The bars made famous by those who made them famous.
It was Ernest Hemingway who decreed “write drunk, edit sober,” a mantra which must have been true for most musos or creative types in the early 20th century who not only thrived, but built their entire careers and produced literary or musical masterpieces all while propped up against a dimly-lit bar, filled with cigar smoke and the stench of sweat and aged liquor. It’s hard to picture Justin Bieber or Cardi B doing the same in 2022.
If you’ve ever wanted to pay homage to these iconic celebrity writers, poets, actors or musicians you need to start with these five classic drinking spots. But be careful, some of these booze hounds even died in these bars at the bottom of a pint …
WHITE HORSE TAVERN
Once the preferred watering hole of James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, these three legends aren’t even the most famous wordsmiths to have graced the bar of the White Horse Tavern in Manhattan’s West Village. Instead, it’s the revered Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas who held court over this space until his death in 1953. There’s a photo of Thomas still sitting pride of place where he would’ve penned his most famous poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” The White Horse is one of New York’s oldest continually operating bars since it opened in 1880 and it underwent a significant renovation with its new owners in 2019.
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Built in 1952, Atomic Liquors is Vegas’ oldest freestanding bar and to this day, it is still one of the city’s most popular watering holes, with more than 20 microbrews on tap. The bar (allegedly) received its name from the former owners and its regular patrons who would watch atomic bombs being set off at a nearby test site from the rooftop. But there was nothing nuclear about the ultra suave clutch of celebrities that used to drink here in their heyday after a night of performing on The Strip. The Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford) were known to get up to plenty of mischief here. This was also one of Clint Eastwood’s favourite places to drink and play pool when in town.
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During a break from filming Gladiator with Russel Crowe in 1999, actor Oliver Reed headed to The Pub in the Maltese city of Valletta for a couple of quiet pints … and never returned. Things obviously escalated when he met a group of young British sailors on shore leave from HMS Cumberland. After challenging them to several arm-wrestling matches (and winning), Reed suddenly collapsed and was rushed to hospital. But it wasn’t the arm wrestling that got him; he is said to have consumed eight pints of beer, a dozen double shots of rum, half a bottle of whisky and a few chasers of cognac that night. To use a fitting famous quote from Maximus (Crowe) in the Gladiator film, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
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THE EAGLE AND CHILD
C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien must’ve been half a dozen pints deep each week they met in a back bar called the ‘Rabbit Room’ at The Eagle and Child when discussing their manuscripts. We love that both Narnia and The Lord of The Rings weren’t possible without some serious pub sessions here. Also known to local students in Oxford as ‘The Bird and Baby’, these four walls have been gracing hop hounds since the late 17th century, so safe to say it’s seen its fair share of boozy history. It is temporarily closed for renovations while its upstairs rooms are converted into a boutique hotel. Better known as ‘The Inklings’ the fantasy literary duo were eventually booted from the pub after (allegedly) spending too much time in the Rabbit Room with the door closed. So, they packed up their books and quite literally moved across the road to The Lamb and Flag to drink in private. That’s commitment to their craft (beer).
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CAFE DE LA ROTONDE
“No matter what cafe in Montparnasse you ask a taxi-driver to bring you to from the right bank of the river, they always take you to the Rotonde,” Ernest Hemingway writes in his book, The Sun Also Rises. F. Scott Fitzgerald and T.S. Eliot were regular drinking buddies alongside Hemingway at the famous Cafe De La Rotonde. The bar and restaurant played a central role in the careers of writers, intellectuals and modernist painters of the early 20th century. Back then the owner Victor Libion, would happily accept sketches on napkins in exchange for a coffee or drinks, which is why the early works of Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso still line the walls of the iconic cafe today. The joint is also a favourite of current French president Emmanuel Macron, so much so he used it as the celebration headquarters after his 2017 election win.
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get in the know Russel Crowe won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Gladiator, alongside Oliver Reed.