I fly like paper, get high like planes
If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
If you come around here, I make ’em all day
I get one down in a second if you wait
– Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (M.I.A.)
This drink was created by Sam Ross when he was working at Little Branch back in 2009. If you recall, I mentioned him briefly in my Red Hook post: he’s the man responsible for the Red Hook-inspired Cobble Hill cocktail. The cocktail that is featured today was named after M.I.A.’s 2007 song, “Paper Planes,” which he purportedly listened to while working on the recipe.
Oh, I love that track. The downtempo rap overtop of the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” spools out some pretty subversive lyrics on colonization and cultural re-appropriation in-between cash register ch-chings and gunfire clatter. I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up on the YouTube. Nice.
The drink consists of equal parts of four ingredients: bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice. Like the End of Days cocktail featured in the last post, this one is comparatively light on alcohol and is perfect for summertime drinkin’.
Most are familiar with the orange-hued, gentian/cinchona/rhubarb-infused aperitif that is Aperol; however, Amaro Nonino is a relatively new product, only coming into existence in the early 90s. You may have heard of Nonino though – they’ve been making top quality grappa in northeastern Italy for about 117 years. Their amaro is created by infusing mountain herbs in grape distillate and aging it in small barriques for 5 years. Which particular mountain herbs are used is beyond my knowledge, but what I do know is that it’s delicious. I only just picked up my first bottle a couple months ago.
All I wanna do is BANG BANG BANG BANG! And a KKKAAAA CHING! And mix a drink.
- ¾ oz. Elijah Craig Kentucky 12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- ¾ oz. Nonino Amaro Quintessentia
- ¾ oz. Aperol
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker along with ice aplenty. Shake like you’rea bona fide hustler, makin’ yo name, for about 10 seconds or so. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Mr. Ross doesn’t call for a garnish, but a large swath of lemon peel twisted smartly wouldn’t be out of line.
The orangey, grapefruity, slightly bitter flavours of Aperol combine with Nonino’s herbal, floral, grappa-like flavours, resulting in what amounts to a very interesting blended amaro. At first sip you get the burned sugar, vanilla and spice from the bourbon intermingling with bracingly sour lemon, closely followed by the grapefruit/herbal notes of the amaros. The drink finishes pleasantly dry with a slight bitterness. Sum sum summer summer drinker; Summer summer cocktail.
By the way, Elijah Craig 12 yo is my go-to cocktail bourbon. And it should be yours too – it’s an awesome value. Bottled at 47% abv, it delivers the aforementioned burned sugar, vanilla, and spice flavours along with notes of maple syrup, char, and oak providing further depth and richness. It’s a very reasonable $43 in Ontario. I just re-read that and the word “notes” kinda makes me feel icky. Like I need to go and tell someone I trust. Is there a less douchey synonym for “flavours”? “Notions”? “Impressions”? They all sound a little highfalutin.
So anyway, I’m thinking we need bartenders to create some more drinks named after other M.I.A. songs. May I suggest the Bad Girls Cocktail? Nah, that name is terrible. Sounds like something that involves flavoured vodka, peach schnapps, sour mix and grenadine. Lethal poison for the system. Fantastic song, though.
Alright, that’s it. Oh, one last thing: the reading I did for this post has brought to my attention the startling quantity of amazing cocktails that Sam Ross has dreamt up. As such, I think I’ll do a series featuring his bibulous creations. Yes, that sounds splendid. Until next time, everybody dance like there’s ass in your pants.