By Beth Clark • February 08, 2019
Literary-themed bars across the US beg the question: Are you really alone if you're with the spirit(s) of your favorite authors or books? We don't think so. (And we're betting you've taken a book into a bar before.) Below are 9 establishments bookworms can drink their books in or even borrow one from the bar's library to read while sipping a cocktail.
Novela, San Francisco, CA
Novela is a swank cocktail lounge that juxtaposes classic with contemporary design and serves its famous handcrafted punches and literature-themed libations to patrons as they sit immersed in the ambiance of the ultimate Instagrammable "chromatically classified" (color-coded) book collection. Their historically-inspired punches rotate seasonally and have clever literary names like Hemingway's Code Hero, their house punch, which is made with three whiskeys, maraschino liqueur, pimm's, earl grey, grapefruit, and lemon. They also have three versions (Writer Punch, Publisher Punch, Editor Punch) available to go. And, in case you're not already putting it on your "places to see" list, they serve locally-sourced small bites and signature cocktails like Miss Moneypenny (mulled vodka, drambuie, pear honey, lemon), Jay Gatsby (bourbon, nocino, amaretto, amaro etna, islay scotch), and Tom Bloom (hibiscus gin, pineapple, mint, grapefruit juice), along with an impressive assortment of beer, wine, bubbles, spirits. Oh, and the titles on the shelves? Mostly classics, of course.
Library Bar, Los Angeles, CA
Once you walk through the blue velvet curtains of the Library Bar in LA, you'll see shelf after shelf filled with hardcover books from a plethora of genres, along with author collectibles and various memorabilia. They may even win for "most creative classic and contemporary literature-inspired cocktail names," which are as poetic to behold visually (#instagrammable!) as they are to ingest. If cocktails aren't your thing, they also serve beer and wine, as well as an upscale lounge food menu. Some of the more cleverly named and popular drinks are:
The Library Bar at the Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia, PA
The elegant, yet cozy Library Bar is tucked away in the Rittenhouse Hotel as a respite for your soul from the rigors of city life and Philadelphia's busy streets. Thursdays through Saturdays, there are jazz performances. Their selection of craft beers, wines, whiskies, and rare spirits is exceptional, and they're famous for their caviar service, but the Library Bar's craft cocktails and books are the real literary stars. The collection is on display throughout the bar and patrons are encouraged to pick up and browse or read any book that inspires them. Alice in Wonderland is the current cocktail theme, so they had fun coming up with originals like The Dodo (lillet blanc, st. germain elderflower liqueur, honey, lemon, sparkling wine), Queen of Hearts (cherry blossom infused vodka, limoncello, lemon, amarena nectar), the Cheshire Cat (maker's mark bourbon, lemon, strawberry, egg), and The White Rabbit (toki Japanese whiskey, amaretto, lemon, peychaud's bitters, thyme). Be sure to check out their curated collection of books on Philadephia/Pennsylvania.
Oscar Wilde, New York, NY
One of the things New York's Oscar Wilde makes headlines for as "A public place for private affairs" is being the city's longest bar. But its spectacularly ornate 19th century ambience makes it's easy to forget you're in 21st century NYC. From the ornate columns behind the bar to the original wood paneling from Hope Castle, Victorian chandeliers, and 26 antique clocks all set to 1:50 (the time of Wilde's death), Oscar Wilde pays tribute to, well, Oscar Wilde, everywhere you look. There's a statue of Wilde next to the bar, along with quotes by the Irish writer, such as "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." inscribed on marble column bases, and the bathroom faucet is an ornate gold swan…very poetic. After you've taken in the gilded scenery, you can choose from cocktails like the 50 Shades of Dorian Gray (gin, cherry liqueur, Chinese five spice, citrus), the Writer's Block (cucumber vodka, muscat grape liqueur, lemon, agave, seltzer), and Cyril's Last Stand (templeton rye, dry vermouth, green chartreuse, luxardo maraschino liqueur).
The Dead Poet, New York, NY
The Dead Poet is the brainchild of a former high school English teacher who combined his passion for Irish pubs and literature. Its mahogany-paneled walls celebrate the lives of famous writers and poets with portraits, quotes, and verses pertaining to life's universal quandaries. The menu of brilliantly literary-themed cocktails includes popular choices like The Dead Poet (7 liquors with splash of sour mix that tastes like grape soda), For Whom the Bell Tolls (peach sweetshine, ruby red grapefruit juice, and champagne), Ernest Hemingway (appleton estate rum, fresh lime juice, maraschino cherry liqueur, and grapefruit juice), Goblet of Fire (vanilla vodka, butterscotch schnapps, cinnamon simple syrup, club soda, and whipped cream in a copper mug), and J.D. Salinger (redemption rye, bitters, and drunken cherries).
The Bard's Town, Louisville, KY
If bar food had been a thing when Shakespeare was drinking down all unkindness, surely he would've appreciated The Bard's Town's punny menu options like Much Ado About Empanadas. Opened after its owner was inspired by a fellowship at Shakespeare's Globe in London, the space also houses a separate theater that's home to several local theater companies. For eats, you can choose the Midsummer Night's Greens from Act 1 and MacDeath by Goodness (mac and cheese) from Act 1, Scene 2, or a To Bean, or Not to Bean burger with Merry Fries of Windsor. To drink, there's the Aristides (maker's mark fresh mint julep), the (Gold) Mine That Bird (muddled lemon, honey syrup, and wild turkey 101), and more merriment options.
The Lovecraft Bar, Portland, OR
The Lovecraft is a macabre sci-fi and horror-themed bar that pays tribute to author H.P. Lovecraft and is consistently voted one of the top themed bars in the world. It essentially throws a year-round goth Halloween party with skulls everywhere, a giant pentagram hanging over the dance floor, and images of Lovecraft's powerful but bizarre Cthulhu wrapping around the bar. They also host burlesque nights, ritual performance art, readings by local authors, eclectic old movie nights, and tarot readings, with cocktail selections like the Grim Grinning Ghost (absinthe, cold-brewed jasmine pearl green tea, and orange blossom water), Romeo's Distress (vodka infused with jasmine pearl lavender rose white tea and lemonade), and the Sleepy Hollow (whiskey infused with peaches topped with ginger beer). Or you can do shots and dance to ‘80s synth or post-punk, depending on the calendar for any given night.
The Rabbit Hole in Los Angeles, CA
From the outside, The Rabbit Hole in the West Valley of Los Angeles looks like just another strip mall dive bar. But the moment you step through the looking glass (by walking through the front door) and sit your bum on a Tweedledee or Tweedledum barstool, things get curiouser and curiouser until nothing seems impossible. (Except opening the bathroom door…the instructions are exactly wrong.) Adventures in Wonderland-themed cocktails include The Jabberwocky (Three Olives Elvis coconut water vodka, disaranno, oj, grenadine), The Pool of Tears (ciroc red berry vodka, blue curaçao, grapefruit, simple syrup), and Through the Looking Glass Shooters served in mini potion bottles with "Drink Me" tags…Absolut Amnesia (absolut mandarin, parrot bay, midori, cranberry, pineapple juices), Through the Looking Glass (jagermeister, peach schnapps, cranberry juice), and Queen of Hearts (crown royal, apple pucker, cranberry juice).