Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe Variations, History, and Everything You Need to Know

Ever heard of the Paper Plane Cocktail? It’s the new cocktail famous in Toronto for its incredible taste-which is similar to whisky sour with a hint of fruity flavor. It has been gaining fame in the States and becoming the top choice of cocktail in New York and San Francisco.

Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe

The sudden rise in popularity has earned the vibrant drink the title of being the new “it” drink in the cocktail world, and you can make Paper Plane right in the comfort of your home! 

Did You Know? 
Paper Plane was created by the Australian bartender, Sam Ross, while listening to a song by the British rapper, M.I.A, entitled “Paper Planes”.

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Easy to make and remember with its ingredients of equal parts, this cocktail will make you a bartending superstar in no time. Here’s how:

Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe


  • 0.75 oz Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz Amaro Nonino
  • 0.75 oz Aperol
  • 0.75 oz Lemon Juice


  1. Grab your shaker and and fill with ice.
  2. Add the ingredients to the shaker, and shake!
  3. Strain the mixture into a coupe glass and top it off with a lemon peel to add zest.

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Did You Know?

Originally, Ross’ recipe used Campari but eventually it was changed to Aperol, and it is now the ingredient commonly used for the recipe that gives the paper plane a beautiful red orange color.

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Recipe Variations

Upgrade your drink by trying the other variations!

  • Campari Alternative-Curious about what the original Paper Plane tastes like? Then,try this! This version follows the original cocktail made by Ross, which makes use of Campari instead of Aperol.

  • Abano Version-Instead of Amaro Nonino, why not use Amaro Abano? Both may be Amari products, but the taste that Abano brings to Paper Plane is something you'll surely love. 

  • Paper Kamikaze-The Paper Plane does not only taste great with bourbon, but also with rum as its base. 

  • Highwest Variation-Take out the Bourbon and Amaro Nonino, and replace it with Highwest Double Rye and Waterpocket Oread. The result? Why, see for yourself! 

Know Your Ingredients!

In case you’re wondering what exactly these ingredients are made of, we got you covered!

  • Bourbon - The American type of Whiskey, It is a distinctive product of the US. Distilled and barrel-aged, this spirit is made primarily of corn of at least 51%. Pick your Bourbon here.

  • Amaro Nonino - A grappa based digestif made in Fruili, in Northern Italy. Its bitter-sweet taste is a result of the drink being infused with several spices, herbs and roots. Get your Nonino here.

  • Aperol - Another Italian drink, this apertif has the same rich, orange sweetness and bitter herbal undertones as its counterpart Campari, only lighter than the latter. You may find Aperol of guaranteed quality here.

  • Lemon Juice - A popular ingredient to mix in cocktails, freshly squeezed lemon juice may be freshly made in your own home or bought ready made in shops like this.

Bar Accessories

Every good cocktail mix comes from good ingredients and good equipment. Below are your must-haves for mixing for the Paper Plane Ingredients. 

  • Cocktail Set - the basic equipment in mixing cocktail, a complete cocktail set includes cocktail shaker, julep strainer, fine mesh strainer, hawthorne strainer, bar spoon, jigger, muddler and cocktail picks. 

  • Coupe Glasses - being glasses especially made for drinks without ice, coupe glasses are the best choice of cocktail glass in making Paper Plane. 

  • Angled Measuring Jigger - necessary for making sure each ingredient has the same equal measureme`nt. 

  • Citrus Juice Squeeze - for making the sour mix, lemon juice. Freshly-made lemon juice proves to be the best ingredient to mix with this cocktail. 

The History

We all know who made Paper Plane Cocktail and what it is named after, but how did it make its way to the top?

A bartender who has served in Attaboy (previously named Milk & Honey) for a long time, Sam Ross had Paper Planes as his second most-loved creation, next to Penicillin. Although he doesn't know when it started, he observed that not long after this drink was introduced that it made its way to the menu of every bar in Toronto. It is said to be a riff of the cocktail, 'Last Word', which is most famous in Seattle, and it is speculated to have gained popularity in that area because of its link to 'Last Word'. 

Did You Know? 

In one serving of a Paper Plane, there are approximately 198 calories.

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The Rise in Fame

The  States and Canada aren't the only areas where in Paper Plane gained popularity, as its name has captured the interest of people all around the world and its fame has steadily increased through the years ever since it was first introduced. As mentioned earlier, after becoming the main drink in Toronto, Canada, the Paper Plane became a popular drink in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and the rest of the US With the abundance of people enjoying this drink, it is not surprising that the said it was featured in The Seattle Times newspaper, and in books, specifically Robert Simonson's A Proper Drink and Kara Newman's Shake, Stir, Sip

The Perfect Pair

Bourbon is usually paired with sweet, slightly spicy or smoky food, like chocolate, bacon and ham. Aperol is best drank with seafood-specifically salmon, fruits and glazed ham, considering its place of origin. Generally speaking, these types of food are the perfect pair when having a drink with Paper Plane.

See What Others Think


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It’s a bird... it’s a plane... it’s #thirstythursday! The paper plane is definitely not plain and packs a punch. Paper ✋🏼 beats rock 👊🏼 and today this drink tops anything on the rocks. All aboard the paper plane train ✈️🚆 . . The paper plane has been steadily climbing through the ranks of my favorite drinks. There’s just something about the way bourbon mixes with lemon/lime that’s so refreshing (paging fellow whiskey sour lover @the_nj_food_fiend_ 👀). When the waiter asked what we were drinking I actually hadn’t even looked at the cocktails menu but when I saw that the paper plane was the first menu item I knew what I was getting right away. And as always, it was delicious! If you’ve never had it before, try it out! 🍸🍸 . . 📍 @flatirongrill 🍸 Paper plane (bourbon, lemon, aperol, meletti amaro), MacGregor (glendronach 12yr, antica sweet vermouth, angostura bitters)

A post shared by Brian • Seattle Foodie (@biteswithbrian) on

We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Updated: August 27, 2019.

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