Bitesize Adventures

Panama City with Ron Abuelo

When I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I was off on a week-long trip to drink rum, most wrongly presumed I’d be jetting off to the Caribbean. And while it’s true that Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba are some of the first countries that spring to mind when talking about rum production, it was Panama that was to be my base, and Ron Abuelo my guide.

Ron Abuelo, PanamaAs soon as we got off the plane, it was clear from the many billboards that lined the streets that Rob Abuelo was the sugarcane spirit of choice around these parts. 

While locals will be found drinking the younger, simpler Ron Abuelo 7-Year-Old, we were here to try the latest expression, Three Angels. Not yet available in the UK, the liquid is essentially​​ Ron Abuelo’s Two Oaks (a 12-year-old rum), but taken exclusively from casks housed on the top row of the warehouse, where the “angels share” or evaporation is most prominent. This results in a particularly concentrated flavour, with pronounced notes of coffee beans, dried vine fruit, nuts and maple syrup. Dark and rich, it makes a mean Old Fashioned cocktail, and is an absolute treat with dessert.

While we wait patiently for it to launch here in the UK, here’s our guide to Panama City, with Ron Abuelo…

Where to stay in Panama

Hotel La Compañia 

Panama City is split into old and new, with high-rises to rival any modern city in the latter. We were staying in the old quarter, which we think has way more charm. Hotel La Compañia — part of the Hyatt’s Unbound Collection — is a fab base, slap bang in the middle of all the action, while also fusing modern touches (think, rooftop pool, sexy bar and slick monochrome rooms), with original features.

Honouring Casco Viejo’s past and present, the property is made up of three wings: the French colonial wing, built by Jesuit priests in 1739; the Spanish colonial wing, dating back to 1688; and the 1904 American wing, based on a local department store.

On a budget? We popped into Selina to check out its rooftop bar, and were seriously impressed by the views. Part hostel, part co-work space, it had Shoreditch vibes and reminded us a little of The Hoxton (the tacos are worth a trip alone). 

Where to eat in Panama


Recognised as Panama’s finest restaurant, we were lucky enough to be dining the night it jumped from No.30 to six on Latin America’s 50 Best list. It was also the highest climber of 2022, and is now officially recognised as the number one restaurant in Panama. The food here is a fusion of Panamanian, Afro, Creole and Cantonese, with 10-course tasting menus featuring the likes of fish soup cooked over wood, and beef tenderloin with hearts of palm.


We’ll be having a word with whoever puts the 50 Best list together, because Intimo only comes in at No.70, and was one of our favourite experiences of the whole trip. Their tag line is “the true revolution is the constant evolution”, which goes some way to explaining the tiny restaurant’s ethos, which includes using hyper-local ingredients, often taken from their on-site garden. 

Highlights included spider crab, tuna ceviche with caviar, black beans with white cheese and pickled watermelon, spicy octopus in coconut milk, grilled fish in a caper beurre blanc sauce, I could go on…

The cocktail list was just as impressive, and the “Guineo Fermentando”, made with Ron Abuelo, amaro, fermented banana puree and persian lime, slipped down a little too easily.


La Cantina del Tigre

In Panama, you can’t go far without finding ceviche on the menu, but at La Cantina del Tigre, it’s at the heart of the menu. The lychee ceviche — a fully plant-based take on the traditional fish dish — is made entirely from thinly sliced fruit. The venue draws a cool crowd, has a fabulous cocktail menu, and also features on Latin America’s 50 Best list.


Panama loves a rooftop bar, and at Lazotea, the skyhigh restaurant positions the tables around a swimming pool (which as far as we can tell is more for the vibes than any actual laps). Cocktails are served in conch shells and ‘gramable ceviche is found on every table. 

Street food

On the way to the distillery we stopped off at Quesos Chela (essentially a roadside service station), where we discovered guava and cheese empanadas (yes, really), “pura chicha” (a super sweet corn drink that tastes a bit like cereal milk), and “duro de tutti frutti”, a day-glow, juicy, jelly-like creation. 

The seafood in Panama was incredible, and at the casual Los Camisones we tried excellent flambeed langoustines, whole baked fish with patacones (twice-fried plantain slices, like next-level chips), and more ceviche (a running theme of the trip).

Panama street foodElsewhere street carts pedal huge blocks of ice (impressive given the heat), which are scraped to a slushy-like consistency, and topped with sweet syrups — a bit like a non-dairy version of the 99s found in ice cream vans here in the UK. 

And if you get the chance, Panama’s most famous drink (aside from Ron Abuelo of course) is “seco”, a cheap, clear sugarcane spirit traditionally served with milk and ice.

Where to drink in Panama

Panamanians bring the party (we found ourselves dancing on a rooftop bar in the early hours of the morning on our last night in the city). This is where we’d head if you’re after a killer cocktail…

Barbara, Panama CityLa Barbara

Like something you’d find in East London, La Barbara is a cocktail bar, hidden behind a hairdressers. With sushi and cocktails on the menu, it’s the ideal place to start your evening, and the staff clearly know their way around a shaker. Order the Mai Tai for upmarket tiki vibes.

Tantalo Rooftop Bar

Looking for a light night spot? This is it. We’re talking DJs and cocktails, with the Panama skyline as the backdrop. Super fun.

Pedro Mandinga Rum Bar

Chances are, if you find yourself in Panama, you’re partial to a rum or two. This bar is home to one of the widest selections we came across, with a backdrop of salsa music. 

Panamanian Party Bus

Ok, you won’t find killer cocktails here. In fact the drinks are pretty vile (think, cheap spirit, with even cheaper mixer), however, how could you let this graffiti-clad, neon-lit party bus go by? It’s completely gutted of seating so you can have a proper boogie, and we’re told it’s a properly authentic experience, loved by locals…

Café Unido

And for the morning after the night before, you’ll want to head to Café Unido, where they take their coffee oh-so-seriously. It’s the work of Mario Castrellón (head chef at Maito, above, and Ron Abuelo’s gastronomic partner). Here they focus on the Panamanian specialty coffee, Geisha. Not to be confused with the Japanese women, it’s the most expensive coffee in the world, and is beautifully complex, with a perfumed characteristic.


A big thanks to the Ron Abuelo team for showing us such a great time, and for trusting us to have one of the first sips of the beautiful new Three Angels. We can’t wait to stock up when it launches in June.


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