Howdy. Thanks for stopping by New Drinks in Old Bars. We’re glad you’re here. Pull up a bar stool. I’m going to tell you the uneventful story about how NDOB was born.
We were in a Gold Rush ghost town in Amador County in Spring 2017. Volcano, California, a self-described “rip-roaring gold town,” was home to 5,000 residents during the Gold Rush in the heart of the 49er trail. It is said that about $100 million in gold had been mined out of the area during its hay-day. Today, Volcano is home to a post office that opened in 1851 and one of the longest operating general stores in CA which opened in 1852. Your one-stop shop for vices and consequences was the Union Billiard Saloon and Boarding House opened their doors in 1880 and also served as the Volcano Justice Court. The town is now home to about 130 residents and a surviving bar: Whiskey Flats Saloon, one of the last historic saloons in the area. The saloon is attached to the St. George Hotel (1862) which was built on the previous footprints of the Eureka Hotel, which burned down in 1853 and the Empire Hotel, which also proceeded to burn down in 1859. The place is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The notion for #NDOB was born in Whiskey Flats after a few rounds. We were out in cowboy country to visit some old friends. The kind of friends that have walked through life with you. The kind of friends that you can sit around with all day and tell stories about poor choices you’ve made over a beer or six. It was a regular day. Maybe a Wednesday afternoon (we were on vacation, okay?) in Whiskey Flats and I was struck with the idea that this bar had seen a lot in its long life. The town of Volcano used to be hustling and bustling, but has since grown quiet and now looks like a movie set. The town had had a few serious fires, but this bar never seemed to burn down. Which might be just plain luck or tell you about the priorities of Volcano’s citizens. Either way, cheers to them. So here we were, a group ranging in ages from 27 to 75 and all sharing the joy of the purest activity left – having a drink at a bar. A bar filled with old pictures, dollar bills nailed to the ceiling, and copious taxidermy.
I got to thinking about the role that bars have played throughout the course of history. They’ve been witness to our stories (good, bad, and the one you’ve told so many times it is now terrible) and have had a front seat to the history of our communities as the world unfolded before them. We’ve created #NDOB with the goal of telling those stories: interviewing barkeeps, owners, maybe a patron or two of old bars…and having a few drinks in these old bars. We’re not critics, we’re not interested in the hottest, trendiest drink of the season. We’re interested in pulling up a seat at bars older than sin, knocking a few back, and doing some pretty decent writing and photographic documentation of our travels. We hope you like it and that it inspires you to think about old bars in a new way. If you don’t, then have another drink and come back when you are in a better mood.