Flor de Caña Sustainable Cocktail Challenge winner Carlos Ferron on sustainability and Panamanian cocktail culture

15 February, 2023

In a global final held on an island in Lake Nicaragua, Carlos Ferron from Panama won the Flor de Caña’s Sustainable Cocktail Challenge earning a prize of US$10,000 and the title of The World’s Most Sustainable Bartender. Drinks International caught up with the newly-crowned champion.

Ferron grew up in the province of Colón on the Caribbean northern coast of Panama, his first taste of hospitality came when he began working at a restaurant called Millesime in Panama City’s Yoo Tower.

“I was instantly attracted by the teamwork that I found there,” he says. “It’s an industry where you create more than friends, you create family.”

Panama City is undergoing a bit of a hospitality revolution. Bars like Tantalo and Amano have begun to appear in international write-ups and Maito was recently named the sixth best restaurant in Latin America.

“Panama's cocktail bar scene is improving every day thanks to people like Felix Cuevas, Benny Cedeño, Carlos Maestracci among others, it’s a culture that is emerging. I work in the Cuadra Market, the first gastronomic market in the old town of Panama where we have a bar called Don Peter.

“In Panama, there’s a lot of tropical classics and of course, a good amount of rum. But importantly, a group of bartenders and servers who are dedicated to not only serve but to give a unique experience to our guests.”

Ferron’s competition drinks, Talamanca (Flor de Caña 12 with homemade acidified banana cordial, cacao vermouth, and grenadine syrup) and 5 Generaciones (Flor de Caña 12, spiced carrot syrup, orange oleo saccharum, lime juice) were deemed good enough to win out over stiff competition from Dimitris Kaitalidis representing Europe, Marco Pastanella representing North America, and Tom McHugh who was representing Asia-Pacific, by a panel of judges that included Giacomo Gianotti of Paradiso, Alex Francis of Little Red Door, Julio Cabrera of Café La Trova, and Juliane Caillouette of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

“For me sustainability in the bar means social and cultural development and growth,” explains Ferron. “How to use natural resources and products in an ecological and organised way, and living in a way that is more connected to the environment. But above all, it is about taking care of the environment and learning from it how to survive.”

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