Old Seelbach Bar (address and info)
Louisville (Est. 1905)
I stayed in the gorgeous Seelbach Hotel last year to learn about bourbon from the master distiller at Old Forester, and our first stop was in this very bar. We drank their famed Seelbach Cocktail, a combination of Champagne, Old Forester, orange, and bitters that somehow works. The recipe was said to have been created before Prohibition in 1917 and then lost until they found it again in 1995. Another fun historical fact: F. Scott Fitzgerald apparently felt inspired by the bar's luxury way back when, something that obviously helped him write the screenplay for that Leonardo DiCaprio movie. And when you're in the Old Seelbach Bar, it's impossible not to take full advantage of the fact that they're on the Urban Bourbon Trail and order a cocktail or two -- or a pour from one of 74 bottles of bourbon behind the bar.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (address and info)
New Orleans (Est. ~1940s)
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is one of those rare tourist attractions that is actually worth a visit. While it’s only been a booze destination since the ‘40s, the building itself was built in the early 1700s and is the oldest building in America to house a bar. And while many other New Orleans bars can claim they invented some of the most famous cocktails in America, it’s hard to beat a dive where getting the house drink lands you a frozen purple daiquiri loaded with Everclear (it’s fondly called ‘purple drank,’ of course) that you can drink in the glow of video poker while pondering two brothers’ smuggling operations that took place under the same roof almost 250 years ago.
Jameson Tavern (address and info)
Freeport (Est. 1779)
Declaring itself the "Birthplace of Maine" because it's where pioneering Mainers plotted their independence from crappy Massachusetts (America: home to history's groggiest revolutions), the Jameson's gone by many names since it was established, though we're partial to Codman's, for some reason. And while it was temporarily a private residence, it's been a fully operational bar since 1981, serving up a famous lobster stew alongside house beers like Dr. Hyde's Angry Ale. It's a great place to drink in a little history, though sometimes history comes alive a little more than you're comfortable with: apparently, it's haunted as hell.
The Horse You Came In On Saloon (address and info)
Baltimore (Est. 1775)
You might expect that a bar that's been around over 200 years (and claims to be the oldest continually operated saloon in America) has had bizarre stuff happen there. And the bartender we spoke to didn't dissuade us from that thinking, saying, "It's definitely haunted. People have seen things." We can't guarantee a ghost sighting, but in the Fells Point bar you'll definitely see a front bar made from Jack Daniels barrels, locals and tourists alike drinking Natty Bo and Heavy Seas, and the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe. OK, probably not that last one, but legend has it that his very last stop before he died was this bar. Yeah, we're gonna go ahead and say it's probably haunted.
J.J. Foley’s Café (address and info)
Boston (Est. 1909)
With respect to Sam Malone’s admittedly iconic tourist trap, we're drawn to the South End's go-to Irish bar, where, for more than a century, legions of Bostonians have flocked. The history of Foley’s is rooted deeply in the history of the city itself. For the better part of a century, it was like Boston’s version of the Mos Eisley Cantina -- everybody could be spotted there drinking, from heroes to villains. Politicians, cops, gangsters, journalists, Joe Six-Packs, yuppies, townies, after-Mass Catholics, and intellectuals commingled under the shared banner of strong drink. Four generations later, it’s still owned by the Foleys. And while the neighborhood has been on the up-and-up (or, more accurately, the yup-and-yup), the bar has remained the same. And on any given day, you’re likely to get a mosaic of Boston life inside.
The Pink Pony Bar & Grill (address and info)
Mackinac Island (Est. 1910)
“But Mackinac’s such a tourist trap,” many Michiganders will say, probably en route to Mackinac. And they’d be correct. But it’s also a place visited by 95% of the population, and it kind of rules. Located where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet in between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, the island has no cars, and can only be reached by boat or ferry. Which is a good thing, because odds are that whether you’re up for one of the annual sailboat races or just visiting for a night, you’re getting down at the Pony. The place -- which looks like Bilbo Baggins and Barbie co-designed it -- hosts live music, rowdy parties, and includes one of the most gorgeous patios in the country, with a panoramic view that hammers home the reason they’re not called “Pretty Good Lakes.” If this is a tourist trap, we’re glad to be ensnared.
CC Club (address and info)
Minneapolis (Est. 1934)
Before you complain, know that Matt's Bar is a restaurant. Here's proof. People go to Matt's to eat and the CC Club to drink. The place has housed plenty of local acts who later hit it big, like the guys from The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and umm, Tom Arnold. No, seriously, he used to live across the street. The CC Club's aesthetic defines the term "no frills," as everyone from "25-year-old college kids to 65-year-old Grandpas" drinks tallboys of PBR, and plays pool and old-school video games. And since it's a bar where musicians still congregate, the jukebox is highly curated, and considered one of the best in the city.