"Hudson River ale” is a jocular slang term that was used in some New York City restaurants for “water.” The seldom-used term was cited in print in 1936 and is of historical interest today.
February 1936, American Speech, “Linguistic Concoctions of the Soda Jerker” by Harold W. Bentley, pg. 41:
And for water: Aqua pura, Chaser of Adam’s Ale, City Cocktail, City juice, Dog soup, Hudson River ale, ...
2 March 1936, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, “Soda Jerkers Dish Up Fancy Idioms” (AP), pg. 8, col. 8:
Water may be designated as “city cocktail,” “city juice,” “dog soup,” “Hudson River ale,” “Potomac phosphate,” “Lake Michigan straight” or “tin roof,” and jelly may be descriptively termed “nervous pudding, “shimmering Liz” or “shimmy.”
Disappearing Foods: Studies in Foods and Dishes at Risk:
Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1994
Edited by Harlan Walker
Tolnes: Prospect Books
‘One leg of a pair of drawers’
The American Soda Fountain Lingo
By Robin Weir
Hudson River ale...Water (!)
Hash House Lingo:
The Slang of Soda Jerks, Short-Order Cooks, Bartenders, Waitresses, Carhops and Other Denizens of Yesterday’s Roadside
By Jack Smiley
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
2012 (Originally published in 1941)
Hudson River ale—water