¡Viva Tijuana! Meet the master mixologist behind TJ’s trailblazing speakeasy


Editor’s note: ¡Viva Tijuana! is a multi-story series about the life and culture of San Diego’s modern neighbor to the south. More stories from the series can be found in links below.

When Prohibition passed into law in 1919, millions of Americans looking to wet their whistles had to score booze from shady bootleggers, finagle entry into secretive speakeasies or head to Mexico for a cocktail. Because the Mexican government would never do anything as crazy as criminalize alcohol, there wasn’t a need for a speakeasy south of the border back then. Today, however, inspired by a trend sweeping across American cities, Tijuana finally has one to call its own.

Hidden inside the wood-paneled walls of Oryx Capital Gastro Pub lies a not-so-secret speakeasy called Nortico. Photos of Al Capone and other infamous outlaws hang on the walls of venue, where head bartender and Tijuana native, Fernando Villalobos, seems poised to make history.
PACIFIC: How do customers gain entry into Nortico?

FERNANDO VILLALOBOS: Nortico es un lugar que se da a conocer de boca en boca. No necesitas una invitación formal, solamente saber de él. Para los que ya son mis clientes y los nuevos, yo les recomiendo reservar con tiempo para el fin de semana, esto con la finalidad de no saturar el lugar y ofrecer un servicio de primera.

Nórtico is a place known by word-of-mouth. You don’t need a formal invitation, you just need to know about it. For people who already know the place, and for new visitors, I recommend making a reservation ahead of time for the weekend, because we don’t want to be over our capacity and we want to offer excellent service.

What tips do you have for first-time guests?
No pidas una cerveza, siempre hay un cóctel para cada gusto.

Don’t ask for a beer; there’s always a cocktail for everyone to enjoy.

Describe one of your signature drinks.
Para Nortico cree el cóctel Agua Caliente, que es un cóctel inspirado en el Casino Agua Caliente, que fue construido sobre aguas termales en los años 20´s. Este cóctel representa la elegancia e historia que tuvo el casino Agua Caliente.

For Nórtico, I created the Agua Caliente cocktail, inspired by the Agua Caliente Casino that was built on top of hot springs in the 1920s. This cocktail represents the elegance and history of the Agua Caliente Casino.

Since opening a year ago, how has Nortico affected the local nightlife scene?
Creo que hemos cambiado y educado el paladar de nuestros clientes, que se vuelven cada vez más exigentes. También tratamos de crear la cultura del buen beber, cosa que se perdió hace mucho tiempo en TJ. Por otro lado, utilizamos licores e insumos de buena calidad, que creo que ha marcado la diferencia a comparación de otros lugares.

I believe that we have changed and educated our clients’ palates, making them pickier. We have also tried to create a good drinking culture, something that Tijuana lost a long time ago. On the other hand, we use high-quality liquor and supplies, and I think we have established a difference compared to other places.

Find Villalobos behind the bar at Nórtico Monday through Saturday evenings. There’s no secret password for getting into the venue, but a passport is required for getting back into the U.S. ¡Salud!

Oryx Capital Gastro Pub

Boulevard Agua Caliente, 10750 Interior 84,
Calete, 22020 Tijuana, B.C.


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