Drinking in Local History at La Pasita in Puebla
La Pasita is the oldest cantina in Puebla—and, although it specializes in Mexican liquors, you won’t find the usual shots of tequila or mezcal on the menu. Instead, barkeeps pour locally made libations, such as the house’s namesake pasita, a sweet raisin liqueur that’s served with a cube of salty aged cheese and a shriveled grape on a toothpick in the glass. Other flavors include lime, pineapple, coconut, anise, almond, eggnog, and the more exotic blackberry with jamaica flower and quince with apricot. Each caballito goes for 25 pesos (about $2).
La Pasita opened in 1916 as a small grocery called El Gallo de Oro in the downtown area still known as Barrio de los Sapos. It was purchased 44 years later by Emilio Contreras Aycan, who sought to preserve its hand-crafted liquors. In 1960, Contreras converted the establishment into liquor store and bar, and a year later, trademarked its signature raisin-based liqueur, la pasita. Today, all of its liqueurs continue to be distilled in the same way they were at the beginning of the 20th century. The business is now run by his son, Emilio, who plans to pass La Pasita and its traditions on to future generations, starMedia’s Vive México says.
Over the years, the popular hole in the wall has been visited by artists, students, political figures, and tourists from all over Mexico and the world. More than 20 different drinks are available, divided into three categories (beginner, intermediate, and professional) based on the level of alcohol they contain. Patrons can work their way up the chain from the somewhat harmless la monjita (little nun) to the rather ominous sounding sangre de brujas (witches’ blood). As these names and the bar’s signage and retro-cool decor suggest, the owners have a wicked sense of humor.
Legend has it that La Pasita became famous for serving drinks according to the number of blocks that a patron could walk without falling down after consuming them.
According to local news site Poblanerias.com, the bar’s regulars know their limits and often order their drinks that way: “a block and a half,” “five blocks,” etc. Vive México adds that anyone who can handle 20 shots a chance to pummel an effigy of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas. Anyone who does 100 shots without passing out drinks for free, wins 100,000 pesos plus the cost of their funeral. Only one person has ever done so; the runner-up, at 98 shots, was hospitalized (and had to pay his bar bill).
Since then, the Los Sapos plaza directly in front of La Pasita has evolved into a popular antiques bazaar by day and a nightclub area by night. The Puebla City Council has reportedly considered the possibility of closing the bar—which now has a second location—but due to the site’s history and value as a tourist destination, it decided to leave it be. Let’s all drink to that. ¡Salud!
The original La Pasita, located at 5 Oriente #602 at the corner of Callejón de los Sapos, usually opens from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Its second bar, a block from the Cathedral at 3 Sur #504, serves drinks from 2 to 9 p.m. weekdays. (Both are in the city’s historic center.)