La Factoría, the only Puerto Rican bar that has been part of the World’s 50 Best Bars for the past three years, celebrated its fifth anniversary on April 19 and 20, 2018, with a series of special events.
The bar’s founders, Roberto Berdecia, Leslie Cofresí and Pablo Rodríguez, invited distinguished local and international bartenders to serve special cocktails in the seven bars of La Factoría and officially start the celebration on April 19, 2018.
“One of our main goals has always been to promote the cocktail industry in Puerto Rico. Many of our respected colleagues have been part of this family and are now renowned not only in Puerto Rico, but in the rest of the world. That’s why they’re a fundamental part of this celebration,” Cofresí explained. Bartenders from local restaurants and bars Santaella, La Coctelera, La Penúltima, Gallo Negro, and JungleBird participated in this reunion.
The celebration continued on Friday, April 20, with the visit of several international bartenders. People from the Greek bar The Clumsies—which is number 6 on the World’s 50 Best Bars—joined the party. The team from Employees Only, the New York bar that holds the 37th position among the world’s 50 best bars, took over one of the bars. The colleagues from Trailer Happiness (London) and Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas) completed the guest list.
“Since we started La Factoría, we intended to create a space that will help elevate the Puerto Rican cocktail industry and take it to another level so that the country would gain worldwide recognition. To receive colleagues from around the globe and to be part of the world’s 50 best bars lets us get closer to achieving that goal,” said Berdecia, cofounder of the bar located in Old San Juan.
Tapas to celebrate
Franco Busó—partner from Vino @ La Factoría—designed a special tapas menu inspired by bar food from the 1970s for the anniversary. It included: Boricua Nachos, Bacon & Maple Glazed Peanuts, Smoked BBQ Ribs, and Chicken Nuggets with herbs and spices aioli.
The never-ending rumba
Aside from cocktails, another of La Factoría’s trademarks is the diversity of its bars. There’s a different kind of music for every taste in each bar.
“Music is also important in our history. That’s why we created a special musical menu for this party,” Pablo Rodríguez explained. Throughout the weekend, there was music by Sexteto La 51, DJ Boogaloo Pete, DJ Shaggy, and international DJ Rich Medina.
A little bit of history
It was the year 2013. Bartenders Leslie Cofresí and Roberto Berdecia were about to abandon the idea of opening a bar that could serve as a platform to impel the cocktail industry in Puerto Rico. Over more than a year, they analyzed several places, but none had what they needed to materialize their dream.
One day, businessman and producer Pablo Rodríguez invited them to see a building at the corner of Calle San Sebastián and San José, at Old San Juan. For decades, that structure had lodged the former bar Hijos de Borinquen, epicenter of the Bohemian San Juan lifestyle of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
A glimpse at the building was enough for Cofresí to cancel his plans to move to the US; instead, he partnered with Berdecia and Rodríguez to establish La Factoría.
The business had a low-key opening. There was no press conference or any advertising. They just invited their friends, and in a few hours, the place was packed. And it has been ever since.
Five years later, La Factoría is an icon of cocktails and nightlife in Puerto Rico. In addition, it has put the island on the map of the world’s best mixology by positioning itself for three consecutive years on the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. Its founders travel the globe, representing the island at conventions and cocktail events.
One of the greatest charms of the place—in addition to the cocktails that have already become classics, such as “Hijos de Borinquen” or “Lavender Mule”—is the fact that its seven bars each have a different atmosphere, which is complemented by a unique offer of drinks and music for each one.
The most recent acquisition was La Cubanita, a space that for years was a grocery store where Old San Juan locals met to buy groceries, have a beer or listen to music on the “vellonera.” Today, it is part of La Factoría and maintains the charm of those times thanks to the decoration and the salsa music that can be heard from the sidewalk.
“A hottest hangout hidden in plain sight,” as it was called by international media, La Factoría wishes to continue promoting the cocktail culture inside and outside of Puerto Rico. “Providing a good service has always been our main motivation. That is what has brought us to where we are today and what we want to keep on doing,” said Cofresí.
“This celebration is also a tribute to local and international colleagues who have been part of this family and from whom we have learned a lot,” Berdecia concluded.