Hello, my little happy hour enjoyers. I wanted to let you know that after four years and over 200 cocktails, I’m going to be taking a little break from this column. The truth is that I’m just not drinking as much as I used to, and my enthusiasm for cocktails has dwindled. That’s not fair to y’all, so I’m turning 3-Ingredient Happy Hour over to someone who can give the subject the thought and care it deserves.
I leave you in very capable hands. I know this not because Devojka trained at Attaboy (though that doesn’t hurt), but because I’ve enjoyed several drinks that were prepared by her skillful hands—some of which made their way into this column—and they’ve all been delicious.
We’re also changing the number of ingredients. I’ve pretty much exhausted the supply of three-ingredient libations, so we’re upping it to four, to sort of reset and let Devojka start with a fresh slate. I can’t promise I’ll never write another cocktail recipe again—and I’ll still be around—but I’m excited to see what Devojka, and an extra ingredient, can do.
Cheers and love,
Growing up, my siblings and I would leave our home in California every other summer to visit relatives in Skopje, Macedonia. I remember being 7, having Sunday lunches at my aunts’ home, shifting restlessly in my chair, a smattering of velour Oriflame lipstick on my cheek from the effusive greetings bestowed on me by my Tetki and Babi. The table was strewn with post-meal Turkish coffee cups, the air thick with secondhand smoke and beauty counter perfume, as chain-smoking adults chattered and gossiped all around me, only occasionally stopping to tell me “абе земи касни си, не се срами.” (Don’t be shy, eat.)
Summer in Skopje is oppressive and hot, and makes a child’s already picky palate even more difficult to placate. The cocoa is too bitter, the marmalade too syrupy sweet, the mayo laden Русска salata sweating in the wedding china—a horror show. I can remember, in my desperation, turning my attention to a crystal bowl full of neon foiled hard candies—hardly exciting for this Walgreens candy aisle veteran. I half-heartedly perused its selection of unfamiliar flavors; Instead of Blue Raspberry, Green Apple, or Watermelon, there was Sour Cherry, Apricot, Wild Blueberry, and Mountain Strawberry. I remember plucking out the apricot, unceremoniously popping it in my mouth and being completely shocked at the vibrant burst of flavor I encountered.
I imagine this is what the experience of sipping a Paper Plane for the first time must be like for so many people—a kaleidoscopic hit of lacquered nectar that is fresh, juicy, bright, sweet, tart, bitter, and unexpectedly complex all at once. It certainly was for me. In the genre of what I like to think of as “sherbet cocktails,” Sam Ross’s beloved classic is a standout. And like its peers, it needs to be served shaken up, fizzing and giggling in its coupe, ready to knock back while it’s still very much alive. But shaking a cocktail into perfection is hard work. It demands energy that (for me at least) is easily sapped by July heat and, you know, the weight of living in the modern world. For a cocktail that goes down in a few easy sips, sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
So for the lazy evening that finds you needing refreshment and not minding—in fact maybe even relishing—sipping on the slushy remains of a drink well past its prime (I like flavored ice chips, damnit), may I suggest putting your Paper Plane on crushed ice? My favored version of this has one slight modification: I use the original version’s Campari in place of its eventual successor, Aperol—but of course, you should feel free to use the Aperol if you like; both versions are equally divine. To make a Paper Plane, you will need:
- 3/4 lemon (fresh only please)
- 1/2 oz Campari with ¼ oz simple syrup or ¾ Aperol
- 3/4 Amaro Nonino*
- 3/4 Bourbon
*No substitutions, I’m afraid. Though I’ve seen it done with other amaro, there is no way to approximate what is essentially the centerpiece of this cocktail. While I groan at the annual markup of the stuff, a bottle of Amaro Nonino is relatively easy to find and a wonderful addition to your home bar.
Add the ingredients to a tumbler, and give it a good swirl. Fill a glass with crushed ice, and strain a quarter of the mixture into it, then tamp down the ice with the bottom of the tumbler (The liquid will melt the ice a bit, creating more room in the glass for you to achieve maximum crushed ice capacity.) Add more ice and strain the rest of the liquid into the ice-filled glass. Top with more crushed ice. No garnish necessary, but if you must accessorize, an orange slice will do.
A note on the ice: if you’re using crushed ice generated by your freezer, then please fill a tall tumbler full before you begin making your drink. Those things are slow, and your cocktail will wilt and water down before you’ve finished pouring the last of the mixture. Tragic.