The White Horse Tavern, located at 567 Hudson Street, is the 1st stop on the C&C’s Tour #1 of Greenwich Village. It’s both a famous cocktail establishment and historical curiosity, so it’s the perfect place to begin the Cocktails & Curiosities journey. Opened in 1880, the tavern was popular with longshoreman and local Irish immigrants, many of whom were police officers and city workers. It should come of no surprise that during Prohibition the tavern remained open, served plenty of booze, and was never raided. The White Horse was also a favorite of Mayor Jimmy Walker, who lived a few blocks away and presumably kept it safe.
The tavern has a long history of famous customers, including the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Do you recall the famous words “do not go gentle into that good night”? If you don’t remember it from a college literature class, the poem was featured in the classic Rodney Dangerfield film “Back to School.”
In 1953, at the age of 39, Thomas got his drink on at “the Horse,” as he called it, for the last time. He indulged in one too many whiskeys, fell down drunk and went into a coma. The great poet died a few days later. Many say his ghost still visits the White Horse, sitting at his favorite corner table in the back room. The ghost rotates the table like Thomas did when he wrote his poetry.
Other notable fans include Andy Warhol, Norman Mailer, and Jack Kerouac. Kerouac visited often and was often kicked out. Bob Dylan used to come to listen to music and John F. Kennedy Jr.stopped in for lunch while at NYU law school. The tavern was also a favorite of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who would show up at closing time, ask the proprietor to lock the doors, and buy drinks for everyone in the building.
On the night that John Belushi died, Aykroyd visited the bar and bought a round for all to toast his lost friend.
Today the White Horse Tavern remains a great place to stop in for both a beverage and tasty “pub grub.” On nice days the sidewalk tables fill-up quickly, and stop by an ATM on the way because the Horse accepts cash only.
The White Horse Tavern is indeed the perfect spot to begin the first Cocktails & Curiosities tour.