Being a famous writer requires imagination, dedication… and a love for drink. While not technically a requirement, many of the great novelists and poets of history have enjoyed a cocktail (or six). From Dickens to Hemingway (well, especially Hemingway), many literary geniuses have had a regular bar where they could drink, hold court, drink, ponder the meaning of life, and drink some more.
Many of the bars where these famous minds congregated have become minor tourist attractions where lovers of literature can gather, share a pint, and try to soak up some of the glamour and wisdom of the past. Here are some famous bars where you can get close to the legend of your favorite writer...
The Eagle and Child: Oxford, England
This unassuming pub on the outskirts of Oxford University was host to what was probably the most epic writer’s group of all time. The self-proclaimed Inklings were a group of professors who would meet up weekly to have a drink and compare manuscripts. Among their ranks were C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
The Inklings were known to hole up in a back room, now referred to as the Rabbit Room. You can still grab a table in the back and marvel over the photos, drawings, and other mementos of these famous fantasy writers.
Recommended Beverage: A pint of hearty English stout, perhaps the local Oxford Gold.
Vesuvio Café: San Francisco, Calif.
If you find yourself in San Francisco, throw on your black turtleneck, dark sunglasses, and grab your beat-up copy of On the Road. Just off Jack Kerouac Alley, the Vesuvio Cafe once played host to many of the hip irreverent writers of the Beat Generation. Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and, of course, Kerouac himself often frequented this dive bar just across the street from the famous City Lights bookstore.
There’s a famous story of Kerouac holing up in the bar, getting incredibly wasted, and missing an important meeting with Henry Miller. Nowadays the bar has become a quirky tourist attraction, catering specifically to book lovers who want to soak up this era of San Francisco history.
Recommended Beverage: The Jack Kerouac: Rum, tequila, and orange juice. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/baughj)
White Horse Tavern: New York City
Across the country in New York City, the Beats and Bohemians of the '50s and '60s flocked to the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village. Musical geniuses like Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison drank alongside literary minds like Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, and Hunter S. Thompson. Jack Kerouac was thrown out on numerous occasions.
Dylan Thomas’ portrait hangs over the bar, maybe to remind patrons to drink in moderation. In 1953, Thomas drank 18 whiskies, went home, and promptly died three days later.
Recommended Beverage: If that story puts you off whiskey, try a Dark and Stormy