When you step into a bar, you expect to choose from a variety of beer, wine, and liquors. Maybe you want a nice IPA and some onion rings to go with it. At McSorley’s Old Ale House, you have two options, dark and light beer. This old-time bar, which has been serving drinks since 1854, only serves its two beers. These recipes date back to the first day it opened and have been the only drinks it’s served since. It also does not have your classic pub or tavern food. Sure, you can get a burger, but nowhere else in the city can you purchase a $4 cheese platter that comes with raw onions and saltines.
With 164 years of history, it is hard to choose which piece of history to write about. In 1882, 28 years after it opened, the play “McSorley’s Inflation” opened at the Theatre Comiqe on Broadway. It featured a barroom set, a bar owner named Peter McSorley. It played over 100 performances. In the 1920’s, prohibition started. So, McSorleys sold its Near Beer, a non-alcoholic beer. During this time, the Ale House used the basement as a speakeasy.
It also had a bad reputation with women during the women’s rights movement in the U.S.A. In 1954, McSorleys celebrated its 100-year anniversary but women were still not allowed inside. In 1969, it was sued by women so that they could enter and drink with their husbands. They won the lawsuit and in 1970, women were permitted. Unfortunately for the women who drank there, a woman’s restroom was not installed until 1986.
Just like when they opened, they still do not have a credit card machine. Bring cash. Amazingly priced at just $5.50 for two beers or $3 for one beer, it is one of the oldest and cheapest places to have a drink in all of NYC. Stop by McSorley’s Old Ale House and have a cold beer and some cheese and onions on a saltine.