Downtown's Tropical Cocktail Bar Pilar Pays Homage to Ernest Hemingway and His Favorite Drinks

Named after the writer's boat, each cocktail at Pilar "tells a story about Hemingway’s life experience.”

click to enlarge Inside Pilar, where there are nods to the tropics and writer Ernest Hemingway. - Photo: Provide by 4EG
Photo: Provide by 4EG
Inside Pilar, where there are nods to the tropics and writer Ernest Hemingway.

There are several humanizing factors intrinsically linked with Ernest Hemingway: alcohol, outdoorsy machismo, a complicated love life … oh, and books. A few are even quite good. And while the celebrated writer valued conciseness in his writing, he loved elaborate cocktails — his work is seeded with descriptions of his favorite food and drinks, as he shared much of his personal life through his bibliography.

New Cincinnati cocktail bar Pilar celebrates Hemingway’s boozy and oceanic legacy plus acts as a bridge between Over-the-Rhine and Fountain Square via its location on Court Street. The bar, from Four Entertainment Group (4EG), takes its name from Hemingway’s black 38-foot fishing boat that he sailed around Florida, Key West and Cuba. Pilar intends to synthesize the feeling of freedom that comes from a salty breeze over calm waves, giving the Queen City a chance to take a quick trip to the tropics any time.

“When we were developing the concept for Pilar, we pictured a small neighborhood bar on the corner where Court meets Walnut. In Cincinnati, there was an opportunity to create something unique,” says Bob Deck, managing partner for 4EG. “My partners and I began brainstorming our favorite places in Key West and the Caribbean islands. We came to the conclusion of creating a tropical-style bar that focused on lighter, rum-based cocktails.”

click to enlarge Pilar is located on Court Street downtown. - Photo: Provide by 4EG
Photo: Provide by 4EG
Pilar is located on Court Street downtown.

Pilar’s menu gravitates around the drinks Hemingway was known to enjoy.

“We have added subtle hints to Hemingway’s career as a writer, including a craft cocktail list with 10 drinks, all named after Hemingway’s short stories and books,” says Saijal Andreadis, senior marketing manager for 4EG. “You will definitely see a Hemingway Daiquiri — or a Hemingway Special, as he liked to call it — on the menu. Each cocktail tells a story about Hemingway’s life experience.” 

Hemingway purchased the titular boat in 1934, whereafter he was known for his exuberant seafaring conduct. Many of his famous stories were inspired by his adventures on Pilar, which was also his pet-name for his second wife, American journalist Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls also portrays a powerful matriarch who goes by Pilar.

Andreadis says 4EG has been working on Pilar for the past two years. They’re leasing the property directly across from Kroger on the Rhine on the remodeled Court Street Plaza. Court Street looks to draw more foot traffic as a destination with the addition of Pilar, no longer just a passing ground among the various bars, restaurants and other attractions found downtown and in Over-the-Rhine.

Will Pilar, along with the other new businesses landing in the area, change the way Cincinnati views Court Street? A rising tide lifts all boats. 

Pilar, 56 E. Court St., Downtown, pilarcincinnati.com.

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