It all started, as many big nights out do, with a quick beer. We were sitting with our friends Kelly and Jim in a sunny plaza in Guanajuato when we spotted our friendly American landlady and called her over for a chat.
We told her about our sightseeing exploits so far – going to the Mummy Museum (more about that soon), taking a street food tour, finding a bar that sold 5 peso shots of tequila (this really was big news for us) AND accidentally finding ourselves in a cantina where there was… wait for it… an open urinal next to the bar.
I honestly thought it was just a sink until a guy walked up to it and undid his zipper.
But it did explain the smell.
Our landlady thought this was hilarious. She plays for the Guanajuato Symphonic Orchestra and told us about a similar cantina across the street from the orchestra’s theatre, Teatro Principal. She said that if the musicians have had a bad night or if they just need to let off steam after a performance, the whole orchestra will pile into this tiny dive bar – still wearing their tuxes and carrying their instruments – and drink shots of fruit-flavoured mezcal until the wee small hours.
Naturally, we made it our next stop.
El Incendio is exactly what you’d imagine a dodgy Mexican bar to be. It’s dark and dingy, and has a sullen-looking barman trying his best to ignore customers, while some equally unfriendly patrons sit at spaced intervals at the bar, avoiding eye contact and staring angrily at their drinks. But it also had 80s soft rock videos playing on mute, and some quite chirpy Mariachi music blasting out from the jukebox, so it’s difficult to feel too intimidated.
The first round was pineapple-flavoured mezcal.
The cantina was so small that it was a struggle to imagine an orchestra-full of people crammed in there, leaning on a cello or trying to carry a round of shots with a tuba tucked under an arm.
The second round was guava-flavoured mezcal.
As with our first cantina experience, there was a urinal next to the bar. We gave a huge (and slightly drunken) cheer when our friend Jim stepped up to avail himself of the facilities. He obliged with several poses, although this was the only one captured. I’m pretty sure this whole episode confused a lot of people, but the shots were huge and we were buzzed.
The third round was some hideous herbal concoction because apparently we’d drunk all the fruit-flavoured mezcal by that point.
It was some time after the herbal shot and maybe before we moved onto the tequila that we lost our landlady and gained two new friends from Mexico City.
The rest of the night was given over to wandering the steep alleyways with serenading students, who poured us dubious orange-flavoured booze from the kind of backpacks you usually only use for crop spraying. Or in Ghostbusters.
Such was our quiet afternoon drink in Guanajuato.
Credits: Celina Guajardo and Erick Estrada