Apple Long Islands and Barrilito Cocktails

I’ll be home in 75 days and I can’t wait. As much as I love hot apple cider and the gorgeous holiday decorations walking down Michigan Avenue, nothing beats the refreshing slap of humidity when I land at the Luis Muñoz Marin Airport in San Juan.

My skin, my whole being, automatically say thank you.

Family will be waiting. Longtime friends will have plans for our visit. Lots of new restaurants and places will surely need to be explored. Time to catch up with everything that we missed in a whole year.

There’s nothing like that incredibly therapeutic moment when we get to dress down from our winter clothes to go reconnect with the places and people that made us who we are.

Part of the ritual, of course, is to go unwind at this local bar we love. Right in the heart of Mayaguez’s historical district, two hours west of San Juan and about 20 minutes from Nabol’s family home, you’ll find The Attic, previously known as Dom Pepe. A darn cool spot. 

Expect creative cheap drinks, craft beers and the best music playlist around, from classic 80’s and 90’s American rock and alternative to whatever acoustic, local bands have become a must for college students in this town. Live bands perform every once in a while too. Lateral, I remember, was one of the best shows when they were around. A mix of shoegaze, a little grunge and island indie. Very nice. 

It’s nothing fancy and doesn’t need to be. You’ll find it on the second floor of an old brick building on Mendez Vigo Street, next to Rex Ice Cream, which by the way, makes the best corn cream ice cream ever.

Up the narrow stairs, a few tables and chairs, a nice view of Mendez Vigo at night and a simple rustic bar.

The different owners of this venue have been offbeat geniuses of the local bar scene. They do their own thing. The owner of previous Dom Pepe practically lived there, always orchestrating in his mind what would be the best music to play that night and the best drinks to serve along with the ambiance.

He would make some killer Long Islands, let me tell you. One night he decided to surprise us with a special blend of different local rums mixed with intense green apple flavor. That sweet, enchanting potion could knock you down by the time you realized you had three. Nobody has been able to recreate it since he left. 

I think he was some kind of frustrated artist and musician, but if only he knew all the magic that he could compose in one night. Wonderful. 

Last winter we met one of the new bartenders. Also a very cool guy, about to finish his Master’s in Chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. He found a way into my heart with a tasty Barrilito-based rum cocktail with accents of local fruits. Did I say I paid $3?

Like good old friends, all three of us -Nabol included- shared stories of struggle as the new generation of islanders, talking about the anxiety of really wanting to stay on the island to see life unfold among friends and family, and the cruel economical reality that keeps pulling us far away from it all.

Wonderful cocktails aside, we are truly lucky to have this place.

Even if we have to work all year-long for plane tickets, we are lucky to have a way home. Chicago has given us a special place to belong outside of the island, but the ability to return and reconnect in places like The Attic helps us stay grounded, appreciative and proud of really cool stories and cultural experiences.

So next time we have to dress-up for winter, it will be those same stories and experiences what will help bring the best of us and shape the ideas of those around us.

And once back in Chicago, all of this will make even more sense when I lay back in my couch listening to the same songs or attempting to put together such a fantastic cocktail.

Update 01.24.15 : Our favorite bar in Mayaguez was unfortunately closed in recent months. 


  1. Beautiful account of a cherished place. Makes me want to make a run for Mayaguez just to soak in the atmosphere you captured here.

    1. Ah, thank you. Thank you! So glad you like it Adriana! Saludos amiga. Un abrazo.