Liquid History

A George Washington-Inspired Bar Crawl

Celebrate the original commander-in-chief’s birthday by drinking in one of his old haunts that are still, amazingly, open.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Taverns played a vital role during and after the Revolutionary War. They were the site of important meetings, rallies and even housed prisoners. They also, obviously, were a place to get a hot meal and a soothing drink.  

So, it’s no wonder that our first president and star general, George Washington, frequented many such establishments. And it’s only fitting that nearly three centuries after his birth, Washington is still a key part of American culture, inspiring a number of liquor tributes.

The latest is inside New York’s Freehand Hotel, which offers guests the aptly named George Washington Bar complete with a large portrait of the president that is prominently hung behind the long mahogany bar. Toast the founding father with a Commodore Perry Cooler (Japanese whisky, shiso, wasanban, yuzu, soda) or the Mount Vernon Spritz (Cappelletti, Chinotto, prosecco, Himalayan pink salt), which is, of course, named for his Virginia plantation. (For several years, the estate was also home to his distillery, which was recently rebuilt and now produces a range of spirits.)

But, amazingly, there are also still a handful of taverns across the Northeast, which Washington actually drank in that are still open. We can’t think of a more fitting bar crawl to go on to celebrate his 286 birthday!

Fraunces Tavern, New York, New York

This New York stalwart opened in 1762 and has played host to a number of famous drinkers and historic events. Washington passed through its doors on a number of occasions, including during the week after “Evacuation Day,” when the British occupation of New York finally ended. He also presided over a farewell dinner for officers of the Continental Army in the Tavern’s Long Room and became rather chummy with tavern’s owner, Samuel Fraunces. Incredibly, the bar is still standing after more than 250 years and in its museum are several Washington artifacts, including a set of his dentures.

City Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

After a long day at the first Continental Congress, it’s understandable that the delegates might have needed a stiff drink to unwind—and that’s exactly how Washington and his colleagues, including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, wound up at the City Tavern. The establishment opened for business in 1773 and was often used as a meeting hall. During the Revolutionary War it was even used to house POWs. In 1789, the first year of Washington’s presidency, the Tavern threw a banquet for him as he traveled through Philadelphia on his way to New York. The original building was destroyed by a fire in 1854, but the Tavern was rebuilt according to its original specifications and reopened in 1976. Today, no historic tour of Philadelphia is complete without a visit to the bar, which serves a full menu of 18th-century fare, including roasted duckling and braised rabbit. Wash down your taste of history with a Wassail or glass of Eggnog.

The Old ’76 House, Tappan, New York

Despite its name, the Old ’76 House actually first opened its doors in 1668 and is one of oldest taverns in the United States. The bar and restaurant was a favorite of American patriots during the Revolutionary War when it was known as Mabie’s Inn. The bar proudly claims to have served “every General of the west wing of the Continental Army, including Commander-in-Chief General George Washington.” While history-obsessed patrons can dine in the same building used by Washington, the cuisine—anything from spring rolls to schnitzel—is probably a bit different now than what he enjoyed.

The Warren Tavern, Charlestown, Massachusetts

This cozy, well-kept bar just outside Boston was established in 1780—it was the first building constructed after British troops burned Charlestown to the ground. It’s named for Major General Joseph Warren, who was killed in action while volunteering during the battle at Bunker Hill. Though some of the Tavern’s most recognizable patrons were Revolutionary War heroes, including, Paul Revere and, naturally, Washington, details of their visits are murky. These days, you can visit the Tavern for a pint and a hearty meal, like a Sons of Liberty Burger or some classic New England clam chowder.

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Middleton Tavern, Annapolis, Maryland

This Annapolis tavern was frequented by Washington and other members of the Continental Congress on some of the most historic dates in American history, including the day the Treaty of Paris was ratified. The bar and restaurant was expanded and remodeled in 1983, and now offers a raw bar and plenty of space for weekend brunchers as well as history buffs.