Great Cocktail Bars in San Juan
Local bartenders are transforming Puerto Rico into a premier drinking destination.
Forget the piña colada, San Juan’s mixologists infuse creativity, skill, and local flavors into their original creations.
A new generation of bartenders is transforming Puerto Rico into a premier drinking destination. Their unique cocktails combine spices, tropical fruits, European bitters, and premium spirits, using techniques honed in international competitions and guest bartending gigs around the world.
Calle San Sebastián #148, Old San Juan
Voted one of the top 50 bars in the world four years in a row, La Factoría is an absolute must-visit for the cocktail aficionado. La Factoría is actually three bars in one. At Front Bar, you can sit by the open doorways, sip a Lavender Mule or Spiced Old Fashioned and watch the people strolling through Calle San Sebastián. If you want a more lowkey ambiance, go through the red door to Vino, a wine bar serving wine by the glass or the bottle as well as cocktails and plates to share. Looking for a party? Follow the sound of live salsa music to the Shing-A-Ling where you can dance into the wee hours of the morning.
156 Sol St. 2nd Floor, San Juan
Walking up the winding steps to The Mezzanine you’re transported to 1950s Old San Juan. You’ve just stepped into the home of Pedro Albizu Campos, leader of the Puerto Rican nationalist movement that’s plotting to overthrow the US government. Past the foyer and the living room, behind the bar next to the shelf stocked with pristine bottles of spirits, aperitifs and bitters, a cement wall still sports bullet holes from when the FBI raided the place on October 1950. Framed photos and newspaper clippings tell the story of this place, transformed into a cocktail and tapas bar in 2012. The drinks are classically inspired and have a notably tropical twist, like the Guava Cosmo or the Patria Libre, a simple libation of aged rum served over coconut water ice cubes.
Gallo Negro is an oasis in the middle of Ponce De León avenue in Santurce serving elaborate libations and boasting one of the best whiskey selections in San Juan. Gallo Negro is just as well known for chef María Mercedes Grubb’s eclectic food menu incorporating American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Asian influences. Take advantage of the daily specials like Taco Tuesday, the 99-cent appetizer menu from Wednesday to Friday, and some of the best Sunday brunch that pairs perfectly with strong breakfast cocktails like the Bourbon Ice T or a tiki version of the classic piña colada.
Bonus Tip: Chef Grubb recently debuted a lunch menu called El Servicio based on classic Puerto Rican comfort food with generous portions and accessible prices.
35 Barbosa St., Isabela
If you’re heading out west, be sure to stop by La Central in the beautiful beachside town of Isabela. Located in the heart of the city center, the atmosphere of La Central is intimate and relaxed. Every month the venue hosts local bands, art shows, and bar takeovers featuring guest chefs and bartenders. Their regular menu features finely crafted cocktails, usually a mix of five or six ingredients combined to create an unexpected sensory experience without too much pomp or circumstance. After a day by the water, it’s the perfect place to unwind, listen to some live music, and enjoy a cocktail.
Bonus Tip: Head to neighboring Aguadilla and visit some of their famous food truck parks.