I had my first experience with the Paper Plane cocktail when I visited blustery, wintry New York City in February. While I was scouring the cocktail list in the dim light of the cozy bar trying to decide what would warm me up from the inside, I was intrigued by this bourbon drink I had not heard of before. I, obviously, had to try it.
The Paper Plane has a delectable tangy bitterness that enhances the bourbon, but does not overpower the taste buds.
It is served in a delicate coupe glass that makes you feel like you need to stick your pinky out.
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Who Created the Paper Plane Cocktail?
A NYC bartender, Sam Ross, was asked to create an original cocktail for a new Chicago-based bar, The Violet Hour. Ross named his new drink after a 2007 hit summer song, “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
The Inspiration for the Paper Plane
To get a well-rounded picture of where the Paper Plane cocktail came from, we need to start at the beginning. The Paper Plane cocktail is a modern variation of the pre-Prohibition cocktail the Last Word.
The Last Word got its start in the Detroit Athletic Club’s bar in the early 1920s. While the Last Word lasted into the 1950s, it eventually fell into obscurity.
It was resurrected by a Seattle bartender, Murray Stenson, in the early 2000s who found it while reading Ted Saucier’s book Bottoms Up. The Last Word meandered its way across the country to New York City until a popular bar picked it up and increased its popularity.
The original cocktail included Campari, but was changed to include Aperol instead which lends to the unique red-orange color of the Paper Plane cocktail.
Ross even chose to garnish it with an actual paper plane.