Every year on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day I walk a few blocks from my home to our town’s annual parade with an Irish coffee in hand. My friends and I catch the parade route starting at the very beginning and follow it all the way downtown where the crowd thickens and a sea of folks decked out in green spill out of the doors of every pub. It’s always a lively time and definitely gets everyone in the spirit of St. Paddy’s day. This year, as I bar hopped along the festive parade route, I wondered about the history of many of the bars in my hometown. My literary background caused me to wonder which famous authors drank at the local hangouts in the Elm City.
If your city is lacking in literary haunts, there’s plenty of other places you can visit around the country. For those who are looking to take their party somewhere new and drink like an author, here’s a list of four literary pubs that will warm the cockles of your whisky fueled, bookworm heart.
The Horse You Came In On – Baltimore, MD
This colonial era-building certainly has its fair share of history. The Horse You Came In On was one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite haunts and is the last known location where Poe was seen alive. In fact, they say he collapsed right in front of the bar. Nowadays, this Baltimore watering hole is known for their infused whiskeys; it’s the perfect literary St. Patty’s day pit stop.
Vesuvio Café – San Francisco, CA
A legendary beatnik hangout, Jack Kerouac was known to drink and write here. The signature libation is The Bohemian Coffee (brandy, Disarrono and coffee!) if Irish Coffee isn’t your thing. Other writers such as Dylan Thomas, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg were also known to frequent Vesuvio. City Lights Bookstore, co-founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is also located right across the street.
McSorley’s Old Ale House – Lower East Side, NYC
This is one of my favorite places to go when I want to step back in time. The floors are covered in sawdust and paraphernalia once owned by Houdini can be found behind the bar. In fact, no piece of memorabilia has been removed from the walls since 1910. You can only order two types of beer: light and dark. It harkens back to a simpler time. New York City is known for its amazing St. Patrick’s Day parade, so make sure to stop here and sit at the bar once visited by Brendan Behan, E.E. Cummings and Hunter S. Thompson.
Sloppy Joe’s – Key West, FL
Key West is another great place for parades and St. Patrick’s Day revelry. Sloppy Joe’s Bar came to be on December 5, 1933: the day that prohibition was repealed. Ernest Hemingway was a regular here. Originally called the Blind Pig, Hemingway suggested to the owner that it be renamed Sloppy Joe’s after another local business, Jose Garcia Rio Havana club that sold liquor and iced seafood. The floor there was always wet with melted ice and the patrons teased the owner Joe calling it sloppy. The name stuck.
If all of this sounds way too ambitious for you, pour your favorite pint or St. Patrick’s Day-inspired cocktail and color in some Celtic mandalas to relax.
St. Patrick’s Day: An Irish Coloring Adventure (J and I Publishing, March 2016)