The rum guide to Panama
The rum guide to Panama
Panama is a nation on the edge, the edge of a remarkable renaissance defined by artisan rums, luxury hotels, Pacific Ocean breezes and the gentrification of historic neighborhoods. Numerous direct flights from the USA, along with the dollar as currency, make Panama an easy, no-fuss getaway that delivers such an exotic feel you'll think you've traveled for days. Naturally, the best way to get around is to follow the rum. Here's a guide to rum itinerary to start things:
Casco Viejo is Panama's up-and-coming neighborhood populated with hipsters and locals, even the president himself lives here. Along with gentrification comes cuisine, and Madrigal and Los Clementinas are two of the area's most intriguing dining destinations. For the total rum experience order Madrigal's shaved, rum-infused foie gras with a dirty mojito (made with aged rum); it's likely the best mojito in the city, and certainly the best foie gras.
Rum ice cream
Granclement ice creams, also in Casco Viejo, serve up a tantalizing array of silky gelato-styled ice creams made with all-natural ingredients. The texture and flavor of each selection will bring you back for more every day. You'll have to make the call between lavender, Madagascar vanilla and chocolate orange, but you should absolutely try the rum raisin, infused with artisan Panamanian rum, it's a refreshingly cool antidote to the balmy rainforest climate.
Visit Maito, where Barcelona-trained chef Mario Castrillón artfully weaves Panama's local provender into his cuisine, even giving a simple mojito an infusion of passionfruit for a richer, rounder cocktail. Order one up to pair with his pristine tuna tartare or his calamari over squid ink risotto. Patio seating is highly prized, so make a reservation.
Rum tasting at the distillery
Take the rum experience to the full extent and make the drive to Panama's best artisan rum distillery: Ron Abuelo. Roughly three and a half hours by car, you'll be eyewitness to the sugarcane harvest (typically January through April) and the distilling process. The tour begins with a complimentary ox and cart ride to the tasting room (also the mode of transport for some of the sugarcane). You'll get a lesson from the distillery's rum expert on the proper way to taste rum, which involves a significant amount of inhaling and exhaling to achieve the total experience. You can also try your hand at an old sugar cane press and visit their solera -- the only solera in Panama -- used to age their exquisite 30 year rum.
Rum with a view
The Hard Rock Hotel delivers the usual big-city dining, but the 62nd-floor rooftop bar is the main reason to stop in. The scene offers full 360-degree views of the city, punctuated by warm pacific breezes, rum cocktails and water walls. Find terrific al fresco lounging with absolutely the best view in Panama City.