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How The Paper Plane Took Off

The Paper Plane, created as the offspring of modern classic The Last Word, has gone on to become arguably even more well known than its predecessor.

In 2007, fabled Australian bartender Sam Ross was tasked with creating an original drink for The Violet Hour, a bar which a friend of his was about to open. Having recently been introduced to bittersweet Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and wanting a drink that was easily replicable from ingredients that most bars would have at hand, Ross used his new favourite Amaro and worked up from there.

KASBAHco: Paper Plane

Nonino, with its deep, orangey bitterness needed to be balanced out with complimentary products. Bourbon was used as the base spirit, both to bring up the ABV%, and due to its ability to counteract the bitter. Ross originally called for Campari too, but eventually decided that the sweeter notes of Aperol were in fact a more suitable match. Add in an equal measure of lemon juice, and you have a drink that, as Ross puts it, ‘nails the trinity of sweet, sour and bitter’.

The original version with Campari appeared on the menu at the Violet Hour in Chicago as intended, quickly becoming a top seller, and still gets ordered there in that format to this day. Although back then it was called The Paper Airplane, thanks to a misinterpreted late-night voicemail from Ross in New York to compatriot Toby Maloney in Chicago. Ross himself put it into circulation at Milk & Honey with his Aperol recipe, naming it, as intended, after the MIA track that was played everywhere that summer.

Joaquín Simó, at the time struggling to find a replacement for Maraschino in his attempt at a Last Word riff, was inspired to find a more complex liqueur to fit the bill after being served a Paper Plane at Milk & Honey. He set upon the combination of Yellow Chartreuse and Aperol to finish off what would become a modern classic itself - the Naked & Famous.

Word soon spread about the drink affectionately dubbed ‘the bourbon Cosmo’, as on top of being a delicious cocktail made from products stocked in most bars, the Paper Plane was easily replicable thanks to its equal parts ratio, and its lack of garnish - a surprisingly rare occurrence.

A drink described by its creator as simple and fool-proof, the Paper Plane’s level of success is testament to Ross’ ability to be original without needing to be revolutionary.




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