McSorley’s Old Ale House in NYC / Alamy
From haunted bars to watering holes in the most remote corners of the world, we love extremes when it comes to imbibing. Thirsty to drink in a storied establishment and learn a little history? Explore the oldest bars in America with this collection of New England taverns, New York City alehouses and more.
1. White Horse Tavern (1673)
Newport, Rhode Island
This is the oldest operational restaurant in the United States, and 10th oldest worldwide. With its colonial red clapboard walls and New England or Dutch roof, the White Horse Tavern was originally made as a two-story, two-room home for Francis Brinley in 1652. William Mayes, Sr. converted it into a tavern serving guests in 1673. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Today, the tavern serves a seafood-heavy menu of New England favorites like Rhode Island clam chowder and lobster bisque, alongside beef Wellington, pan-seared scallops and lobster ravioli. There are also global wines, beers and specialty cocktails.
2. McGillin’s Olde Ale House (1860)
Plan a trip to Philly for the oldest continuously operating tavern in the city—and one of the oldest in the country. This bar survived both World Wars, Prohibition and two pandemics. Just steps from Philadelphia’s City Hall in Midtown Village, McGillin’s Olde Ale House was originally named Bell in Hand and is now helmed by father-and-son owners, both named Chris Mullins. It opened in 1860, the year President Abraham Lincoln was elected, and its walls are covered with every liquor license the establishment has held since 1871. They currently have 30 beers on tap.
3. McSorley’s Old Ale House (1854)
New York, New York
Originally named “The Old House at Home” when it was opened by John McSorley of Tyrone, Ireland, around 1854, McSorley’s Old Ale House’s website proudly proclaims, “We were here before you were born.” The bar, albeit dark and a tad musty, is bedecked with paintings, medals and all manner of whimsical clutter. It even inspired poet E.E. Cummings to write the poem Sitting in McSorley’s about the famed spot.
4. Molly’s Shebeen Pub and Restaurant (1895)
New York, New York
Another New York City oldie but goodie is Molly’s Shebeen, which has been open since 1895 and became a bar in 1960. Like many historical bars, the watering hole has gone through different names as its ownership passed through various hands, landing today on Molly’s Shebeen (shebeen is Gaelic for an illegal drinking establishment).