronger, boozier drink. Be careful not to shake the drink for too long, as you don’t want it to be watered down, though you do want it to be refreshingly cool.

How to Serve a Paper Plane Cocktail

Your paper plane cocktail should be served chilled, as this helps to enhance the overall refreshing nature and unique flavor of this drink. You will need a cocktail shaker with a strainer, a coupe or cocktail glass, and some high-quality ice. Once you shake your paper plane, quickly strain it and top it with a lemon twist garnish to be served.

The paper plane pairs relatively well with most foods, and it is often seen as part of a cocktail bar’s featured or tasting menu due to its more unique nature. You can serve this cocktail at a dinner party or simply enjoy it alone while out for drinks with friends. Charcuterie and cheese platters are a favorite for accompanying the paper plane cocktail.

When to Drink a Paper Plane Cocktail

Paper plane cocktails are becoming a modern classic, and you can drink this cocktail whenever the mood strikes you. Because it tends to be more of an upscale cocktail, it’s generally thought of as an evening drink, the kind you’d get as you spend some time at a cocktail bar with friends or a partner. That said, you can also have it for more exciting occasions like you would an AMF cocktail.

You can also enjoy the paper plane cocktail during the day, especially in the summertime, as this drink is crafted to be refreshing and pleasing for a warmer day. Paper plane cocktails also pair well with formal dinners or even a cocktail party vibe where finger foods accompany it.

What Are Some Paper Plane Cocktail Variations?

The standard recipe of the paper plane cocktail is fairly straightforward, and there aren’t a lot of variations available for this cocktail. It was designed one way and has stayed that way throughout most of its existence.

The only variation that is generally accepted for the paper plane cocktail is to substitute Campari for the Aperol in the standard recipe. This is how the paper plane was originally created before it was revised to make Aperol the standard ingredient. To follow this variation on the recipe, simply use 1 ounce of Campari in your recipe in place of the Aperol.

Additionally, you can use a higher-proof bourbon whiskey or add a little extra splash of bourbon if you want a cocktail that is more hefty, or if you want a stronger, boozier drink.

Flying With the Paper Plane

paper plane cocktail with garnish and bar tools on plate

The paper plane cocktail is one of today’s modern classics, and this bourbon-based cocktail is pleasing to the majority of cocktail connoisseurs. 

The simplicity of the paper plane recipe is part of what makes it so enjoyable, and you can easily recreate this cocktail at home or ask for it at your local restaurant or cocktail bar. Once you try this drink, you’ll be flying with the paper plane and enjoying this refreshing, boozy cocktail.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.