The Paper Plane Cocktail Is Happy Hour Perfection
If you’ve been here for a while, you know that a paper plane cocktail is part of our weekly routine. Every Friday when happy hour rolls around, we’re instinctively reaching for bourbon, aperol, amaro nonino, and a couple of fresh lemons to make our favorite drink!
Shaken over ice, the paper plane is a cold, refreshing cocktail recipe that has hints of orange and a slight bitterness that masks the intensity of bourbon, but also sweetness and acidity from the digestif and fresh lemon juice.
To sum it up: paper plane cocktails are incredibly well balanced and super easy to drink. One sip and you’ll be plotting your second drink in no time!
Ingredients For a Paper Plane Cocktail
- Bourbon (see below for our recommended brand!)
- Amaro nonino
- Fresh lemon juice — About 1 lemon per cocktail
Paper Plane Cocktail History
The paper plane recipe was developed by Aussie bartender Sam Ross in 2007, the year I turned 21… clearly this cocktail and I were meant to be!
The paper plane is a modern variation on another well loved cocktail: the last word. It’s equal parts gin, green chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice.
Whatever you do, please do not refer to this as a paper airplane cocktail. It’s a paper plane!
What is Amaro Nonino?
Amaro Nonino is the digestif we cannot live without! Aged in barrique (small barrels), it’s grapa base offers the perfect mix of both bitter and sweet with hints of orange zest and thyme. It is the heart and soul of the paper plane cocktail!
Is there a substitute for amaro nonino?
Sadly, no. The amaro nonino is an integral part of this recipe and there’s no replacing or substituting its unique flavor!
Amaro Nonino vs Amaro Montenegro
Amaro montenegro is another common amaro, however it is not recommended for a paper plane! Its recipe uses over 40 botanicals, making it more floral overall. That combined with its sweeter notes of cinnamon and cloves would completely change the flavor of this paper plane recipe.
Try using amaro montenegro in these 3 cocktails instead!
What is Aperol?
Aperol is an Italian apértif, or bitter, that is made of zesty oranges, herbs, and roots. It’s best known for it’s signature bright orange color and bittersweet taste thanks to a hint of vanilla (though fun fact: Aperol is less bitter than it’s closest relative, Campari, which is both more bitter and also darker red in color).
An apértif is served before a meal, while a digestif is enjoyed after a meal.
How to Make A Paper Plane Drink
This cocktail could not be easier to make (which is probably why we enjoy a paper plane every single week!)
Combine equal parts (1 ½ ounce each) of bourbon + aperol + amaro nonino + and fresh lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Shake vigorously for 15 – 20 seconds, then strain and pour into glasses.
This is the best cocktail recipe!
Best Glass For Serving Paper Plane Cocktails
Hands down, serve this beauty in a coupe glass! In a pinch, a martini glass works too!
My favorite coupe glasses are available from Crate & Barrel and are surprisingly affordable. This recipe makes enough to fill the coupe glass to the tippy top!
Best Bourbon To Use
We categorize bourbon into the following two categories: sipping bourbon or mixer.
The former is of the highest quality and usually reserved for sipping either neat (a term used to designate a single liquor served without being chilled or mixed with water, ice, or other liquor) or on the rocks (single liquor poured over ice cubes). Think Basil Hayden’s, Michter’s, Woodford Reserve… top shelf bourbon.
We’d rather use something like Four Roses or Bulleit for this paper plane cocktail recipe. Don’t get me wrong, we love both, but in this house, with the wide range of bourbons we keep on hand, it makes sense to use something less… sippable.
Other Cocktails To Enjoy
Let’s break this down by liquor for the sake of making your life easier! Here are a few other cocktail recipes we love featuring some of the same ingredients as used in this paper plane cocktail recipe.
- The classic Aperol Spritz (Italy’s most popular cockatil! We tried this for the first time on our honeymoon in Italy back in 2011 and it was life changing!)
- Aperol-bourbon fizz
- Aperol and soda
If you make a Paper Plane Cocktail, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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For more cocktails we love, check out the following!
Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe
- Cocktail shaker
- 1 ½ oz bourbon such as Four Roses
- 1 ½ oz aperol
- 1 ½ oz amaro nonino
- 1 ½ oz fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then pour in all ingredients. Secure the lid on top, then shake vigorously for 15 – 20 seconds.
- Strain and pour cocktail into a coupe glass. Enjoy!
- You can double the recipe to make 2 cocktails, but any more than that will likely not fit into a cocktail shaker.
- For variations on the paper plane drink, try substituting other forms of fresh citrus, such as orange (sweeter) or grapefruit (likely to be much more bitter overall!).
For more cocktail recipes we think you’ll love, check out the following drinks:French 75 Classic no-fail margaritas Bloody Mary bar Blood orange paper plane