Our “7 Wonders”-themed Summer Guide feature would be remiss without a tour of New Mexico’s most infamous watering holes. While you’re out exploring this enchanting state of ours, remember to spend a few hours planted on a well-worn barstool. You’re bound to learn a story or two and pick up a little local color—not to mention the potential friends (or enemies) you’ll acquire along the way. Bottoms up!
A building, and a bar, unlike any other in these parts. The veranda-wrapped, log-cabin-like Press Club presides over its own special little hilltop in the historic Huning Highland neighborhood. Figuring out how to open its heavy wooden door is a rite of passage. Once inside, you might discover a rollicking rockabilly dance party or a bluegrass jam in full swing. Or you’re just as likely to see a lone Alibi editor sitting at the bar, tallying Best of Burque results. The Press Club’s bottom floor (well, one of them—it’s a rabbit warren down there) developed a pronounced lean to it over the years, like a reporter after one too many Old Fashioneds. Happily, the building’s structural problems have been shored up, and the fire marshal has restored the place’s full capacity rating. Three cheers for the APC! (Laura Marrich)
You can keep your fancy five-star restaurants and boutique eco-lodges. The Alley Cantina is the only respectable place to get drunk in Taos. Artist types, bikers, townies and travelers have been tying one on here for generations. Appropriately wedged into a shady back corner of Taos Plaza, parts of the Alley Cantina are more than 400 years old (including the bathroom wall–be sure to pay your respects the next time you’re in there). There’s also live music on the weekends, a Pichenotte table and, of course, Teresina, the ghostly daughter of Taos’ first Territorial governor. (Laura Marrich)
The Duke City’s El Madrid (located just past the train station under the Lead overpass) has been a place for Hispanos in pointy boots and Hispanas in cork-heeled pumps to drink and dance for decades. Beer comes in cans and the music is loud and lively. Bands are regularly imported from Juárez and points farther south. (Devin O’Leary)
El Patio Cantina may very well be the only reason to stop off at Mesilla Plaza. Dark, cool and decidedly no-frills, the bar has been owned by the Fountain family for as long as the building’s been standing. While there’s no fancy food or microbrew selection, a few things can be counted on to keep the patrons (a mix of bikers, old-timers, college kids, hipsters and the occasional sore-thumb tourist) swigging. The beer is always cold and cheap; the music, whether from the jukebox or numerous local and not-so-local bands (El Paso is just a short drive away), is always loud; and finding someone to play pool with is never a problem. As an added bonus, there’s really nowhere else for visiting celebrities to drink, so you never know who you might run into. (Maren Tarro)
This Madrid bar first opened around 1895, when the tiny mountain town was deep into coal mining. After burning down on Christmas Day 1944, it was rebuilt in 1947, and most of the interior from that time survives today. The modern Mine Shaft serves burgers and shakes along with cocktails. It also opens up to The Old Coal Town Museum, replete with antique locomotive steam engine and mining equipment. The Engine House Theatre was another part of the tavern, with film, music festivals and theater, but it’s been closed because of fire code restrictions and is looking for donations so it can reopen. (Christie Chisholm)
This White Oaks institution is the very definition of a “hole in the wall." The tiny brick building dates back to the town's Gold Rush heyday. Although Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett passed through once upon a time, it's now home to weary cowboys and ranchers sucking down cold beer. (Devin O’Leary)
This picturesque package liquor store in Española has a small table and a smattering of stools, allowing you to duck down your drinks "in situ," as it were. It’s got a solid selection of local microbrews, but is justifiably famous for its wicked-cool neon sign, which is now available in T-shirt form: bit.ly/SaintsAndSinners. (Devin O’Leary)