“Everything but the amaretto is from here,” says Alvaro
Cossio, bartender at the JW MARRIOTT PANAMA GOLF
& BEACH RESORT’s Tai Kai Sushi & Martini restaurant.
He’s talking about his signature Strawberry Fever cocktail,
which combines fresh strawberries, amaretto, yerba buena
(local spearmint) and Ron Abuelo Añejo. But he could
mean the hotel’s ambition regarding all its beverages.
I counted rums from six different countries on premises. But like everywhere else in Panama these days, the
hotel seems excited to show off the national bounty. It
uses Seco Herrerero instead of Brazilian cachaca in its
caipirinhas, for example, and Ron Abuelo whenever possible. “For a long time, everyone in Panama drank the
international brands,” says Jerry Brown, the Panama
native who manages the hotel’s restaurants and bars.
“But starting in about 2000, you began to see a change.
Now local rum dominates.”
I couldn’t even taste the rum in the easy-drinking
Strawberry Fever, which might be the point. But later,
I ordered cantaloupe blended with Abuelo 12-Year, which
Cossio served up frothy like a smoothie. The caramel
notes of the rum balanced out the acidity of the fruit.
He wouldn’t let me leave without trying the classic
mojito, which is a cocktail of Cuban origin that Panama
seems in the process of adopting as its own.
He muddled lemon, sugar and mint, served it with
Abuelo Añejo and a splash of club soda, and stood back
with a look of satisfaction. “Much better this way than
with regular white rum, right?” he asked. It certainly was.
I’ll never be satisfied with a normal mojito again. —B.S.
DIP AND SIP
Clockwise from top: the pool
at the JW Marriott Panama Golf
& Beach Resort; a strawberry
fever cocktail; the bartender
serves a mojito.