If you’re tired of getting drunk at the hottest new clubs, you can always down a schooner at one of the oldest saloons in America. Dating back to the early days of our fair country, some of these bars are older than America herself, but they clearly must know how to serve up a good cocktail if they’re still open to the public. Might want to get yourself a fresh cold one because there’s nothing behind these ensuing clicks but a dozen trusty pre-1800 American saloons.
Napoleon House (Est. 1797)
New Orleans has a little history in the Napoleon House, a refuge set aside by the city’s mayor for the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte. Since Napoleon never showed, the place turned into a party house and pretty much remained that way to this very day. Local drunks still wait there for his highness to arrive.
The Bell in Hand Tavern (Est. 1795)
Boston’s Bell in Hand Tavern is noteworthy in its original owner, Bean Town’s very own town crier for more than five decades. When he gave that up, he opened a bar that served cold beer, which in turn made everybody else the town criers, only you couldn’t understand much of what they said. The bar was named in honor of those town-crying days.
The Horse You Came In On (Est. 1775)
Aside from having its birth date close to the birthday of our proud country, Baltimore’s Horse You Came In On Saloon is the proud final destination of famed writer/drunk (Edgar Allen Poe). Aside from being one of the oldest saloons still with regular working hours, it’s the only bar in Maryland to see the beginning, duration and end of those dreadful nasty prohibition days.
Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Est. 1775)
New Orleans Bourbon Street is home to a lot of mischievous things, but Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop has quite a history, supposedly owned and operated at one point – according to legend – by a “pirate” of a man named Captain Rene Beluche who captained a ship, the “Spy” of the Lafitte fleet, and used the shop as a smuggling hideout. The only thing the shop smuggles today is drunken girls who don’t mind showing off their knockers for cheap plastic beads.
City Tavern (Est. 1773)
The great thing about having the first bar ever in Philadelphia is you can name it anything you want, including the simplest, most vague name of all time. City Tavern, named in honor of being a tavern in a city, was actually the first bar to host a Fourth of July celebration, nearly three years into its business existence. If that doesn’t flip your lid, Paul Revere supposedly stopped by on his midnight ride. That’s just like Paul to stop off for a beer. He never could be anywhere on time.
Fraunces Tavern (Est. 1762)
New York City’s oldest standing structure, the Fraunces Tavern, is much more than your average saloon. It has culture, variety and just like most thing in the Big Apple, it’s got class. The tavern has a number of party rooms, including a speakeasy, art gallery and best of all, an intimate private whiskey reserve spot called The Dingle Whiskey Bar. If you can’t find something you like in these walls, you’re clearly not American.
The Old 76 House (Est. 1755)
Tappan, New York’s claim to fame is its Dutch-style Old ’76 House, a little old inn originally built in 1686 and used as a meeting spot for patriots during the Revolutionary War -- so obviously much more than just a bar. It was the most reliable spot in town, where city documents and captured spies were kept, known as a safe spot for people during the war.
The Pirates' House (Est. 1753)
As a home for thirsty seamen and loathsome scallywags, there’s no secret in how Savannah, Georgia’s earliest settlement got its name. Located in a thriving seafood town with a conveniently placed resting spot for passing travelers, The Pirates' House became every sailor’s pit stop to rest up, jump crew and bar fight. With enough wood to carve a few hundred peg legs and enough history to open a museum, this saloon is the real American Treasure Island.
Middleton Tavern (Est. 1750)
If you were ever a patron to history, you’d appreciate Annapolis, Maryland's Middleton Tavern as an old stomping ground to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Benjamin Franklin. The tavern was very hip in the 1770s as a meeting spot for treaties during the Revolutionary War and other congressional happenings in that time period. It also played as a bit of a showroom back in the days, most likely a popular spot to get more than just your whistle wet.
Red Fox Inn (Est. 1728)
Virginia’s oldest alcohol-toting establishment, the Red Fox Inn, was frequented by the lady likes of Elizabeth Taylor, as well as was a setting for a famed Kennedy speech during his presidency. Owned and operated by generations of the same family, the Red Fox is never sly to its passing patrons, offering a healthy taste of original history in aesthetic and heartiness.
Jessop’s Tavern (Est. 1724)
New Castle, Delaware opened the last bar in America before prohibition, and Jessop’s Tavern is it, one of only two bars from the pre-prohibition era to still open its door to this day. That calls for a beer! Going on three centuries of serving up consistent alcoholism, Jessop’s remains standing tall waiting for the eldest saloon to fall, respectfully.
Next: The Best Breweries in the U.S.
White Horse Tavern (Est. 1673)
Rhode Island might be the smallest state in America, but it’s the proud owner of America’s eldest still-standing bar, the White Horse Tavern in Marlborough. Established well before any other bars that still open their doors, the White Horse Tavern was serving up drinks back when electricity and heat would go in the winter, attracting locals to warm themselves with the liquor and cheer of a long night. Visited by soldiers, pirates, sailors and our founding fathers, the tavern still keeps its customers warm, both with good food and a bucket list bar type of atmosphere.