Sure, there's an appeal to a new swanky restaurant, bar, or club opening. It's fun to be a part of something new and exciting, but there's no way to tell if this new hot spot is a flash in the pan or an icon in the making. There's just nothing like the cozy feeling you get from dining or drinking in a historic establishment.
Anyone can set up shop and serve a beer, cocktail or glass of wine, but these six bars on the East Coast and across the pond give off a venerated atmosphere with their long-standing ties and the generations-old stories that live within the walls.
Starting off in New York's East Village, McSorley's Old Ale House has been serving libations since 1854 and proudly wears its history with sawdust strewn floors, old photos, and historical documents on display. This pub's stories range from John Lennon ordering cold ones, Woody Guthrie inspiring the union movement, and Teddy Roosevelt dropping in for a pint. Even Honest Abraham Lincoln stepped in to wet his whistle whilst on his way to becoming one of the most influential American presidents. Turns out these great minds did so for good reason; McSorley's has been one of the most popular beer bars in NYC for over 150 years.
Moving northeast, you'll find two senior Boston bars that are only getting better with age. Standing since 1826, The Union Oyster House is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the United States. The Kennedy family patronized the Oyster House for years and to this day people come from all over to pose at the monument to JFK's favorite booth. Homage is also paid to one of the original purposes of the building with clippings from American's first newspaper -- the Massachusetts Spy, published in the 1770s -- prominently displayed throughout the bar.
Nearby sits the Bell in Hand Tavern - named after Boston's last town crier, Jimmy Walker - which claims to be America's oldest tavern with beginnings dating back to 1795. Walker served as the town crier for 50 years and delivered news of everything from the Boston Tea Party to the birth of the nation before hanging up his bell in favor of the bar. The tavern eventually became famous for something other than its owner when word got out about its two glass beer pours - one glass for the ale and one for the froth.
A further step back in time sends you across the Atlantic. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese most likely served up drinks to the shady characters later profiled by regulars like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. Around since the 1600s, there are many literary greats who have found nourishment in a pint and the bangers & mash served up there. If you're an aspiring writer, historian, or just a beer lover, be sure to order a Smithwick's before getting lost gazing up at its historical vaulted ceilings.
Just a mile from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is Gordon's Wine Bar, which opened its doors in 1890, and maintains its status as one of the oldest wine bars in the world. Gordon's regularly welcomed Rudyard Kipling, who famously penned The Light that Failed in the bar's low-lit caverns. The family owned venue embraces its roots by staying true to the bedrock from which it was founded, maintaining original decor and old-world charm with its flickering candles, rickety tables, and centuries-old cellar.
Chunneling your way into Paris brings you to Harry's New York Bar, which claimed to be the oldest cocktail bar in Europe after celebrating its century mark. Beyond its truly remarkable age, its uniqueness extends to its drinks as Harry's insists it is also the home of the Bloody Mary, the French 75, and the Sidecar. The bar boasts an impressive clientele of past celebrities like Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway, who frequently stopped by in their heydays. Even George Gershwin planted himself in the friendly confines to compose An American in Paris.
As you're traveling about looking for your next libation, make time to go where countless pints and bottles have been served, and where some of the greatest men and women of generations past have gone for inspiration or maybe just relaxation. Why not get a history lesson while you're getting drunk. History is always more fun, when it's booze-filled.
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