The Great American Saloon Series
I AM TOLD that this is the place to talk about Great American Saloons. But on reviewing the subjects previously celebrated here, I begin to wonder. Great American Saloons? Arnold's of Cincinnati? The Union Oyster House? An oyster house? What next—the Detroit Dairy Freeze? I suppose you Easterners thought the Golden Arches walk-ups were high times. Oh well, it can't be helped, I guess. You never saw the real saloons. You never painted your noses in Tombstone's Bird Cage, the Clippel Shades Saloon in Butte, the Sazerac House of Virginia City, or the Long Branch--and no, you don't get points for watching "Gunsmoke." The worst of it is that you never will belly up at those bars, either. The real saloons are all gone now. Nothing is left but tourist traps and the memories of the few remaining old-timers who regularly irrigated themselves on Old Towse, Skullbender, White Mule, and Panther Piss.
Panther Piss, Panther Piss,
Spit it out and hear it hiss.
It's pure bliss.
Taste my kiss of Panther Piss.
Panther Piss I love you.
Women are not so much interested in actually drinking here as having the right to do so if they wish. After all, this is an ale house and it takes a certain amount of stamina to down pints all evening long.
—Daniel O'Connell Kirwan
McSorley's Old Ale House, Lower Manhattan
The first female to enjoy the illicit and theretofore unfeminine pleasure of quaffing an ale at McSorley's Old Ale House, Manhattan's oldest tavern, was not, as many believe, a skirted member of Betty Friedan's National Organization for Women. True, it was on the heels of a much-publicized court battle that NOW successfully forced the admission of women to the pub in 1970. But in fact, the first woman ever to drink at McSorley's was a guest willingly admitted to the tavern by the founding owner himself.
"Beer," the venerable Nürnberger confided to me with a discreet belch, "has one distinct advantage over sex; when you finally have the time and the means to make the most of it, you can still do the stuff justice." The pronouncement, delivered over brimming steins of Rauchbier, a fascinating tawny brew made with smoked hops in Bamberg, and available only in an old Nürnberg tavern a few steps from Albrecht Dürer's imposing medieval house, carried a certain weight. So did the toper, who must have tipped the scales at close to three hundred pounds. Given his years and tonnage, there was certainly no question about it in his case -- spirited quaffing must have been easier than spirited lovemaking.