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The Paper Plane

The Paper Plane cocktail might seem like one of the old classics, but this notoriously delicious mixed drink is actually quite young.

paper plane drink on the bar

Consisting of bourbon, Aperol, Amaro liqueur, and lemon juice, the combination of those four ingredients creates a complex and intricate flavor profile that is simultaneously smooth, sweet, and bold.


This ultra-trendy cocktail has a neat origin story, even though it’s less than fifteen years old. Ever heard of a little bar from NYC called Milk and Honey? It’s only one of the most famous bars in the U.S.!

Decorated glass filled with fresh Paper Plane cocktail on the bar counter on dark background

Their bartender, Sam Ross, who is also responsible for bringing bargoers everywhere the Penicillin, gets the credit for inventing this delicious drink. Actually, he created it for his longtime friend, who was opening a bar in Chicago called The Violet Hour.

Think back to summer 2008: remember that super popular song from M.I.A. called Paper Planes? Well, that song was Ross’s inspiration for creating this cocktail.

It was such a hit when it debuted at The Violet Hour that Ross brought it back to Milk and Honey. Ever since, the cocktail has become exceedingly popular and can be found in bars throughout America to this day.

When Ross first created this iconic cocktail, the recipe called for Campari instead of Aperol. However, he said that the Campari made the drink lack sweetness and was just a tad too bitter.

Suddenly, the lightbulb went off: what if he used Aperol instead of Campari? The result was astoundingly delicious, and it also gives the cocktail its striking rust-orange color.

See also  Amaro vs Amaretto

How To Make It

This contemporary recipe uses some obscure ingredients, making this drink truly distinctive and turning it a beautiful, rust-orange color.

paper plane drink on the bar

Paper Plane Cocktail

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

The mix of obscure ingredients gives this drink a complex flavor profile and smooth, sweet notes that make the Paper Plane take off.


  • 3/4 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz Aperol
  • 3/4 oz Amaro Nonino
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice


  1. Combine the bourbon, Aperol, Amaro liqueur, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice into a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake until well-chilled but not watery or diluted.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  4. Garnish with a tiny paper airplane and enjoy!

    Did you make this recipe?

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    For those making this drink, original creator Sam Ross recommends using a higher-proof bourbon. Look for one that’s about 43% to 46% ABV range, as this will add some robust flavor and body to the drink.

    Another pro tip? Don’t over-shake when creating this delicate cocktail. It should be smooth and cold, not diluted or watery. This cocktail is also super simple to make, as there are equal parts of each ingredient. Just pour, shake, and serve—it doesn’t get much easier than that.

    Traditionally, this drink doesn’t have a lemon wheel/wedge garnish, even though the recipe calls for fresh-squeezed lemon juice. For a nifty garnish, all you need is a pad of sticky notes.

    See also  17 Amaro Substitutes

    Take one, cut off the adhesive strip, and fold it into a small paper airplane. Grab a cocktail toothpick, stick it through the tiny airplane, garnish, and enjoy!


    With only four ingredients, it’s easy to riff on the Paper Plane cocktail. Here are some changes you can try!

    • Substiture Aperol for Campari if you like a more bitter flavored drink.
    • Substitute the bourbon for rum to make a Paper Kamikaze
    • Try a Naked and Famous cocktail – a similar drink that uses mezcal instead of bourbon and yellow Chartreuse instead of Amaro nonino.


    What are the ingredients of a paper plane?

    The Paper Plane cocktail is made with 4 ingredients in equal parts: bourbon, Aperol, Amaro nonino, and lemon juice.

    Why is it called a Paper Plane cocktail?

    The Paper Plane is a modern cocktail, named after the popular M.I.A. song “Paper Planes” that was released in 2007.

    What can I use instead of Amaro Nonino in a Paper Plane?

    You can substitute another Amaro for Amaro Nonino, but it will have an impact on the taste. One popular substitution is Averna.

    Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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