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Nylon Nights

We Have An Early Contender For The Drink Of The Summer

The Paper Plane is showing up everywhere, from bar orders to FYP videos.

by Tim Latterner

Online or IRL, one drink seems to be popping up on menus, FYPs, and at every park picnic and rooftop drinks hangout this summer: the Paper Plane.

It’s not a new concoction. (Then again, neither were previous summer cocktail standouts like the Aperol spritz — popularized in the ‘50s — or the espresso martini, which was a hit in the ‘90s.) The drink was first invented by bartender Sam Ross of Attaboy in 2008. Ross imagined the Paper Plane as a whiskey-forward take on The Last Word, an even older cocktail, but swapping out gin for whiskey, green chartreuse for amaro, lime for lemon, and maraschino liqueur for Aperol.

“It’s a gem for whiskey diehards,” says ACME bartender Russel West, who adds that he recommends it for anyone looking to explore the spirit without having to sit with a whole glass. “As a bartender, it is a simple make, but the result is complex. It’s great for people wanting to try something new.”

That might be why the drink is starting to make its way into the public eye again. Haymaker, Harta, and Balthazar all list Paper Planes on their menus. It’s also all over Instagram and TikTok with users posting everything from one-off photos and recipes to batched versions. As it grows in popularity, people are putting their own spins on it, like a cherry version.

Though bourbon cocktails are often associated with ski chalets and Christmas parties, the Paper Plane is primed for pool parties and rooftop bars. It’s warming, but not too heavy. Sweet, but not cloying. And the amaro smooths out the bite of the liquor while still offering a spirit-forward whiskey flavor. The sunset-red color also goes a long way in making it feel summery.

And it’s just four ingredients, in equal parts, which suggests that it’s quick to make and receive, even in a slammed rooftop bar or club. In fact, West says Paper Planes are being ordered more frequently lately at ACME’s downstairs lounge. “And considering it’s not on the menu in any shape or form,” West says, “I would say word is getting around, and people are making it one of their go-tos.”

But if your idea of a good time this summer looks more like spreading out on Sheep’s Meadow or in Washington Square Park, the Paper Plane also travels surprisingly well, I learned on a recent afternoon. It holds up in the summer heat, and is great to sip on over a longer period of time. For picnic purposes, though, I would suggest adding more lemon juice than any recipe calls for — logically, it’ll get warm when it sits out, but the extra lemon will cut the whiskey and leave it tasting more like a boozy lemonade.