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Guadalajara’s oldest cantina changed hands 112 years ago in a game of poker

April 29, 2016
Originally founded in the 1870s under the name El Bosque, this cantina was renamed La Iberia after a group of Spaniards won it in a game of poker in 1904.

Originally founded in the 1870s under the name El Bosque, this cantina was renamed La Iberia after a group of Spaniards won it in a game of poker in 1904.

Most old-school Mexican cantinas have their myths but few, if any, are as steeped in legend as Guadalajara’s oldest watering hole, La Iberia. To explore its past is to delve into a weird and wonderful world of iconic revolutionaries, trigger-happy gunslingers, attentive ghosts, and high-stakes poker games, all served up with a hearty helping of stewed cats and boiled bulls’ penises.

Located at 9 Calle Alameda, just north of Guadalajara’s rundown city center, the cantina was first founded under the name El Bosque sometime in the 1870s. Now Mexico’s second biggest metropolis, Guadalajara was only a fraction of its current size back then. El Bosque’s moniker owed to its position on the wooded edge of the city.

It changed names in 1904, the Spanish manager Martín Martínez López tells me excitedly, when a group of his compatriots won the cantina in a game of poker with the former owner. The Spaniards renamed the cantina La Iberia, and although it has changed hands several times since then, its Iberian heritage lives on through Martínez, a 37-year-old Galician with bright blue eyes.

La Iberia's signature drink, La Batanga de Doña Chela is made with tequila, vodka, aguardiente, coke, lime, salt, mint and ice.

La Iberia’s signature drink, La Batanga de Doña Chela is made with tequila, vodka, aguardiente, coke, lime, salt, mint and ice.

Like La Iberia’s potent house cocktail, La Batanga de Doña Chela, many of the cantina’s myths should be taken with a hefty dose of salt. Yet simply hearing the jovial bar staff recount the tall tales associated with the cantina is half the fun in itself…

Click here to read this article in full at Munchies.

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