Paper Plane cocktail orange cocktail in a coupe glass with a lemon twist

Paper Plane Cocktail

Featuring whiskey, Aperol, amaro, and lemon juice, the Paper Plane cocktail is perfect if traveling more is one of your 2024 goals!

Paper Plane Cocktail

The Paper Plane cocktail is my go-to cocktail to sip on while searching for flights and dreaming up perfect destinations for the year ahead! It’s bittersweet with a subtle whiskey character and refreshing lemon zestiness.

Based on a classic, prohibition-era cocktail, The Last Word, the Paper Plane’s origins are credited to New York bartender Sam Ross. This modern riff on a classic cocktail was only invented in 2008, inspired by M.I.A’s “Paper Plane” hit, and quickly gained a devoted following thanks to its perfectly balanced and intriguing flavor profile. If you love an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, but want to try a less boozy cocktail, this is it!

Whiskey forms the base of the Paper Plane, providing a foundation of warmth and depth. For my Paper Plane cocktail, I reached for Wyoming Double Cask Bourbon. I love the distinct rye spice and honey sweetness it adds for a unique twist. While I am typically mixing Aperol into my lighter spritzes, it offers a touch of citrus and herbal complexity to this super easy drink. Amaro, a type of Italian liqueurs renowned for their botanical infusions, rounds out the drink with rich, earthy notes. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice brightens everything up and brings the flavors together in perfect harmony. Cheers!

Ingredients for the Paper Plane Cocktail

  • Whiskey: Opt for a quality whiskey. I like Wyoming Double Cask Bourbon Whisky for its smoothness and notes of toasted nuts, caramel, and orange zest. Its subtle sweetness complements the Aperol’s citrus and the amaro’s earthiness.
  • Aperol: A bright and bittersweet Italian aperitif that adds a unique flavor profile to the cocktail.
  • Amaro: This drink is traditionally made with Amaro Nonino which brings hints of vanilla, caramel, and allspice. Feel free to make with another high quality amaro.
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a refreshing and citrusy kick to balance the richness of the other ingredients. You can use bottled lemon juice here as well.
  • Lemon Twist, Paper Plane: Jazz up your presentation with a classic lemon twist and a tiny paper plane!
Paper Plane cocktail in a coupe glass close up with paper plane garnish

How to Make the Paper Plane Cocktail

Crafting the Paper Plane cocktail is a breeze, making it perfect for impromptu gatherings and planned cocktail nights!

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the whiskey, Aperol, amaro, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Shake the mixture until it’s chilled.

Strain the concoction into a coupe glass. I love this one from Crate&Barrel. Garnish your cocktail with a delicate lemon twist and a signature paper plane!

Frequently Asked Questions

How strong is the Paper Plane cocktail?

The Paper Plane packs a moderate punch. It’s not as potent as some spirit-forward cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan, but it’s definitely not a lightweight either. Enjoy it responsibly!

What does the Paper Plane taste like?

The Paper Plane is a harmonious blend of bittersweet, citrusy, herbal, and earthy flavors. The whiskey provides a foundation of warmth and depth, while Aperol adds a touch of orange and herbal complexity. Amaro rounds out the drink with rich, earthy notes, and fresh lemon juice brightens everything up, creating a balanced and intriguing flavor experience.

What kind of whiskey is best for the Paper Plane?

While the classic recipe calls for bourbon, feel free to experiment with different whiskeys to find your favorite pairing. Rye whiskey can add a spicy kick, while wheated bourbons offer a smoother, sweeter profile. Consider the flavor notes of the whiskey and how they’ll complement the other ingredients.

What can I substitute for Aperol in a Paper Plane?

If you don’t have Aperol on hand, try Campari or another bittersweet Italian liqueur like Averna or Cynar. These alternatives will offer a similar bittersweet profile but with slightly different nuances.

What is amaro?

Amaro is a bittersweet Italian herb elixir, perfect for adding depth to cocktails. Try Nonino, Averna, Ramazzotti, or Montenegro.

More Whiskey Drinks to Try

If you’re interested in taking Insta-worthy photos of your cocktails too, check out my free training on 5 Secrets to High-End Food (& Drink) Photography That Makes You More Money (Even If You Don’t Have a Large Following).

And if you aren’t already, definitely follow me on Instagram and Facebook, to make sure you never miss a recipe, get tons of behind-the-scenes pics of everything I’m shaking up, shooting, and enjoying!

Paper Plane

The Paper Plane is perfect if traveling more is one of your 2024 goals! Featuring whiskey, Aperol, amaro, and lemon juice.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: amaro, aperol, Bourbon, Citrus, whiskey cocktail


  • 3/4 oz whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Aperol
  • 3/4 oz amaro
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • Garnish: lemon twist, paper plane


  • Add whiskey, Aperol, amaro, lemon juice and ice to a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled.
  • Strain into a coupe glass. If desired, garnish with a lemon twist and paper plane.

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