Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe

Boozy, herbal, sour, and bitter, the Paper Plane is a delicious modern cocktail with amaro and bourbon.

Paper Plane Cocktail in a coupe glass
The Paper Plane cocktail contains bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonio, and lemon juice.

What is a paper plane cocktail

This drink is a spin on the classic Last World drink made of equal parts bourbon, Aperol, amaro, and lemon juice. No extra syrups- just booze and lemon juice. Check out the breakdown of the ingredients:

  • Bourbon: This drink is typically made with a slightly higher proof bourbon, about 43% – 46%.
  • Aperol: This is an Italian bitter with a bright orange color with a light citrusy sweet flavor. Aperol is easy to find in most liquor stores.
Aperol is one of the key ingredients
Aperol is one of the key ingredients
  • Amaro: There are many types of amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur commonly used as an after dinner digestive. Paper Plane traditionally uses Amaro Nonio, a specific type of liqueur with hints of orange peel, botanicals, and herbs. Nonio is not the easiest to find, but luckily there are Amaro Nonio substitutes. Amaro Averna and Amaro Meletti are great substitutes. 
  • Lemon juice: A common cocktail ingredient, lemon juice adds brightness and balance.

History Of This Drink

You might imagine that the Paper Plane cocktail origin goes way back. To me, it gives 1920s vibes. When in fact, the Paper Plane is a modern classic. 

Award-winning bartender and co-owner of Attaboy and Diamond Reef in New York City Sam Ross invented this cocktail in 2008. Ross was inspired by M.I.A’s hit song “Paper Planes” and created it for a restaurant opening in Chicago. It was so popular he brought it back to NYC.


How to make a Paper Plane cocktail

This recipe is super easy to make- just shake and strain! Carefully measure the ingredients and pour into a shaker. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, you could use a mason jar with a lid.

Fill with ice and shake vigorously. You want it cold, but not water, so be sure to not overshake. Next, strain into a cocktail glass using the shaker or a fine mesh strainer.

A common garnish is lemon peel, so feel free to add.


One variation to the Paper Plane drink is to sub out the bourbon for gin. Another way to switch it up is to use Campari instead of Aperol.

Looking for a mocktail? Try this Pina Colada!

Paper Plane cocktail in a coupe glass

Paper Plane

Author: Maddy & JD – Them Bites
Boozy, herbal, sour, and bitter, the Paper Plane is a delicious modern cocktail with beautifully balanced amaro and bourbon.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 36 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 2 people
Calories 54 kcal


  • cocktail shaker


  • oz bourbon
  • oz Aperol
  • oz Amaro Nonio
  • oz lemon juice

Recipe Instructions

  • Combine bourbon, Amaro Nonio, Aperol, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until cold but not watery, about 10 seconds. Strain into 2 glasses.


Calories: 54kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 0.1gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 0.4mgPotassium: 22mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 1mgIron: 0.03mg
Keyword amaro nonino substitute, How to make a paper plane cocktail, Paper plane cocktail, Paper plane cocktail garnish, Paper plane cocktail history, Paper plane cocktail ingredients, Paper plane cocktail origin, Paper plane cocktail recipe, Paper plane cocktail variations, Paper plane cocktail with gin, Paper plane drink
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  1. 5 stars
    We love bourbon, and Aperol, and Amaro – pretty sure this cocktail was designed just for us! Thank you for the recipe. It’s a new favorite.

  2. 5 stars
    This is such a smash hit – I’ve always loved aperol and I felt that the bourbon + aperol combination was AMAZING.

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