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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Thursday, May 06, 2021

#3933 - McSorely's Old Ale House, New York, NY - 1/2/2020

McSorley's Old Ale House, New York City

With the possible exception of Fraunces Tavern, McSorley's -- officially "McSorley’s Old Ale House" -- is the most legendary bar in New York. Immortalized in John Sloan paintings, an e.e. cummings poem, Berenice Abbott photographs, and a series of New Yorker articles in the 40s that is still relevant to the old place today, even their Facebook page reads like a history book. Patrons seem to have included virtually every notable New Yorker, as well as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Woody Guthrie, Harry Houdini, Gauguin, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Hunter S. Thompson, and Boss Tweed. The '94 Stanley Cup champion Rangers drank out of, and dented, the trophy there.

The age of the first floor of the structure and the date of McSorely's founding is the subject of considerable debate. But if it was not in fact 1854, as the owners have contended, with some evidence, it is close enough. And stepping into the bar today, it is easy to believe. The walls are crammed with memorabilia and everything is dark and worn. It's said that nothing has been removed from the walls since the day Old John McSorely died in 1910. While there may no longer be tobacco chewing or butchers dropping blood from their aprons, there's still a fresh layer of sawdust applied to the floors. There's the legendary coal burning stove, no cash register is used, and there are no bar stools. It doesn't feel quite "snug and evil" as Cummings wrote, but you can easily see how it did.

The beer choices are McSorley's Light, or McSorley's Dark -- always served two mugs at a time. If you want hard liquor, you're a little late, that hasn't been available since 1906. The menu is almost as conservative, especially for traditionalists who insist on the soda crackers and onions.

McSorley's Old Ale House, New York City

One of McSorley's most famous traditions was probably its least progressive, encapsulated in their motto "Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies." One could debate the first (McSorley's Ale is brewed by Pabst), the second obtains today, and the third ended only in 1970 and only by outside forces. Even when Dorothy O’Connell Kirwan inherited the bar on her father Daniel O'Connell's passing, she honors her promise to her father and visits the bar only on Sundays while it is closed. After legal threats, the bar finally allows women in 1970, and just 16 years later adds a women's restroom. In 1994, Teresa Maher de la Haba, daughter of the then owner, became the first female bartender at McSorley’s, and on this day in January 2020 it was Teresa who served us.

McSorely's, as absolutely no one disagrees, is a must stop in NYC. If you haven't been, I recommend going at a time like we did, being there before they open on a weekday, so that you're sure to get a seat and have plenty of time and space to taking as much as you can of the endless photos, newspaper clips, and artifacts covering the walls. Next time I'd like to catch it when it is full and lively. If you love old bars, this one is a cathedral.

15 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003 - (212) 473-9148
Est. 1854 
Web site: - facebook  
Articles ranked: newyorker 1940 - wikipedia - roadtrippers - chibarproject - Bucket List Bars video - nytimes (Matty Maher's death) - bedfordandbowery - pavementpieces (Coronavirus times) - Seton Hall history - culturetrip - irishamerica - eurocheapo  - businessinsider - irishcentral - yelp - tripadvisor 

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