Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To Do: drinking in Havana

Many of you know that I love to-do lists, I love to write them out on my pretty Kate Spade Short List paper, I love to cross off each thing I've done and I love to complete my list- pull out a new sheet- and make a new list. I'm excited to cross of "write bar blog post" when I've finished this!

I consider a category of sites in a guidebook like a ready made list. If you flip through my collection of guidebooks you'll see sites/places/restaurants/bars that are circled; that means I want to go there. And you'll see sites/places/restaurants/bars that are highlighted in pretty green, pink or yellow; that means I've been there! I get very excited about adding more and more highlights in my guidebook as I re-visit places.  For the places we have only visited once there only the few highlights that time allowed for.

As Forest, Dayne and I were consulting the "Drinking" section in our Lonely Planet Cuba Guidebook one afternoon we realized we had hit almost all the bars listed in Havana, why not set our goals high and hit them all since we had 10 days in the city? And so we did! Here is our review of LP's list; a bar crawl around Havana; and/or just us drinkers doing some bragging.

La Lluvia de Oro- I loved this bar on Obispo. It's been open since 1939. Loud salsa music spills into the street drawing us in. Who doesn't love a bar where the band gets the crowd involved, Forest was so involved she actually played with them!

And they had this adorable kid who was really quite good- a sure tip earner! This house band sang, danced and looked like they were having a great time. We only left when they stopped serving!

We've already covered La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita,  so next up is Cafe Paris. As you can tell from the picture we literally stumbled upon this bar.

Tim and I enjoying our Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain...

Loud but not as charming as others, we stayed for one round and made our way out. Maybe they were having a bad night but the music wasn't as good as other places and the drinks weren't particularly good either.

We made a quick stop at Bar La Marina one late afternoon. It's an open air bar with a vine covered ceiling. They have an old hand cranked sugarcane juicer and offer a nice selection of fruit drinks as well as cocktails.

Bar Dos Hermanos- One of the oldest bars in Havana, it was opened by two brothers in 1894. It's large, has great old star photographs lining the walls and has been newly remodeled but even with all of that we couldn't love it. The service was really bad and we ended up leaving pretty disappointed. Dayne did take the opportunity to write a little note to our President while waiting on his cocktail however.

La Dichosa is unmarked but found on Obispo by listening for the music and watching for the crowd spilling from it's doorway. We somehow snagged a table one night and ordered big beers and pizzas. The band was good, it's quite a tourist draw and it was a very fun and lively stop along the way.

Cafe Taberna is in the gorgeous Plaza Vieja. Opened in 1772, it's a very pretty bar with a few outside tables. Every morning at 9am you can take free salsa lessons!

On the opposite corner of the square is the Taberna de la Muralla. They have a huge outside patio and a fairly descent house band. They are known for their "Giraffes" of home brewed beer, which was quite good. That's way more than we could say about the food, most was inedible. The cheese and crackers I had stashed in my purse came in handy that day! But I'd go back and just enjoy the music, beer and outdoor patio.

We were really looking forward to checking out El Baturro who's description in LP is "Part of a long tradition of drinking houses situated next to train stations, El Baturro is a rough-and-ready Spanish bistro with a long wooden bar and an all-male - aggressively so - clientele. Don't come here if you're looking for girly cocktails." Woohoo! Bring on the rough and ready men! Does this look rough and ready to you?


Monserrate Bar, one of the first bars we went to on the advice of Luis (who just sent me a nice little email last week saying "hi")and one of my favorites. This is a great bar with a fabulous house band led by crooner William Valoy who, upon doing a bit of research on, turns out to have done some back up vocals for Company Segundo who you may be familiar with as he was a composer for the Buena Vista Social Club.

There was always a crowd here and many locals were perched outside listening to the music. Good cheap pizzas and excellent mojitos. An excellent bar.

There were other bars we tried, some listed in the book and some found randomly- hotel bars and rooftops bars and even a fake bar where they said the Buena Vista Social Club use to play.  But without hesitation I can tell you that our favorite bar wasn't in the guidebook at all. Bar Castillo de Farnes attracts all kinds- locals, tourists and jineteros. It's open late and they have plenty of rum- about $1.50CUC for a glass of 7 year old Havana Club. But best of all they have Felix who makes the best damn mojitos in all of Havana. Oh and I also found out that Ché and Castro toasted the success of the Revolution right here at the Castillo. We stopped in every single night!

It's good to have goals and even better to accomplish them!


  1. the expression on dayne's face in that one cracks me up...he looks all serious like he's thinking 'do i have to drink with this lady again!?' great blog post as usual!

  2. Great write up - and glad to know you were all able to make your goal of hitting all the bars. It's good to have goals! :)

  3. F- I like that your new picture is from us drinking at the Hemingway house!!

    Thanks guys :)

  4. What a FABULOUS trip! And now... I really want a drink at 10:00 in the morning. :)


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