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 With its colonial red clapboard walls and New England or Dutch roof, the White Horse Tavern was originally made as a two-story, two-room home for Francis Brinley in 1652.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).
What hasn’t changed is the bar, made from Honduran mahogany, and the original wood-burning fireplace, which is still in action today. Once upon a time, the building’s three upper floors were a rooming house for transient workers post-Prohibition. Now the bar features a decorative thatched roof and bright yellow doors to welcome patrons.
5. Red Fox Tavern (1728)
Between 1985-1987, Jacqueline Kennedy stayed and drank at this historic Virginia tavern that first opened in 1728 and is listed on the National Historic Register. Today, the Red Fox Tavern functions as a restaurant, tavern and an inn, making it the perfect weekend escape, especially for history buffs.
Outside of earning the superlative of one of the oldest bars in America, the Red Fox has its own well-regarded restaurant, the Tavern at Red Fox Inn, that serves Virginia and Old World wine pairings with seasonal dishes like shrimp and grits paired with a Virginian Viognier or a garlic and herb braised rabbit with a local Chardonnay.
6. The Robert Morris Inn (1710)
Head to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for a picturesque and history-filled drinking escape. Founded in 1710 as a private residence, this venue was later transformed into an inn in 1800 and later named for Robert Morris, a financier of the American Revolution. A part of his residence is in use by the Robert Morris Inn today. The inn is Elizabethan style, decorated with massive murals. The restaurant bar features a wood bar, low wood-paneled ceilings and beams, red brick and wood walls, cozy private brick- booths, flagstone floors, burgundy-colored leather chairs, and a cheery fireplace. The yellow exterior features a columned, wraparound porch. The kitchen serves British and American specialties with local ingredients from the Chesapeake area like raw oysters, bay oyster pot pie, and river perch alongside a global beer and wine list—predominately based in the United States.
7. The 76’ House (1668)
Tappan, New York
Built in 1668, the 76’ House once served as the jail for Revolutionary War spy Major John Andre (hence, it is sometimes referred to as “Andre’s Prison”). It was also known as a safe house for revolutionary soldiers hiding from the British. George Washington along with his chief provisioner Samuel Fraunces even dined here.
A national landmark, the 76’ House serves the modern-day imbiber a selection of global and local wines on a menu of American food, which means everything from Texas wild boar Bolognese to vegan smokey eggplant risotto. There are four fireplaces, live music, a porch for an evening drink, wine dinners and more. Grab a drink at the original wooden bar for a taste of 300 years of American drinking history.