Considering how often you see the Paper Plane on cocktail menus next to classics like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, one might assume this cute sounding libation at least predates Prohibition. In reality, the Paper Plane wasn't invented until 2008 (when M.I.A.'s smash hit single "Paper Plane" was popular) by legendary bartender Sam Ross for the opening of The Violet Hour in Chicago.
This pink hued cocktail is a variation on the classic Last Word—a drink made from equal parts gin, lime, maraschino liqueur, and green Chartreuse. The Paper Plane follows the same equal parts template but calls for Aperol, Amaro Nonino, bourbon, and lemon juice. While employing very different liquors, both drinks play tart, bitter, and herbal flavors off each other beautifully.
For our non-alcoholic rendition, we're going to use Ghia, a wonderful Mediterranean-inspired aperitif, Lyre's Italian Spritz and American Malt, plus our Orange bitters and a bitter lemon simple syrup to round it out. It’s juicy and crushable—yet sophisticated enough to fool even the most skeptical of non-alcoholic cocktail disbelievers.
Paper Plane (Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Recipe)
Non-Alcoholic Cocktail / Low-Alcohol / Zero Proof / Mocktail
3/4 ounce non-alcoholic whiskey
3/4 ounce non-alcoholic bittersweet orange liqueur
3/4 ounce Ghia Aperitivo
3/4 ounce lemon juice, fresh
1/2 ounce bitter lemon simple syrup
2 full droppers All The Bitter Orange bitters
Add all ingredients (see notes for bitter lemon simple syrup recipe) to shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist, expressing the oils over the drink.
BITTER LEMON SIMPLE SYRUP RECIPE
Peel 6 lemons pretty aggressively—you actually want as much of the bitter white pith in there as possible—then juice and strain. Add lemon juice (about 1 cup), 1 cup of water, 2 cups of white sugar, and lemon peels to a small sauce pot. Simmer on low for 10 minutes, then strain and bottle. Syrup will last in the fridge at least a month (or can be frozen) and is fantastic in soda or tonic.
MAKE IT YOUR WAY
Don't feel like making bitter lemon syrup? No problem! This is your cocktail, after all. Regular simple syrup will do just fine. Don't blame us if it's not the best thing you've ever tasted, but it should still be pretty delicious without the lemon syrup.
We love Lyre's Italian Spritz and American Malt in this cocktail, but other spirits could be used as well. Feel free to swap in your favorite whiskey alternative or bitter orange substitute—Dhos Bittersweet, Wilfred's Aperitif, and Giffard Aperitif Syrup would all work nicely.
MAKE IT MINDFULLY LOW ALCOHOL
Swap in an equal amount of alcoholic whiskey for the non-alcoholic whiskey, or use Aperol in place of Lyre’s Italian Spritz for a delicious low alcohol tipple.