19 American Liquor Landmarks
Landmarks like Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine offer American tourists the opportunity to experience history firsthand. While all of these important sites have their merits, our favorite landmarks, by far, are the ones at which we can drink (or, at least, fuel our drinking). Here, a tour of the best liquor landmarks across the U.S.
The Tavern in Old Salem
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Old Salem is a “living” museum. The town itself is a recreation of the Moravian settlement founded there in 1766. But if you want a true taste of Moravian traditions, head to The Tavern in Old Salem. Established in 1784, the bar serves booze and food inspired by the old Protestant community.
McCrady’s Tavern and Long Room
Charleston, South Carolina
This restaurant and bar, which dates back to 1778, was the site of a 30-course dinner for George Washington and friends. Edward McCrady, the tavern’s original owner, was a leader in Charleston’s militia during the American Revolution, so it only makes sense that he would host his visiting revolutionary commander. Today, you can reserve the historic Long Room (in which the feast took place) for private dining and events.
The Castle Pub
If you’d like to sleep off a night of historic boozing in an equally historic bed, head to the Dunleith Historic Inn in Mississippi. The main inn was built in 1856, but the old carriage house, which houses the Castle Pub, dates back to the 1790s.
George Washington’s Distillery
After retiring as Commander-in-Chief, President Washington took up the noblest of pursuits: distilling. He set up his first two stills at Mount Vernon in 1797 and, by the time of his death two years later, the distillery was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey annually, which made it the country’s largest whiskey distillery at the time. The distillery still produces whiskey, which can be tasted at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.
Moss Beach Distillery
Moss Beach, California
This cliffside restaurant first opened in 1927 as Frank’s Place, a speakeasy and hotspot for silent film stars and San Francisco politicians. Proprietor Frank Torres stocked his bar with cases of Canadian whisky, which he purchased from smugglers unloading boats nearby. Only Torres’s political connections kept the place from being raided, allowing the restaurant to survive Prohibition and eventually become a state landmark.
Built during Prohibition in 1928, the Paradise Theatre was offering patrons contraband movie beverages long before anyone thought to smuggle thermoses of Cuba Libres into the local multiplex. The theater was partly a cover for a bootlegging operation, with underground tunnels connecting the neighboring buildings, and stills installed under the guise of theater equipment. While you can still catch a movie at the local landmark, booze is (sadly) off the menu.
Andrew Volstead’s house
Granite Falls, Minnesota
While you won’t find a drop of alcohol at the former home of Andrew Volstead (of the Volstead Act, which enacted Prohibition), no tour of Prohibition-era landmarks would be complete without this monument to the fallen House rep. Shake your fists at the ghost of the man who chased cocktails underground, then toast the end of Prohibition at the nearest bar.
New York, New York
In 2016, President Obama officially recognized the Stonewall Inn as a national monument. The Greenwich Village gay bar was the site of a historic clash between patrons and police in 1969, which incited riots and inspired nationwide awareness of LGBT issues, kicking off the gay rights movement. Today, it is still a celebrated neighborhood watering hole.
New York, New York
One of New York City’s oldest gay bars, Julius’ was the site of another important protest in gay rights history. In 1966, the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group, staged a “sip-in” at the bar, which challenged state laws that prohibited bars from serving gay customers and considered LGBT patrons to automatically be “disorderly.” Just one day shy of 50 years later, the bar was recognized as a national landmark. Go for the history, stay for the Long Island Iced Teas.
Twin Peaks Tavern
San Francisco, California
Before the Twin Peaks Tavern, most gay bars were underground, dark and hidden. But when Mary Ellen Cunha and Peggy Forster bought and rebranded the Castro District bar as a social club for the openly gay, they threw open the blinds of the building’s large, plate glass windows, breaking down a literal barrier between the gay community and outsiders. In 2013, the bar was recognized for its part in establishing the Castro as a center for gay rights and community.
Ft Lauderdale, Florida
While many tiki bars are icons among the rum-drinking, hula-dancing set, only the Mai-Kai bar in Florida has earned a spot in the National Register of Historic Places. This tiki stalwart has been slinging tropical concoctions since the 1950s, right on through the dark ages of tiki in the 80s and 90s. Offering locals dinner, flaming drinks and a show, Mai-Kai is a landmark party spot.
San Francisco, California
“Singing Sam” Jordan gained minor fame in San Francisco as a light-heavyweight boxing champion who sang to the crowd after every win, but he earned even more notoriety when he opened his bar in 1959. Jordan, the first African American to own a bar in SF, was famous throughout the neighborhood for his charity—he regularly fed the homeless—and community outreach. The bar is now an essential stop on political campaign trails, a favorite spot for karaoke and, as of 2013, a city landmark.
This Civil War-era beer garden has long been a watering hole for the German-Texan crowd, but that’s not its only claim to fame. The bar not only survived Prohibition but thrived during the dry years by offering a non-alcoholic Bone Dry Beer. Texas officially made it a state landmark in 1967, and it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places 12 years later.
Eight years after the famous Flatiron Building was constructed in New York City in 1902, the Triangle Pub popped up in Seattle with a similar, angular shape. Though the bar is somewhat smaller at just three floors (in contrast to the Flatiron Building’s 21), it beats its East Coast sibling when it comes to happy hour relaxation. Plus, it was once a brothel, which automatically gives it more cred.
Denver , Colorado
The Buckhorn Exchange earned its title as a city landmark for being the oldest bar in Denver. It was founded in 1893 to serve railroad workers. But the real reason to visit this monument is to see the nearly 600 pieces of taxidermy that adorn the walls. Exotic animals also appear on the menu, which offers everything from alligator tail to rattlesnake to Rocky Mountain oysters (fried bison testicles).
Maker’s Mark Distillery
Maker’s Mark may not be the oldest of Kentucky’s famed bourbon producers, but its distillery, founded in 1805 as Burks' Distillery, is the oldest landmark facility on the Whiskey Trail. Visitors who tour the distillery not only get the chance to glimpse whiskey history, but also to dip their own bottles in the brand’s iconic red wax.
Buffalo Trace Distillery
According to the brand, the Buffalo Trace distillery is built on the banks of the Kentucky River at what was once a buffalo crossing. Like other stops on the Whiskey Trail, the distillery claims historic significance based on age, citing records of distilling on the site that date back to the late 18th century.
Woodford Reserve Distillery
Versailles, Kentucky, is horse country, where thoroughbred farms abound. But it’s also the home to the historic Woodford Reserve distillery. Founded in 1812, the distillery is almost as old as the Maker’s site and another worthy stop on a bourbon-based tour.
Jack Daniel’s Distillery
The Jack Daniel’s distillery isn’t a national landmark, it isn’t in Kentucky, and it doesn’t make bourbon (it’s Tennessee whiskey), but it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel originally established the distillery in 1866 by the Cave Spring Hollow, where the distillery gets its naturally filtered water. While that location certainly makes production easier, it means the distillery is squarely located in Moore, a dry county, so you won’t be doing any sampling on your tour here.