By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Apr 14 (EFE).- The Kentucky Club, reputed to be the oldest bar in this border city, survived the Covid-19 pandemic and is again welcoming customers eager to imbibe margaritas in the establishment where the Mexican cocktail par excellence was ostensibly invented.
The Kentucky opened its doors in 1920, two years after the start of Prohibition in the United States.
Lying just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez attracted plenty of thirsty visitors from north of the border and the Depression era saw Avenida Juarez become an early version of the Las Vegas Strip.
Today, the World Famous Kentucky Club is one of the few remaining watering holes on Avenida Juarez and it retains much of the atmosphere that made it a favorite haunt for celebrities in its heyday.
Walking in, you notice the elaborately crafted bar, made in France in the 1930s and shipped in pieces to Juarez via New Orleans.
Above are red and green chandeliers with white lights – the colors of the Mexican flag.
The walls are covered with photos of matadors, boxers, and baseball players, reflecting the interests of the original proprietor, current owner Sergio Peña told Efe.
The images of the athletes are accompanied by autographed photos of some of the Kentucky’s celebrity patrons, a list that included Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, Steve McQueen, and Mexico’s own Cantinflas.
And while bars in Ensenada and Tijuana, as well as one in Beverly Hills, claim authorship of the margarita, the Kentucky insists that it was created here circa 1940 by bartender Lorenzo Hernandez.
The story goes that Hernandez devised the cocktail at the behest of his friend Jesus Morales, whose girlfriend – Margarita – liked to come down to Juarez from Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her friends to drink tequila.
During one of those visits, Hernandez had the idea to mix tequila with triple sec and lime juice in an elegant goblet rimmed with salt.
Since then, the Kentucky has served more than 1 million margaritas, Peña said.
The pandemic prevented the Kentucky Club from celebrating its centenary in 2020, but it remains an obligatory stop for anyone who makes the trip across the international bridge from El Paso and Peña is in talks with the municipal government about a possible belated observance of the bar’s 100th birthday.
Cecilia Soto, a repeat customer from the US, said that she urges anyone visiting Juarez to enjoy a margarita at the Kentucky Club.