McSorley’s was already old-school when Joseph Mitchell wrote his classic New Yorker essay about NY’s oldest bar in 1943, and since then, things haven’t changed much aside from the admittance of women and the steady, barnacle-like accumulation of memorabilia – from endless yellowed photos and newspaper clippings to a bust of Kennedy and a chandelier draped with mossy chicken wishbones dangling since Tammany Hall. The floors are still deep in sawdust and paced by a few fat cats, and the bartenders are still gruff, Irish, and capable of carrying massive bouquets of foaming beermugs. House brew is still just two varieties, light and dark, at $5 for two. However, Mitchell’s famous crew of newspaper-reading old Irishmen is replaced on weekend nights with a loud all-ages stew of office workers, college kids, and foreign tourists, all down for a boozy chat or raucous sing-along.
Claimed by many as the most authentic Irish pub in New York City, Molly’s boasts every cozy obligatory, from bald Irish bartenders to sawdust-covered floors and a temperamental chimney. Like McSorley’s, the building has held a bar since the 1800’s although the current establishment only dates from the early 90’s. The year 1964 saw the bar purchased by some native Dubliners, and re-named Molly Malone’s. In 1991, it’s name was changed once again to reflect an “illegal drinking establishment”, or shebeen. This Third Avenue favorite draws a mix of tourists and regulars inside a ship’s cabin-like Tudor interior, to enjoy noted Shepherd’s pie and a well-drawn Guinness or three.
Joe Donovan, son of Irish immigrants, opened Donovan’s Irish Pub in 1966. The burger at this Queens establishment is often lauded as the best in the city (and it’s made our radar more than once). Donovan’s father worked for a beer brewer in Ireland, so the family behind the venue truly grew up “in the business.” With traditional Irish fare, and long-standing, friendly staff, Donovan’s is a Queens staple.
This dinosaurian space is Midtown’s mainstay mega-pub, a drinking Death Star with three enormous levels, a 60-ft bar offering hundreds of beers, and 36 flat-screen TV’s showing rugby, cricket, and American sports. The cellar shelters multiple pool tables and a “darts alley” that often hosts leagues, while upstairs a somewhat fratty crowd swills beer and occasionally listens to weekly events like live Celtic bands.
Mug’s Ale House
One of Brooklyn’s best beer bars, Mug’s combines a fantastic, rotating draft and bottle selection with a hearty, no-frills attitude. Here, light-up beer signs, cheap prices, and a blue-collar vibe attract late 20’s regulars like flies to honey. Mug’s is that mythical neighborhood beast, a down-to-earth bar with good taste – serving cask beer without pretension to match.
Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar
Paddy Reilly’s is the self-proclaimed “first and only all Guinness draft bar in the world.” The bar is truly notable for the second half of its name, and delivers weekly performances of live traditional Irish music and Celtic rock, along with frequent open-mic nights.
The Landmark Tavern
Patrick Henry Carley opened The Landmark Tavern in 1868 on 46th St. and 11th Ave. Another spot affected from the onslaught of Prohibition, Landmark kept it’s third floor open and utilized it as a speakeasy. A charming spot, The Landmark Tavern has a wide array of whiskies and beer, as well as some pretty darn good fare.
Chris Kelly is a freelance writer from Long Island. Jonathan Pogash, aka The Cocktail Guru, is a beverage consultant, writer, and educator. For more on NYC’s bars & nightlife scene, follow us on Twitter!