(CNN) Given the rate at which some of locals' most cherished spots close — high rents, ownership changes and city bureaucracy issues — it's especially important to value the longstanding places that've managed to stay afloat and weather the changes in a city that's constantly shifting.
Below, our list (in no particular order) of New York City's oldest, most iconic bars. These are the dimly lit nooks, shiny bartops and cavernous corners we find ourselves returning to again and again.
Grand Central commuters may have it better than any other commuters in the city. Instead of fighting the masses at Penn Station (is the surrounding area never not undergoing construction?), they have access to one of the city's oldest and most beautiful bars right there inside the terminal.
The central vein of transportation offers much more than just, well, transit access. Exhibit A: The Campbell Bar, formerly known as The Campbell Apartment. One of the oldest bars in New York City, it is also one of the most stunning.
Before numerous signs on Vanderbilt, a tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-it street parallel to Madison and Park Avenues, pointed the way to The Campbell's hidden-away location inside the terminal, it was prized for being, among other things, a little hard to find.
This made it a great first-date spot, but it also made it a chill respite from the chaotic hub just outside in midtown Manhattan.
Even now, this is one midtown bar that downtown devotees will go out of their way for.
Amble in for a cocktail or a nibble (or, as was the case on a recent brisk February afternoon, a currently-trending mocktail) before hopping a train out of the city or back to Brooklyn.
The signature Manhattan is the best thing on the menu. Best ordered from Paris Durante, who has clocked 20 years behind this bar, the classic drink's taste owes much to the mixing, according to Durante.
"The key to making a great Manhattan is to stir it enough, but not too much basically. Most of the time they don't stir them enough in busy bars."
Durante knows his stuff: when you take that first sip of the potent mix of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica here), and a dash of Angostura bitters, served up or over one oversized cube of ice with Luxardo cherries, you'll be glad you found your way inside. —Stacey Lastoe
The Campbell, 15 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10017, +1(212) 297-1781
This corner pub has a storied past — and a legacy of inclusion and community.
Operating in Greenwich Village on the corner of West 10th and Waverly for over a century and a half, Julius's has had many iterations — though always a bar.
It began in the mid-19th century, and like most bars open during Prohibition, it became a speakeasy. It transformed into a sports bar in the 1940s, emerging as a gay bar in the 1950s and 1960s. And Julius' logo has been around since the 1930s.
"Julius' is a really important place related to LGBT history," says Ken Lustbader, a co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. In 1966, three years before the Stonewall uprising, members of the Mattachine Society, a predominantly gay male organization, staged a sip-in.
Modeled on the sit-ins of the black civil rights movement, this group of gay men traveled from bar to bar demanding to be served. The group wisely enlisted the press to follow along as they protested the state liquor authority's practice preventing homosexuals from being served alcohol.
The protest culminated at Julius' and was captured in a now-famous Fred McDarrah Village Voice photograph.
Nowadays, Julius' is a home away from home for anyone who shows up. The interior is simple, a long bar with tables in the front and rear — the front tables feature antique wooden beer barrel's from Ruppert's, a former brewery that operated in the early 20th century.
The bar is a celebrity in its own right, serving as a location for films like "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" about former Julius' regular, Lee Israel, and the original as well as the forthcoming Netflix remake, "The Boys in the Band." And actress Julianne Moore watched Super Bowl LIV there.
But the real stars at Julius' are the people, behind and in front of the bar. Daniel Onzo, who has worked as a bartender on and off for over 20 years and has been a regular for longer, is as much a part of Julius's present as its past.
"I want to drop dead right there. I want to be part of this till the last day. That's how I feel about it." He waxes poetic about bygone days, about the hustlers and bar fights and friends lost to AIDS, many of whose portraits hang on the walls. "The people who came here specifically because this was their home." —BF
Julius', 159 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014, +1(212) 243-1928
McSorley's Old Ale House
"Light or dark?" This is the question you'll be asked when you approach the bartender at this 166-year-old establishment in Manhattan's East Village.
Many patrons opt for one of each of the house's ales, and aside from a handful of nonalcoholic beverages that range from a can of Coca Cola to a can of Sprite, these are, really and truly, the only options, and there's only one way the brew is served: in two eight-and-a-half ounce glass beer mugs.
There's a good half an inch of head in the not-quite-full half pints, and, for $6, it can all be had for less than the average price of a beer in New York City these days.
It should come as no surprise, given the limited menu options (cheese plate options include cheddar or American), that McSorley's is cash-only. Not a lot has changed inside since the ale house opened its doors in 1864, though the proprietors did install a women's restroom 24 years ago — 15+ years after women were allowed inside McSorley's.
