A garbage barge floats by. “You can tell that one’s not full because the birds aren’t following it,” says a server on the anchored boat bar in Brooklyn Bridge Park on a recent Saturday afternoon. While the sight of buoyant trash doesn’t exactly whet one’s appetite, the view from Pilot docked off of Pier 6 does offer sweeter sights: A pack of Jet Skiers zoom by, the Staten Island Ferry lumbers back and forth and the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan tower strikingly close. On board, if Pilot looks faintly—or gobsmackingly—familiar, that’s because it’s a near carbon copy of owners Alex and Miles Pincus’s Manhattan boat bar, Grand Banks. The yellow-and-white-striped awnings, the high-top U-shaped counter and well-heeled crowd—dogs and babies included—all mirror the Tribeca schooner’s lovely scene. Cementing the charm are the historic touches: wooden plank floors, dangling ropes and brass-rimmed portholes that yield an old-world feel. Even with the forgettable dishes and drinks, Pilot is worth taking the bait.
ORDER THIS: The summery cocktails ($15) are what you would expect for a bar that is all atmosphere. Life at Sea’s tepid combo of vodka, blackberries and mint reminds us more of a weakly spiked pink lemonade. Stronger quaffs are the Fracas, garnished with nutmeg shavings atop a spicy combo of blanco tequila, mescal, pineapple and Angostura bitters; and a Campari-based Young American, its bitter base lightened with sweet vermouth, seltzer and absinthe’s minty twinge. The creamier Spirit Animal is the most delightful of these, with a bright, fruity focus from the light rum, coconut and strawberry.
GOOD FOR: Soaking in the last rays of the season. It may not hit 85 degrees anymore, but burgeoning autumn temperatures are still perfectly pleasant for enjoying nautical revelry (the boat will stay open until late October as weather permits). Bring a date, order at the bar and carry your drinks to the bobbing bow of the schooner for the best vista.
THE CLINCHER: You’re on a boat, motherfucker. There are too few classy booze boats in NYC, so one more is welcome, regardless of quality. And the staff can spit out pretty rad facts about the ship, like how it’s now the oldest-known boat in use in the city (built in 1924) and it was the longest-serving pilot ship in American history. Here’s hoping Pilot can eventually live up to its impressive legacy.