The New York City of today was built on the grungy, dive bar vibes made popular by the glorification of the culture in the late 80’s.
While it’s difficult to come across true dive bars these days, several still linger in areas where they used to be plentiful like Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village, and the Lower East Side. When you venture through these areas you can still find a handful of dim lit watering holes with local regulars, cheap drinks, and a no-nonsense attitude that’ll give you just a taste of the good ole’ days when the city was riddled with these low-key spots.
The number NYC’s dives may be dwindling, but those who grew up with the culture—or yearn to preserve the nostalgic element of New York—are keeping this wonderfully grungy part of the city’s history alive. In a place that’s constantly evolving, dive bars are the heart and soul of it all, and the most influential part of what makes Manhattan the melting pot that it is. To celebrate NYC’s roots in dive bar culture, there are two tours currently taking place that’ll guide you through popular areas with historic tidbits to accompany your drinks. The drink of choice at the time? Whiskey. (Which is frankly pretty popular today, too.) So as you learn more about the rich underground culture in this vibrant city on your tour you’ll also get to drink as artists of the time would have, with a taste of Seagram’s 7 whiskey at the first stop.
One of the two tours, taking place in the East Village, focuses on New York’s punk-rock scene and everything associated with it. While visiting the former sites of legendary punk clubs that were home to the Ramones, Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys, Patti Smith, and the Misfits, you’ll also explore three different dive bars that’ll give you the ultimate throwback to these good old days.
New York’s dive bar culture began with back alley speakeasies during the Prohibition Era, but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s when writers like Bukowski romanticized these cozy neighborhood joints (in tandem with the rise of yuppie culture bars in the city) that the popularity of dives truly grew. That said, decades later and whiskey is still the go-to drink at any of these spots. Authentic dive bars in the city are treasured hidden gems that deserve to be recognized and appreciated. And this is what you’ll discover on the other dive bar tour in Hell’s Kitchen. Discuss all things Prohibition and post-Prohibition at another three authentic spots.
Thankfully dive bars are slowly becoming more famed once again, with a dedicated day on July 7 known as National Dive Bar Day. Leading up to it you can take tours of areas once known to be dedicated to these low-key bars while learning more about the history of the culture and scene in NYC from licensed tour guides.
This article was sponsored by Seagram’s 7. Dive bar tours will run until July 6 with tickets to the punk history tour available for purchase here, and the Prohibition Hell’s Kitchen tour available here. 21+ only. Please drink responsibly. Tasting open to general public and not included in cost of ticket. Must be of legal drinking age to participate. For all the facts, visit DRINK AWARE.
Also published on Medium.