Photo: Didier Vidal
1. When you were a kid, your grandmother served you piña coladas with actual rum.
And she would stare at you, watching as you sipped on her concoction and made a face of pure bewilderment, realizing your Piña Colada was a “special” one. Thanks, grandma!
2. Drinking Medalla is more refreshing than drinking water.
Not only is it very light and delicious, it’s usually the cheapest at the bar. You can drink between 5 and 10 in one night and still be easy on the stomach and the wallet.
3. You can dance salsa with a drink or two, in hand.
When you learn to party on this island, you are expected to dance and drink at the same time. Nothing gets in the way of you jamming to El Gran Combo’s “Brujeria” when it comes on. Nothing.
4. You always finish a meal with a shot of chichaito.
After a plate of rice and beans, pernil, and tostones, a chichaito is in order. Many restaurants offer the shot, made of rum and anise liquor, for free at the end of your meal — while others sell them in canecas (flask-sized bottles filled to the top) for a couple of bucks. Cointreau what?
5. You know how to smuggle a bottle of pitorro.
Smuggling takes on a whole new meaning at Christmastime. With alcohol levels of the moonshine rum reaching the 100 proof or higher — therefore making it illegal to produce — you know pitorro or “ron caña” will get you drunk within seconds.
6. You have to eat at El Churry after a night of drinking.
They’ve been serving the hungover since 1998, so this is how the party always ends my friend, with a tasty skirt steak sandwich.
7. You always scream (and sometimes cry) when “Boricua en La Luna” comes on in a bar.
Because you drank more than ten Medallas and because yo soy Boricua pa’ que tu lo sepas. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the song, originally from singer Roy Brown and based on an old poem by Juan Antonio Corretjer, tells the story of a New York-born Puerto Rican who feels he would be Boricua even if he was born on the moon. The younger crowd knows the song thanks to local rock band Fiel a la Vega, and because of that, it’s now a staple at every bar on the island. Tip for tourists: when you hear it come on, get your ear plugs.
8. Chinchorros are the bomb.
Any decent Puerto Rican knows that nothing beats drinking at a true beat up kiosk off the road, with local drinks, fried food and tropical music.
9. After a few drinks you get down to reggaeton.
It started as the music from the streets, depicting the tough life of the underground, but reggaeton has morphed into the national genre, becoming famous around the world. Sure there are some who think they’re too fancy to dance to these beats, but after three or four Don Q’s on the rocks, the shoes always come off, and everyone helplessly goes hasta abajo.
10. You hide bottles of Don Q rum in a backpack before heading to the SanSe Street Festival in San Juan.
You also carry juice and soda to mix it with your rum, making the cheapest and fastest drink in town. But you rarely get away with it actually, because cops have checkpoints around the block and they’re not shy about opening your bag.
11. To you, Fridays are synonymous with La Placita in Santurce.
You’re always anxiously awaiting Friday so you can go hang out at the locals-only party of sorts, La Placita, after work. You’ve been going for the past 10 years, it never gets old.
12. Brava was the first nightclub you went to.
You prefer to drink at more casual digs like La Placita, but when you want to dress up to the nines and pretend that San Juan is Las Vegas, all roads lead to Brava — the stylish nightclub inside El Hotel San Juan in Isla Verde.
13. When you were going through your hard-drinking phase, you spent many nights downing shots at El Batey.
This dark-and-crusty dive bar in the heart of Old San Juan is where you came to play pool, chat with the bartender for hours, and sing along to the Bob Dylan songs playing on an old vellonera. You liked that phase. It made you feel like a modern-day Hunter S. Thompson. Hell, you even wrote your own rum diary!
14. You always eat an alcapurria with a fria.
There’s no way in hell you’re eating alcapurrias, bacalaitos, or piononos with water or juice. A fria always helps those fried and greasy delicacies go down swiftly.