The paper plane cocktail is considered a modern classic by some. It's elegant, well balanced and easy to make, with the perfect balance of sweet, tart and spirit-forward flavor. Perfect for aperitivo hour.
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I've become a big fan of sour cocktails in various forms, whether a classic whiskey sour or that bit more creative like my pumpkin spice whiskey sour and hibiscus mezcal sour. This cocktail uses Aperol rather than a sugar syrup as the sweetener, but has much of the same great balance of flavors.
What are the origins of the Paper Plane?
This cocktail was originally created by bartender Sam Ross for The Violet Hour in Chicago. If the name isn't familiar, he's also known as the creator of another modern classic, the Penicillin cocktail.
He wasn't actually based in Chicago at the time but helped a fellow bartender who was involved in opening The Violet Hour with ideas. He then also introduced the drink to his own bars in NYC. Between the two cities, it soon became a fan favorite and took flight from there.
Since then, the simple combination has spread to bars and home cocktail enthusiasts, and I can completely understand why. It's well balanced, with a great flavor and really easy to make.
Apparently it was originally made with Campari, but the Aperol version is what Ross settled on as it's a little smoother (this Punch article make an interesting read on the drink's origins).
Variations on the theme
The traditional drink is equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice. Here I've used a different amaro, Montenegro. The reason is partly practical - I can't get Nonino here just now, but also it's a more herbacious flavor while Montenegro is much smoother. True, it means a slightly less complex drink but I'd argue even easier to enjoy.
Of course, the best option is to try it both ways, or indeed with other amaro and see which you prefer. You can also try the original with campari or try out different bourbons. You could try a rye whiskey in there, or other spirits. Various bartenders have already created riffs on the theme, and it's definitely open to playing around with.
That said, the original is still pretty delicious so worth making a regular feature. It's easy to whip up for aperitivo hour or whatever excuse you want to make.
A wonderful balance of sweet, sour and strength, the Paper Plane cocktail is well worth getting to know.
Try these other easy cocktails:
- Cranberry whiskey sour
- Unusual negroni
- St Germain gin and tonic
- Plus get many more cocktail recipes in the archives.
Paper plane cocktail
- 1 oz whiskey 30ml - I used Eagle Rare but can use as you have/prefer
- 1 oz Aperol 30ml
- 1 oz amaro 30ml, traditionally Amaro Nonino but I used Montenegro
- 1 oz lemon juice 30ml
- Place all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 2-4 cubes of ice. Shake well to chill the drink and mix.
- Strain into a glass - this is typically served in a coupe glass, but a whisky/old fashioned glass would also work.