Some bars and eateries are known for their legendary drinks, others for their famous drinkers. Literary bars are where the greatest writers discussed their works, gathered ideas, wrote their masterpieces and—of course—drank. Soak up inspiration and pay homage at these historic spots.
During the early 20th century James Joyce struck up a friendship with bartender Davy Byrnes while frequenting his eponymous tavern, located in the heart of Dublin’s city centre. He included the bar and its keeper in his 1922 classic novel Ulysses, and travellers still head here today to order a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy, just like protagonist Leopold Bloom.
This bar was the hub of the Beat Generation, a literary movement exploring post-Second World War U.S. culture and politics. In the late 1950s, writers such as Allen Ginsberg would pop over to Vesuvio for a drink with fellow Beatniks like Jack Kerouac, who infamously stood up Henry Miller to instead knock back whisky here. The bar still maintains its boho appeal with stained glass and local artwork.
This 17th-century pub, located an hour from London, hosted weekly lunch meetings between Oxford University academics throughout the 1930s and ’40s—fantasy writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were part of the so-called “Inklings.” Today, visitors can try classic British pub fare such as roast ham—the group once wrote a letter to the pub praising the dish—in the Rabbit Room, where the Inklings used to meet.
This Golden Square Mile bar was a favourite of Montreal writer Mordecai Richler in the 1980s. Grumpy’s was the inspiration for Dink’s Bar in Richler’s semi-autobiographical novel Barney’s Version, and the subterranean dive was used as a location for the 2010 film adaptation. Now, it offers live music several nights a week and plenty of scotch, Richler’s drink of choice.
While technically not a bar, this restaurant is where a group of writers, known as the Algonquin Round Table, met daily for lunch for nearly a decade; the group, founded in 1919, included poet Dorothy Parker. The spot has since been renovated but visitors can order a Dorothy Parker, an updated version (made with lemon, basil and honey) of the martinis the group used to drink.
[This story appears in the April 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]