Old San Juan, El Batey, and Ron del Barrilito (take me away)!

We discovered Barrilito “three star” rum on our actual honeymoon and were instantly hooked. Enjoying a glass of this smooth aged rum in our living room always takes us right back to Old San Juan…and more specifically to El Batey, the best little dive bar in Puerto Rico (or possibly the world). Conveniently located right across the street from Hotel El Convento (our Puerto Rican home away from home), this place has cheap drinks, an eclectic mix of songs on the juke box, and loads of character (and characters!)

After our tour of the Bacardi factory in 2008, the Cuba Libre (basically a rum and Coke with lime) became a favorite cocktail of ours . Despite our fond recollections of the tour, we really prefer to make ours with Ron del Barrilito (Rum from the little Barrel) “three star.” That seems to be the consensus of many people we’ve talked with in Old San Juan. The picture below shows a Cuba Libre “El Batey style”: a small glass filled almost entirely with “three star” and ice, then topped off with Coke and a lime.

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The Cuba Libre, El Batey style.

I would also recommend just drinking the “three star” from a snifter.  It’s the older of the two Edmundo B. Fernández, Inc. rums, featuring a blend of rums aged between 6 and 10 years. Sipping will let you enjoy the layers of honey, butterscotch, molasses, spice, vanilla, smoke, nuts, and oak. The finish is warm, smoky, sweet and very lengthy.

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Ron del Barrilito “three star.” Note the neck label, the only difference from the two-star, less-aged variety.

That long finish takes us away to El Batey. The most intimidating bar we’ve ever walked into, it is also one of the most friendly and interesting. Each visit has provided great conversation with the patrons and the bartenders, and endless visual appeal. The highlight of our most recent visit was a brief chat with the owner, David Jones. He is obviously a man who knows how to enjoy himself as he was surrounded by friends, drink, and a bag of cigars. I think this photo captured him perfectly as this is how he chose to sit when I asked to photograph him; elusive, gruff, intense and relaxed all at once.

Owner David Jones.

Owner David Jones.

I leave you with a toast to David Jones, especially for choosing to leave the graffiti on the walls for over 40 years! Peruse through these highlights and imagine yourself sipping a Cuba Libre. Cheers!

9 thoughts on “Old San Juan, El Batey, and Ron del Barrilito (take me away)!

  1. Pingback: 15 Different Cocktails for Rum Lovers

  2. My wife and I know David well. Great to see El Batey still happening. Pity, Maria’s, La Tortuga, Asti’s, The Small World Bar and Tiffany’s to name a few have passed along the wayside. I hear “Aqui su puede” (Here you can) is still open as of July, 2014. I use to work the graveyard shift, 10:PM till 6:AM for David back in 93, 94. My and I also worked for Maria and Small World Bar in the late 80’s. We moved to the mainland in 99.

  3. Hi,

    I came across this lovely post. I grew up in Puerto Rico and in the late 90’s early 2000’s visited “El Batey” and had the best time. Meet Benicio del Toro there once. The vibe was always great.

    I heard today from one of my bartender friends from San Juan on Facebook that Mr. Jones passed away. If this is correct may he rest in peace and thank you for the great memories.

    Christian Olmeda
    Pittsburgh, PA

  4. Hi,

    I came across this lovely post. I grew up in Puerto Rico and in the late 90’s early 2000’s visited “El Batey” and had the best time. Meet Benicio del Toro there once. The vibe was always great.

    I heard today from one of my bartender friends from San Juan on Facebook that Mr. Jones passed away. If this is correct may he rest in peace and thank you for the great memories.

    Christian Olmeda
    Pittsburgh, PA

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