An anti-discrimination law prohibiting discrimination in public places on grounds of sex was signed by Mayor John Vliet Lindsay in 1970, but the bar was slow to embrace the change.
The bartender on duty on a recent Wednesday evening estimates the bar goes through 60-70 kegs of beer each week.
"We're never slow," she said, nodding toward the full but not too crowded front and back rooms.
On any given night, it's a mix of regulars bellying up to the bar — and they are literally bellying up to the stool-free bar — and double-fisting the signature brews over the casual conversational din. There's a lot to take in for first-timers, with memorabilia dominating nearly every square inch of space.
At McSorley's, the sawdust beneath your feet, a staple of the tavern, feels fresher than anything else in the room. —SL
McSorley's Old Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
White Horse Tavern
Neither an upscale cocktail bar nor a straight-up dive, White Horse Tavern fits somewhere in the middle of the diverse spectrum of bar types.
It's old, of course, and on our list because it first and foremost meets this criteria, but it's also a cool chameleon. On a brisk weeknight in winter, it's welcoming but relaxed, with a game on the large TV hanging in the left corner of the bar.
There's no bouncer or huge throng of people to fight through to order a drink from the approachable-yet-no-nonsense bartender.
But stop by late at night on a Friday or Saturday, and the vibe is decidedly different. It's a place to party — not to ponder which of many gins you'd like with your tonic. Stick with a draft beer for about $7 if you're trying to watch your wallet and know that if you order a top-shelf brand of booze, you'll pay for it.
No matter which White Horse you get, you're guaranteed to get a strong drink and a side of history. It has the title "second-oldest continuously run tavern in New York City," having opened in 1880.
Welsh native Dylan Thomas was a regular, the Beats and Jack Kerouac patronized the bar — now a landmarked site on a corner in Greenwich Village — during its heyday.
Floor-to-ceiling windows make White Horse excellent for people-watching, but you'll want to take in the space's original tin ceiling and beautifully maintained woodwork too. They don't make 'em like this anymore, say wistful longtime New Yorkers everywhere. —SL
White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, +1(212)989-3956
In operation since 1762, Fraunces gets the notable distinction of hosting George Washington back in the day. Way, way back in the day.
While it's still primarily a bar and restaurant, history buffs will want to take note of the tavern's collection of 18th century relics and artifacts housed in the two period rooms on the Museum's first floor.
Media contact Cian Lahart says the museum draws people in from all across the country, and beyond.
But a tourist bar this is not. Located in the financial district, in the up-and-coming South Street Seaport district in Manhattan, Fraunces sees a lot of the post-work crowd.
The locals know what's up too: On any given night, craft beer aficionados may get lucky and find Fraunces serving The Alchemist's Heady Topper. (A beloved beer from microbrewery in Stowe, Vermont, Heady Topper is brewed in limited quantities and distributed in an even more limited capacity outside of Vermont.)
The tavern's wide variety of options includes not just very good (and sometimes rare) beer but also a whole lot of whiskey. Over 400 varietals to be exact.
Fraunces' mission to be true to America's forefathers, farmers who brewed their own beer and distilled their own whiskey, however, is still evident today. Lahart points to the Samuel Fraunces Ale on draft, which he says "evokes the kind of beer styles that existed in Colonial times."
Not a beer drinker? Try the tavern's Presidential Punch, colonial-style punch created to honor President George Washington. —SL
Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl St, New York, NY 10004, +1(212) 968-1776
This landmarked spot was founded by Leland Chumley in 1922 as a private club for members of a socialist labor union. After the union disbanded, Chumley's transformed into an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition.
During that time, Chumley's paid off the local police -- thereby avoiding the raids that would routinely shut down other establishments.
And, according to Jessica Rosen, the media representative for Chumley's, "It is said that the term '86' was coined at Chumley's." Police would warn management that a raid was imminent and say, "86 your customers." This mean to exit guests via the 86 Bedford Street entrance as the cops were going to enter through the now-closed side door.
Notable writers from the early 20th century drank at Chumley's, from poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to John Steinbeck and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Their portraits, and those of old Hollywood movie stars like Humphrey Bogart, hang on the walls above glass cases that display book jackets, creating a salon-like, literary vibe. The current décor, including distressed leather banquettes and heavy, beveled glassware, along with a working fireplace, evokes the pub's 1920s heyday.
A 2007 construction accident caused Chumley's to close for nearly 10 years, but it was thoughtfully renovated and refurbished by restauranteurs Alessandro Borgognone and Daisuke Nakazawa, who reopened Chumley's in 2016.
If you plan on visiting, a hint for finding it: there is no outdoor signage, just the number 86 on the door. —BF
Chumley's, 86 Bedford St, New York, NY 10014, +1(212)675-2081