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Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe

The Paper Plane cocktail is a modern twist on one of the best roaring 1920s drinks.

With a perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and sour flavors, it’s a beautifully layered drink with a complex taste profile.

It blends bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Aperol, and fresh lemon juice. And I know you’ll love the smooth, oaky base, light herbal bitterness, and citrusy sweet finish.

Paper Plane Cocktail with Lemon Juice
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Paper Plane Cocktail History

Before we dive into the rich flavors of this cocktail, it’s time for a history lesson.

Luckily, we don’t have to travel that far into the past.

The Paper Plane is the brainchild of Sam Ross, a New York City bartender in 2008.

It’s named after the song of the summer: M.I.A, Paper Planes.

It’s a playful spin on the Prohibition-era cocktail, The Last Word, which calls for gin and green Chartreuse.

Ross took the Last Word and made something with a more balanced flavor profile.

Both are boozy and herbaceous. They just have different notes and, of course, colors.

Paper Plane Cocktail on a Wooden Table


The complexity of this cocktail lies in the rich spirits. So be sure to get the ones listed below.

Here’s what you need to make a Paper Plane:

  • Ice. The Paper Plane is best served chilled. Since all the ice is strained out, you don’t have to reach for the fancy ice cubes.
  • Bourbon. The original Paper Plane called for high-proof bourbon, like Four Roses or Bulliet. But you can use whatever bourbon you like best.
  • Aperol. This citrusy and bitter Italian aperitif adds a hint of sweetness to tame the overwhelming bitter notes.
  • Amaro Nonino Quintessentia. It’s incredibly bitter with undertones of vanilla, cinnamon, honey, orange, and rich spices.
  • Lemon juice. Fresh is always best! A squeeze of fresh lemon juice lifts all those dark, spiced flavors.
Paper Plane Cocktail on Champagne 

How to Make a Paper Plane Cocktail

You don’t have to be a master bartender to whip up this fantastic cocktail! All you need is a cocktail shaker and a chilled glass.

Check out how easily this fancy cocktail comes together.

1. Add ice. Fill a cocktail shaker to the top with ice.

2. Pour in liquor and mixers. Shake for 15-20 seconds, or until the cocktail shakers feels cold to the touch.

3. Strain the cocktail into a coupe glass. Serve, and enjoy!

Substitutes for Amaro Nonino

If you ask a mixologist, they’ll tell you there’s no substitution for the richness of Amaro.

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Unfortunately, Amaro is sometimes hard to track down. And if you do find it- you may suffer from sticker shock!

The good news is there are some unique options you can swap in a pinch:

  • Cynar
  • Amaro Averna
  • Amaro Tosolini
  • Sweet Vermouth

The most unlikely substitute for Amaro is the easy-to-find Jägermeister. Yes, really.

Also, if you have to swap out the Aperol, try Campari or the French alternative, Lillet.

Boozy Bourbon Paper Plane Cocktail with Lemon Juice

Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure your Paper Place Cocktail transports you to the summer of 2008.

  • Don’t overmix. The key to this cocktail is to ensure that you don’t dilute any of the bold flavors. As soon as the cocktail shaker feels cool, stop shaking!
  • Chill your glasses. A great way to ensure this cocktail stays nice and cool is to chill your glasses. So, place coup glasses in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than 2 hours).
  • Use fresh lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice contains chemicals like sodium metabisulphite that alter the flavor. For the best drink, always use fresh.

More Simple Cocktails To Try

Vodka Soda
Pimm’s Cup
New York Sour

Paper Plane Cocktail

Course: DrinksCuisine: American


Prep time



The Paper Plane cocktail perfectly balances bitter, sweet, and sour flavors. It’s a beautifully layered drink with a complex taste profile you’ll adore.


  • Ice

  • 3/4 ounce bourbon

  • 3/4 ounce Aperol

  • 3/4 ounce Amaro Nonino Quintessentia (or Cynar)

  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed


  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice. Shake vigorously until well-chilled, about 15-20 seconds.
  • Strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass.
  • Serve and enjoy!


  • Amaro. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia is the original choice for this cocktail, but you can also try Cynar. Cynar is artichoke-based with a bolder bitterness than the milder Nonino.
  • Bourbon. The type of bourbon you use can influence the overall flavor of the drink. A higher-proof bourbon will add more warmth and pronounced oakiness.
Paper Plane Cocktail

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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