In the heart of Ensenada is a sacred watering hole, renowned amongst drunks of the world as the finest place to imbibe Mexican spirits, only to be set free in the streets all wild-eyed and randy. That place is Hussong’s Cantina and its been the center of the Ensenadan social scene for over 100 years.
Hussong’s is said by some to be the oldest cantina in all of Mexico. It’s also rumored that Hussong’s is the birthplace of the Margarita, first mixed by a bartender there in 1941 for Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a German ambassador.
I have my own history here. My grandparents emigrated from the northeast to sunny southern California in the early nineteen-fifties. It wasn’t long after that that they started loading up the family car with my mom and her brother and sister for trips down the Baja coast. Surely a block from which I have been chipped, my Grandma was one of the earliest proponents of the Margarita at Hussong’s.
Later, when my mom was a teenager she would answer the call of that far off fiesta and drive her little VW Beetle down the coast to party at Hussong’s till the chickens started to crow outside. It’s no wonder that with all this family history I was destined to stay in Ensenada a few nights and party here myself.
We got to Hussong’s shortly after dinner and, as usual, we were the only gringos in a packed house of locals. The sweaty, burnt tourists that pour off the cruise ships usually wander to the Papas Y Beer next door. There they can have Miley Cirus blasted in one ear while some chap blows a foghorn in the other all the while forcing cheap booze down their throat. This usually leads to bare breasts and bare knuckle fights and then they crawl back to the mothership to reattach their feeding tubes.
Anywho, back at Hussong’s we had ordered a couple cervesas and some shots not knowing that they don’t pour “shots” at Hussong’s. Instead they pour “glasses”.
We pounded those and ordered more. Soon we had made friends with some young Mexican doctors. They must have been good at their jobs because they knew instinctively that we were dehydrated and quickly prescribed us a bucket of cervesa. Later, surely in an effort to prove the modern Mexican medical field and its superiority to my stateside health care plan, they ordered another.
Meanwhile, Martini, who had been hanging out on the bar while the bartenders lined up to blow kisses at him, was now in the clutches of local university students who were dancing and taking group pictures with him.
It was, in short, an awesome night. We made lots of local friends, spoke a lot of Spanish, drank a friggin lot of cervesa and somewhere, up above looking down on all of this, was my Grandma laughing and cheering with a Margarita in hand.