The Pan Am Cocktail | Santa Fe Sips

By Matt Mathai

A tasty rum cocktail that perfectly walks the line between tart and sweet, and might be the best intro to rum for those who claim they don’t like rum. It’s also one of the best-looking drinks I’ve ever seen.

Those of you who are old enough - sorry, seasoned enough, er, experienced enough - will remember Pan American airlines. When my family moved to the US when I was a kid, we flew into San Francisco on Pan Am flight 2, one of their two flights that circumnavigated the globe.

A lot of famous rum drinks (many of which I’ll feature in this blog) are boozy enough, and strongly flavored enough, that it takes a little work to begin to appreciate them. Not so here. This is an eminently drinkable, lovely cocktail that would be perfect as the first drink to serve your guests in the evening. It’s tangy, sweet, very slightly bitter, and has an amazingly rich mouthfeel.


The Pan Am was created by London bartender Barney Toy at the Revelry Bar, Auckland, NZ, in 2015, and was the winner of the Bacardi Legacy competition in 2015. The goal of every competitor is to create a rum cocktail (hopefully using Bacardi rum, of course) that has the potential to become a classic like the Daiquiri and Mojito. In Barney's words, “this drink was inspired by the luxury and style on board Pan American airways First Class flight that transported travelers from Florida to Havana in the 1920s and 1930s during Prohibition. The sophisticated elegance and fragrance of the Pan Am cocktail would have been the perfect welcome complement to sip harmoniously while waiting to escape to an extravagant weekend in Havana, Cuba"


The Pan AM Ingredients:

  • 2 oz unaged Cuban rum

  • ½ oz of Aperol

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz of orgeat

  • 1 egg white

  • Garnish: Peychaud’s bitters

Steps: (because this cocktail contains egg white, you’ll have to do a dry shake)

  • Chill a coupe glass

  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker

  • Shake vigorously for 10 seconds

  • Add ice and shake vigorously for a further 10 seconds

  • Strain into the coupe glass

  • Once the foam layer forms, garnish with a few drops of Peychaud’s bitters.


  1. Rum - The original recipe used Bacardi Carta Blanca. You can use any ‘white’ rum you want, Cuban if you can get it. . I happened to use Doorly’s Macaw White Rum because it isn’t sweetened (yay, Barbados!), tastes great, and is cheap. I would stay away from Jamaican rums here because they add a funk that would overpower this rather delicately balanced drink.

  2. Aperol - is a famous Italian bitter aperitif. The color, and primary flavor, is orange. You can use Campari here if you must, but the drink will be MUCH more bitter.

  3. Dry shake - whenever you use an egg you need to dry shake your ingredients. Doing so emulsifies the egg and creates a fantastic foam and mouthfeel.

  4. Orgeat - a syrup made with almonds. It imparts a creaminess and slight nuttiness to a drink that is unmatched. You can buy commercial orgeat syrups (BG Reynolds, Small Hand Foods, Liber & Co) but they’re expensive and, in my opinion, not very good. You can make a really good version at home and it couldn’t be easier. More on that later.

  5. Peychaud’s bitters - Created in 1830 in New Orleans, the main flavor is anise, although the primary purpose in this drink is decorative.

I made this drink almost two years ago and rated it 5/5. I made it again recently and was happy to see that I was right in my original rating. I love this drink. If you make this drink, please let me know how it turned out and what you think of it. If you didn’t like it, I’ll drink the rest of yours.