What was British rapper M.I.A. imagining when she recorded “Paper Planes” in 2007? Probably not that her incredibly catchy song would inspire the creation of a bright, boozy cocktail bearing the same name. All good cocktails have an origin story, and the Paper Plane’s goes like this: revered New York City bartender Sam Ross was jamming to M.I.A. when he invented the drink, a four-ingredient cocktail of equal parts.

Shaken and strained into a coupe glass, the cocktail walks the tightrope between bitter and sweet, achieving the perfect balance that earns drinks a spot in the canon. The magic ratio here is three-fourths—¾-ounces each of Aperol, bourbon, lemon juice, and Nonino Quintessentia, an Italian amaro that lends herbal, bitter notes. Shortly after he christened it in 2007, Sam Ross’s jam session took off, quickly claiming a spot on cocktail menus and behind bars round the globe.

The Paper Plane is straight-up delicious and very drinkable. Like the two classic cocktails it references—the whiskey sour and The Last Word—the Paper Plane somehow achieves more than the sum of its parts. It goes down easy. It doesn’t come with a garnish because it doesn’t need one (unless you’d like to fashion a small paper plane to the side of the glass). It is bound to lift your spirits.


Paper Plane: 

Makes 1 Cocktail

Combine ¾-ounces each of Aperol, bourbon, lemon juice, and Nonino Quintessentia (or other Italian amaro) in a shaker with ice.

Shake until frost forms on exterior of shaker, then strain into a coupe glass.