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Outdoor drinking hits the harbor with these fantastic boat bars

Beer-sloshed barges, oyster bars atop historic schooners—these are New York’s best floating bars

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Grand Banks

What better way to take advantage of New York’s gorgeous waterfront views than by actually getting on the water? From docked summertime icon the Frying Pan to sailing-the-Hudson dinner cruises like Water Table, get your outdoor drinking and outdoor dining on aboard one of these lively boat bars. Now that’s how you do summer in New York.

RECOMMENDED: Best summer drinks in NYC

The best boat bars in NYC

Brooklyn Barge Bar

William Drawbridge joins the grand tradition of floating pubs with this permanently docked 100-person barge, offering seating on board and on land. Cocktails play on summery classics, including the Barg-elata (pilsner, lime, Chamoy hot sauce) and a Salty Spotted Chihuahua sloshed with tequila, lemonade and blueberries. Beyond booze, find straightforward fare like a sirloin burger on brioche, skirt steak sandwiches with BBQ sauce and salmon fillets with lemon-citrus glaze.

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Frying Pan

This “lightship”—a floating lighthouse once used by the Coast Guard—sank while docked in Maryland and spent three years underwater. Later salvaged, she is now a beloved floating bar near Chelsea Piers, home to ice-filled buckets of Corona, zombie dance parties and many a Ray-Ban-sporting millennial looking to take advantage of their summer Fridays.

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Grand Banks

Brooklyn empire builder Mark Firth (Marlow & Sons, Diner) transformed the historic Sherman Zwicker schooner into a floating oyster bar, serving crudos and cocktails, including the mint-and-cucumber Stonecutter Highball. Two brass-tapped bars flank the bow and mizzenmast, offering prime seating even without reservations, while the yellow-and-white-striped awning and business casual crowd hint at the Hamptons without diving deep into bourgie-dom. The waitstaff runs like a well-groomed crew, outfitted in navy-striped shirts, delivering baked bivalves in shallot marmalade.

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North River Lobster Company

This former Florida gambling ship rejiggered with New England charm offers a calm alternative to those stormy, bro-filled bars with fast-casual cruises. Sit at blond-wood picnic tables on one of three decks to admire the West Side skyline, and watch the river stretch under the George Washington Bridge and disappear beyond upper Manhattan. Undocking for 30-minute jaunts on the Hudson, the ship sets sail on a ride that feels leagues away from the city, making it easy to lose track of time—and your cocktail count.

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Hell's Kitchen

The Water Table

This Navy Yard patrol vessel—originally docked in Greenpoint—boards out of the Skyport Marina in Manhattan for its sail along the Hudson, serving a New England-inspired menu that includes a Maine lobster roll with bean salad, lobster macaroni and cheese, and whoopie pies for dessert. The cocktail list boasts old-school concoctions like Moscow Mules and a plum-and-sparkling-wine Compass Rose.

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