The Paper Plane cocktail.

The Paper Plane cocktail.

“Now that’s a good brown drink, I like that”, is something we rarely hear from Carolyn when whiskey is involved. She likes her gin, vodka and rum just fine, but most “brown drinks” with bourbon, rye or scotch taste too sweet and heavy for her tastes. And to be honest, even I prefer the spice of rye to the sweetness of bourbon. But we do like the caramel and vanilla notes of good bourbon, we just don’t want it to dominate the drink. But this week’s cocktail, the Paper Plane solves this problem quite nicely. It is by all measures a bourbon drink, but it is a very bright and refreshing sip.

planeplane1 Created a few years ago by well-known New York bartender Sam Ross, the Paper Plane combines equal parts good bourbon, lemon juice, Amaro Nonino and Aperol and is garnished with a lemon twist. The combo of the whiskey and lemon is standard, but the key to the Paper Plane is the use of two sweet and bitter ingredients, the Amaro Nonino and Aperol. These are both bitter ingredients but come from very different ends of the spectrum. We would not have thought to combine these ingredients, but it really works, and that’s why cocktails are fun. There are always surprises awaiting.

plane4plane3 Aperol (which we have discussed in the blog and is one of our favorite ingredients) is Campari’s lighter, less boozy, cousin and features sweet citrus and rhubarb notes with a bitter finish. The Amaro Nonino is a whole other animal. It’s amaro, but it is sweeter and boozier than most and with some fruity notes to compliment the herbal core. Nonino is seriously good stuff and is fun to play around with in all sorts of whiskey-based drinks (Nonino Manhattan variants are very tasty). Also fun to substitute for Benedictine. Along with Montenegro, the Nonino is now one of our favorite amari for mixing. Worth picking up a bottle if you can.

The Paper Plane cocktail.

plane9 As for the taste, the Paper Plane starts with bourbon and lemon, but also has some orangey and almost grapefruit notes (there is no grapefruit but Aperol can play with your taste buds sometimes). All the way through you get the herbal flavors of the Nonino and a pleasantly clean and slightly bitter finish. Unlike some whiskey drinks, the finish keeps us coming back for more, it isn’t too sweet. You could easily serve the Paper Plane as a summer cocktail. And with that in mind, most recipes suggest you serve the Paper Plane in a cocktail glass, but we also enjoy it as a sipper on the rocks. This is a lovely drink for a sunny afternoon…and we just happen to have some of those on the way…

plane5 The Paper Plane:


  • 3/4 oz. bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
  • 3/4 oz. Aperol
  • Lemon Twist


  1. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, flute or coupé. Or pour into a lowball glass with a single large ice-cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.
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