images of Old Ship SaloonOver 500 ships were abandoned in San Francisco Bay as crew members fled for the gold fields in 1849. Many vessels, like The Arkansas, became part of the Yerba Buena shoreline awaiting their next life. The Arkansas was converted into The Old Ship Ale House near what is now Pacific Avenue and Battery Street, selling drinks at twenty-five cents each. By 1855, rotten timber and ballast stones from other crafts landlocked The Arkansas, causing it to become a permanent fixture of the Barbary Coast District.

Supposedly the term “shanghaied” originated from this bar. A drug-laced liquor would render an unsuspecting patron unconscious.

Old Ship Saloon:

Paid interlopers would cart their victim to a shanty on the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill where he would be detained until the next outbound vessel. The Old Ship Saloon has been serving good, bad and indifferent spirits on this site ever since, making it the oldest watering hole in San Francisco. The bartenders at 298 Pacific Avenue have long retired the shenanigans of shanghaiing their clientele, so you’re free to have a drink without fear of waking up lost at sea.   I can recommend the Gold Rush drink of choice…pisco, the first distilled drink along the West Coast. This brandy from Peru soon evolved into a punch mixed with pineapple, lime juice, sugar, gum Arabic and water. The drink’s powers caused one reviewer of the day to note: “It tastes like lemonade but comes back with the kick of a roped steer.”   Cheers!

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