Tucked away near the San Juan Cathedral and other historic landmarks of Puerto Rico’s capital, this iconic dive bar has been a favored watering hole for visiting literati and musicians for decades. Allen Ginsberg once read poetry here. In the 1960s, it was a favored haunt of The Rolling Stones whenever they were passing through. And while Hunter S. Thompson never explicitly mentions the joint by name in his novel The Rum Diaries, it’s widely believed that he spent many an afternoon sipping liquor at the bar while living here.
Time may have marched on, but El Batey still embodies the spirit of a vanishing side of Old San Juan. The jukebox in the corner only plays vinyl 45s from Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other heavy-hitters from the ‘60s. Graffiti from hundreds of visitors is still scrawled over every inch of the walls. Since the windows overlook the striking architecture of Calle de Cristo, it’s possible to sit here and truly feel like you’re in a different era.
In true dive bar fashion, the menu here is short and uncomplicated, with an emphasis on mezcals, tequilas, whiskeys, and, of course, rums. The menu offers mixers with the tagline “if you like that sort of thing,” along with a modest selection of house cocktails. There are plenty of good eats to be found in the surrounding neighborhood, but for anyone in need of a snack, the entire food menu here consists of a pile of chips, with or without guacamole. Spend a lazy afternoon soaking in the ambiance, or come and stay late for live bands, pool games, and very long nights.
Know Before You Go
Since this spot can get pretty rowdy, no children are allowed inside.