Inside the no longer extant 'World's Longest Bar' : postcard FROM Gringo : Touristic Information


by Michael Thomas

Drinking in Tijuana is a famous old custom that got married to gambling a hundred years ago and had a honeymoon during the roaring twenties. Their children shacked up together in World War II and Vietnam. The grandchildren study sociology and remark that cantina culture has deep roots in Mexico. Here on the frontier, as across much of the west, the cantina came up against the public saloon culture of Anglo-America, and the twin words "bar" and "cantina" who were ostensibly separated at birth now exist perfectly well in both Spanish and English worlds. You will find both used interchangeably in common speech, writing, advertising and on signs. In addition, there is also, in Spanish, the word "barra" which refers to the physical serving "bar" itself, like the counter, you know? Belly up to the bar, boys & girls! Ah... a nice cold one....

It would be impossible to make a fair list in five minutes reading of all the new and old cantinas and bars and nightclubs around Tijuana -- even to tell you names about Revolution Avenue would be more than you want to read but we have been to a few and talked about others with people we know here -- alas, the original Ballena, the world's longest bar, has been gone for some decades now -- that one in Dano's poem is a later invention -- but believe it or not yes there are historic bars and cantinas some with many years of serving, others completely new, and a lot for the 19-year-olds, and more strictly neighborhood ones, and some few very touristic, all sorts gay and straight and rich and poor and middle class and mixed and classy and cheap and all. Write us we'll sell you their names just not kidding.


Mexicans love to party and enjoy going out and Tijuana is no exception to this festive rule of life. Alcohol is legally available to anyone 18 or over. (Except usually NOT after 2 a.m. or on election day.)

The people drink beer and hard spirits (especially tequila, brandy and mezcal) and some wine. Mexico produces several fine beers in light and dark, from pilsner to stout (sounds like we even know what we're talking about -- heh heh). Depending on your taste, they are all good. Some are excellent.

The large liter beer bottles are called "ballenas" (whales) most probably because of their size, but Pacifico brand has a whale on their lable and their advertising makes much of this double meaning -- big bottles spouting in the sea, etc. HOWEVER, Tecate brand big bottles get called "caguamas" (sea-turtle). Most places charge more than a dollar -- probably two or three dollars for any size beer. There are four sizes of bottles: the ballena "whale" or caguama liter, the regular, the half, the small and the baby. Don't tell us we can't count, we're just making this up right now! *Grin* go.

Other Turinfo Pages:

Tijuana Maptext.

Getting Around
Busses / Taxis




Leaving Town

Things to See.

Revolution Avenue.




Markets/Swap Meets

Shopping Malls



Buying Liquor

Baja California wine



At a classier joint like the Hotel Nelson bar a regular (small) Bohemia {Maria and Teresa's favorite} will cost you almost four dollars.

  • Drinking tequila in bars (this part tasted & written with help from Charlotte Duston)
  • One way to sample various tequilas is to go to a bar and SLOWLY Sip & Savor several shots with a friend and talk about what you experience (but WATCH OUT & don't be driving!!!!).  AND by the way, think about having a tomato/chili based chaser juice drink (like la Viuda) to sip after every sip of tequila.  Like pamper your palate like a lady (or gentleman) yeahhhh.... ahhhh......

    Depending on what kind of bar you go to (avoid cheaper dives/holes down in the redlight zone who might adulter/water/cheat you -- stick to the middle and highclass spots) you will pay anything from two dollars a shot to five.  Cesar's bar, for example, in the hotel on Revolution between 4th and 5th, usually has a good selection but they'll charge you more than the Patio/Turistico halfway up plaza Santa Cecilia on the left from the big metal arch.  But then, Cesar's has history and somewhat fading high-class ambience, while the Turistico is such a classic cantina with an actual shrine area in back and a healthy mix of working people and artists, and as near as we can tell, the tequilas are really what the lables say -- they taste right, each different and good.

    Any fancy or semi-fancy restaurant downtown or in the river zone, which has a bar and cocktail lounge, will have a good selection of tequilas for your drinking pleasure at anything from three dollars a shot and on up up up.  Besides that, most of these clubs have musical entertainment in the evenings.

    Mexico is famous for its distilled agave liquor of tequila (and mezcal -- usually cheaper).  Tequila comes in a variety of tastes, from fiery to clear-smooth to sweet, but all good and strong, and some of the pricier ones deceptively smooth. ¡Aguas! (Be careful!) Daniel thinks the wilder, rougher ones taste magnificent with pure lemon juice and ice, but we (Mike & Charlotte) like to take any tequila whatsoever with a good chili/tomato chaser... like we already said.  It gives a sublime counterpoint to any experience.  Clears the palate nicely, and es una delicia especial if you're tasting different tequilas.

    Tequila most often should be, sipped, not gulped like gringo cowboy movies. Shots are simply one extreme exercize of a really harsh drink.

  • Wines
  • Baja California is a wine producing region. If you go to any art opening you might brush up against one -- but others get served, too. Ask to see the bottle when it's poured if you want to know what you're tasting. Local varietals include a merlot and nebiola, cabernet, sweet "white" (actually pinkish) zinfandel sometimes called a rosé, chardonay and... hey, Dan'l, what's that lightly sweet German one... you know, the Castillo something or another from Cetto? No? Well, frack dude, what am I going to put down now? Huh? Voice recognition what do you meannnn.... oh oh....

    Ahem. Hem. Well, L.A. Cetto, Santo Tomas, Bacardi, those are some of the names thrown around. The grapes grow in the coastal valleys south of here, on the slopes and plains toward the first mountains, where the clouds and fog sometimes come, and the sun is in the southern edge of a northern climate.

    Turn that damn thing offf nowwwww I'mmm donee talking and hadd toooo muchh alreadyyy anywayyyyyy yeeshhhh dponts lelt me falll dowowwonnnn ooooooooooooooppppppsss.............

    Gringo : Turinfo [Texton]

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    Copyright 2001-2003 Daniel Charles Thomas