How to Make a Paper Plane

This equal-parts cocktail is only 12 years old-and already a classic.


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


  1. Shake ingredients well with ice.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass.

The Paper Plane is a daring drink. With bourbon's sweetness, Aperol and Amaro Nonino Quintessentia's bitterness, and sour lemon, it hangs in the balance—like the perfectly aligned paper plane you always wanted to fold out of notebook paper but never quite mastered. But for all its flavor complexity, it couldn't be easier to make, because every ingredient is equal in proportion. Outdo yourself by crafting a tiny paper plane as a garnish. A lemon twist works just as well, though, as does no garnish at all.

A Little Background

We talk a lot about old-as-hell cocktails here. Cocktails borne from Prohibition. Cocktails that predate both World Wars. Cocktails that predate the damn War of 1812. But the Paper Plane is an infant in comparison, and well on its way to being a classic. Back in 2007, bartender Sam Ross (whose other cocktail invention, the Penicillin, also skyrocketed to infamy) was listening to M.I.A.'s song "Paper Planes"—2007, folks—as he tried to concoct an original drink, according to the book A Proper Drink. Using the four-equal-parts construction of the Last Word, a seriously old cocktail, he made what is essentially a Whiskey Sour and then some. Originally, Ross's recipe called for Campari to go with the Amaro Nonino, bourbon, and lemon. Now, it's Aperol and Amaro Nonino.

If You Like This, Try These

We've already name-dropped a couple cocktails that figure into the Paper Plane's story, which you are recommended to try as well: the Last Word (with equal parts gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime) and the Whiskey Sour. If you feel like riffing on the air-travel theme, there's the Air Mail and the Aviation. However, to the best of our knowledge, M.I.A. has yet to inspire another modern cocktail.


What You Need

Here’s what you need to do a Paper Plane justice, beyond what you might be able to dig out of the fridge or cupboard.

  • Bourbon
  • Aperol
  • Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
  • Cocktail Glasses

Food styling by Sean Dooley
Prop Styling by Ashley Naum

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This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Sarah Rense
Sarah Rense is the Lifestyle Editor at Esquire, where she covers tech, food, drinks, home, and more.
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