panammilkhoney.jpgThe classic Cuban cocktail, El Presidente, calls for white rum, vermouth, Curaçao and grenadine, served up. But Cervantes Ramirez, bartender at Little Branch and Café Select, was not seduced by the combination. "How could I make it better?" he asked himself. By playing around with cachaça -- the heady Brazilian sugarcane spirit -- he found out.

First, Ramirez swapped the rum with newcomer cachaça Avuá's Amburana expression, named for the casks in which the liquid ages and deepens for up to two years. Nixing the cloying grenadine, then serving it on the rocks, yielded the exact results he craved: crisp, clean and crystalline with an understated ribbon of heat. "I like to keep things simple and elegant," he says.

The drink, now christened the Pan Am, is served at Milk & Honey's spacious new digs across from Madison Square Park. Sasha Petraske, the cocktail mecca's front man, is struck by the union of the Pan Am's "unusually sweet and slightly bitter ingredients." There are no menus to contemplate here, so the Pan Am makes for a confident prelude to a long evening under the spell of bartender's choice.

The Pan Am

2 oz. Avuá Amburana cachaça
½ oz. Curacao
¼ oz. dry vermouth
One dash orange bitters
Stir ingredients in a rocks glass; garnish with an orange twist.

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