The Paper Plane

The Paper Plane is a cocktail that’s on my permanent rotation this season. It’s the perfect summer drink: equal parts, so it’s impossible to mess up, and a great combination of refreshing citrus, bitter Aperol, and boozy bourbon. Then, of course, there’s the Amaro Nonino.

Amaro Nonino doesn’t come cheap, but it’s beautiful inside and out, and well worth including on your home bar. It’s less saccharine and syrupy than many Amari, and has a nice orangey note that pairs well with the Aperol in this drink.

At first, I was worried that mixing subtle Nonino with punchier, orangey Aperol would render it “wasted”, but I’m glad I took the chance on this drink.


The Paper Plane’s nuanced, refreshing character has cemented it as a modern classic. It was created by Sam Ross a decade ago, and named after the M.I.A. song that played on repeat everywhere you went in 2007. These days, if you crack open Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails, Robert Simonson’s A Proper Drinkor Brad Thomas Parsons’ Amaro, you’ll find the recipe in all three.

It also lends itself to a great garnish. A lot of cocktails — Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, Martinis — have functional garnishes. Citrus twists add visual interest as well as flavor from the expressed oils. With a name like the Paper Plane, however, you can’t help but craft a tiny jet out of scrap paper to rest on the rim of your glass.

paper planes

The Paper Plane
Recipe by Sam Ross
3/4 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz. Aperol
3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
3/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake and strain into a coupe.

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