There’s a certain sophisticated alchemy required to make an equal-parts cocktail work. By nature, they turn the dictums of drink-making on their head; modifiers are no longer supporting players, they’re given an equal seat at the table. This rewriting of cocktail rules makes the equal-parts recipe especially difficult to develop. But once you land on a formula that jibes, the possibilities for reinvention are endless.
Consider the Paper Plane. Among the most famous modern classics, the mixture of bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice in equal measure has spawned a fleet of lookalikes borrowing its uncomplicated template. Created in the late aughts by Milk & Honey bartender Sam Ross, the mixture works, in part, by riffing on the formula of another equal parts classic: the Last Word, translating the herbal element of Chartreuse into the richer but no less complex Amaro Nonino, while whiskey takes the place of gin.
Ever since the Paper Plane first took flight, it’s landed on menus across the country, sometimes in its original form, but more often than not in modified states that, taken together, chart the progression from a classic, to a modern classic, to an ever-expanding family of riffs. In the case of Joaquín Simó’s Naked & Famous, the twist on a modern classic yielded yet another modern classic, a marriage of mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol and lime juice.
The evolution continues with drinks like the Amen Corner. Created by PDT alum Nick Brown, the bourbon-based cocktail simply ditches the lemon juice from the original, tweaks the ratios and adds a burst of freshly muddled mint. In Atlanta, when Ticonderoga Club guests request a Paper Plane, bartender Alec Bales serves The Cutter, his take on the recipe that swaps housemade Campari in for Aperol and house Amer Picon for Nonino, albeit in slightly modified proportions (he suggests the original Campari and Amaro CioCiaro if making the drink at home).
With these recipes in mind, it shouldn’t be too hard to give wings to your own rendition and become part of the modern fleet of Paper Planes.