The Historic Ballad of a Classic NYC Watering Hole

The barkeep has poured you an ice-cold one, and you’re in your favorite seat in the house. Lately, you’ve noticed it more and more every time you visit White Horse Tavern.

You wonder: is it possible for decades of laughter to still loom over these hallowed halls in this present moment? Does the floor recount each step with nostalgia, and does a glass shine just a little brighter at the prospect of meeting new people every night?

You know that this joint is the second oldest bar in New York; its vibrant heritage is spilled all over these streets. Yet, it’s as if the place also flows with a glowing youthfulness and an infectious energy. Is this what immortality looks like? Perhaps.

You lean in as a friendly, familiar face at the bar pondering aloud how this West Village bar came to be. It’s time for another round and a brief tale of just what White Horse Tavern’s history holds.


A Toast to Taverns

Taste this first, though. Taverns, how old are we talkin’? Almost as old as civilization itself. Some of the earliest records of tavern keeping involve Babylonian laws from nearly 4,000 years ago that ordered the death penalty for vendors who diluted beer.

American taverns only emerged throughout the 17th century and were known as “ordinaries,” created in the image of English taverns. A centerpiece of public life, locals would relish in a social space that hosted games, discussions, debates, as well as trading, while travelers came knocking for a place to eat, drink, relax, and sleep for the night.

It is often (contentiously) thought – depending on where social, religious, and political beliefs lie – that American taverns were one of the first buildings in new towns. Often, before the church. This thinking was practical, though; people needed a place to meet up and trade.

To quench a little bit of intellectual thirst: the word ‘tavern‘ derives from the Old French taverna, which finds its origins in the Latin taberna, originally meaning a single-room shop, shed, workshop, or stall.


White Horse Tavern – Aged to Savor Since 1880

With its name etched into New York’s history books, White Horse Tavern is the second oldest continuously run tavern in New York City. In its salad days, it was a longshoreman’s bar that served men working the piers lining the Hudson River.

‘The Horse,’ built in 1880, has been a stomping ground for New York’s literary community (today still) since the 1950s when Welsh poet Dylan Thomas found a different kind of home in this longshoreman’s “haunt.” E.E. Cummings, Jack Kerouac, and several other Beatniks would follow suit.

Of course, White Horse Tavern is also no stranger to a slew of other household names like The Clancy Brothers, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, several jazz legends, and then some. Reciting this excitable, elaborate list would likely make one very thirsty. Word is that the cocktails are straight out of a mixologist’s textbook.


The Symbol of a Generous Nostalgic Pour Shines Bright

This bar in the West Village – a landmark site – retains much of its original woodwork and tin ceiling. The brass rail, horse-head adorned chandeliers, pendulum clock, and floor-to-ceiling bay windows are just where Thomas left them too.

The iconic neon sign outside, hung in 1946, which features a glowing white horse head – remains one of the most recognizable and reliable New York nightlife beacons. In many different ways, the grand old space on Hudson Street’s enduring legacy continues to command attention and respect. It’s a historic dive that raises the bar as far as taverns today go.

An interesting history fact: White Horse is also a popular blended Scotch Whisky from Edinburgh, first produced by James Logan Mackie in 1861. There was even a popular 19th-century play titled, “At the White Horse Tavern,” too.

Swing By for a Smooth Sip of Goodness

White Horse Tavern’s story has only just begun. By the people, for the people. Fancy a smooth thirst quencher or two? This classic West Village bar hosts Happy Hour from Monday to Thursday, 4-6 PM, and Friday, 2-6 PM, with irresistible beer, wine, and craft cocktail specials; a decked-out pub food menu to revel in TOO.

Tucked away as though it effortlessly belongs in New York’s Greenwich Village (West Village) on 567 Hudson Street – between West 11th Street and Perry Street in New York’s Greenwich Village – you can also book a seat or two to secure your spot as part of history’s best pours. Follow and tag us on Instagram and Facebook to show us your good times at #WhiteHorseTavern1880