In honor of Presidents Day, try a drinking experience that harkens back to the days of yore? Head to these historical NYC bars, where you might just find the ghosts of Old New York on the bar stool next to you. By Selena Ricks-Good.


Bridge Cafe

279 Water St.
New York, NY
(212) 227-3344

Located in a building erected in 1794, Bridge Cafe is NYC’s “oldest drinking establishment,” and was a bar almost a century before the Brooklyn Bridge was built, which towers above. The saloon has a seedy past of gambling, pirates and prostitution, and was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Legend has it that Ms. Gallus Mag, a 6-foot-tall Irish bouncer, would bite or cut off the ears of misbehaving patrons and pickle them for posterity on shelves above the bar. Try not to think about that as you peruse the menu, known for soft-shell crabs and whiskey, at the well-worn oak wood bar.

The Ear Inn bar in New York City

The Ear Inn bar  (credit:

Ear Inn

326 Spring St.
New York, NY
(212) 431-9750

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A gritty former boarding house turned watering hole for longshoremen, this landmark bar was known for many years as a place for smugglers, gambling and prostitution. The house was built in 1817 for African American Revolutionary War veteran James Brown, said to be an aide to George Washington.  In 1977, the bar’s new owners didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting Landmark Commission approval for a new sign–so the neon “Bar” sign was painted to read “Ear.” Today, the bar is a local hangout for artists and musicians, but is said to be haunted by Mickey, a sailor who died when hit by a car just outside the bar.

The famous facade of McSorely’s Ale House (credit:

McSorley’s Old Ale House

15 E. 7th St.
New York, NY
(212) 473-9148

While there’s controversy over whether McSorley’s opened in 1854, as its sign claims, or a few years later, the Irish taproom is a shrine to its storied past. There’s sawdust on the floor, yellowing portraits of the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the walls, and a chandelier made of poultry wishbones said to represent soldiers who never returned from the Great War. Choose from either light or dark house-made beer, served two mugs at a time, and soak up the history.


Pete’s Tavern

129 E. 18th St.
New York, NY
(212) 473-7676

Established in 1864, Pete’s Tavern claims to hold the much-disputed title for NYC’s “oldest continually operating restaurant and bar.” The ornate dark wood bar is a low-key place for a pint, including the house special, 1864 Original House Ale. O. Henry, who lived nearby at 55 Irving Place, wrote “The Gift of the Magi” here in a booth to the right of the front door.

(Credit: Landmark Tavern)

The Landmark Tavern

626 11th Ave.
New York, NY
(212) 247-2562

In 1868, this Irish saloon opened on the shores of the Hudson River serving pints to dock workers–back then, there was no 12th Avenue. During Prohibition, the third floor was turned into a speakeasy. Refurbished by new owners in 2004, the original mahogany bar is carved from one single tree remains intact, as well as the tin ceilings and tile floor. Over the years, waiters have claimed the bar is haunted by an Irish girl and a Confederate soldier.

For the latest on NYC’s bar and nightlife scene, follow us on Twitter! Selena Ricks-Good writes about drinks and produces events as The Dizzy Fizz.