50 Best Bars, the club of the best
The World's 50 Best Bars, part of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, brings together a selection of the best bars in the world.
For obvious reasons, the panel of experts cannot judge all existing bars but uses a number of evaluation criteria, the basic requirement being that anything that’s put in a glass must be extremely high quality. Criteria range from cocktail quality to overall service.
A wide variety of different venues are eligible for the award spanning luxury bars, street bars, high-volume bars and 5-star hotel outlets. Here is a tour of the World's 50 Best Bars, including an in-depth analysis of their menus.
An overview of 2021
In 2021 the top 50 bar list had a larger geographic scope compared to previous years and included cocktail venues scattered across every corner of the world. In particular, there is an increasing number of bars from Latin America as a result of the exponential growth of the global gourmet food&drink industry; but an even bigger boom is taking place in Asia, which prompted the creation of a separate award, Asia's 50 Best Bars.
For its part, Europe numbers as many as 21 of the 50 venues in the ranking. No less than 8 are in London, signaling that the City's mixology tradition is still very much alive and growing and even boasts the number 1 bar in the 2021 standings, the Connaught Bar, run by Italian nationals Agostino Perrone, Giorgio Bargiani and Maura Millia.
Italy has two on the list. 1930 is a true speakeasy: doors closed to all but a few customers, an exquisitely complex cocktail menu, an approach highly tailored to a specific clientele. Drink Kong, on the other hand, is one of the most unconventional entries and shouldered its way into the ranking just three years after opening thanks to Patrick Pistolesi's new, unique concept featuring '90s New York style neon lights, a nice classy touch.
The US has fewer and fewer venues on the list - definitely a smaller number compared to the past, all clustered in the Manhattan area. Despite their very high level, a likely cause for this decline is the rise of Asia and Latin America, where the recent explosion in research and innovation is currently unparalleled either in the USA or in Europe.
Notable bars include:
- Baba au Rum - in the world's top 50 since many years, it has a wide choice of sugar cane spirits.
- Two Schmuscks - one of the most informal places on the list.
- Paradiso - very posh, complete with a dedicated Macallan Room.
- Salmon Guru – a very inconspicuous speakeasy of a kind that is very hard to find in the city.
- Little Red Door – one of France’s few remaining bars on the list, it's at the forefront of creative mixology with a radical, breakaway menu.
- Himkok - one of the longest ranking bars in the top 50, one of its unique features is having its own distillery, which means the menu includes drinks prepared with spirits produced in-house.
- Buck & Breck (Berlin) - a very distinctive format as there are no labels on display. The bottle rack only contains laboratory-style flasks of blends.
- Old Man (Hong Kong) - one of the forebears of Asia's modern mixology.
- Coa - a tequila-themed bar.
- Indulge Experimental Bistro - great focus on tea and a range of spirits made in-house.
- Floreria Atlantico (Buenos Aires) - the heart of Latin America's bar scene. Multitalented owner Tato Giovannoni has greatly influenced the Latin American bartender community.
- Licorería Limantour (Mexico City) - one of the longest-ranking bars in the top 50.
- Cantina Ok (Sidney) - it has a weekly menu of agave spirits, the perfect complement to the restaurant's food offer.
THE WORLD'S 50 BEST BARS: AN ANALYSIS OF STYLE
What happened to the 50 Best Bars over the last decade
The evolution of bars from 2009 to 2020
Here is an analysis of the bars that made the top 50 list over the last decade, divided by geographical area.
Europe’s position has clearly been stable over the years. What changed drastically is the style of the venues, which has been gradually becoming more and more innovative.
In the early years the United States saw a crescendo, culminating in a boom in the mid-2010s in parallel with a period of economic growth, when Asia was not yet as competitive as it is today.
Latin America only made it into the ranking sometime later, initially with small numbers. The current boom is of a purely culinary kind, but it indicates that the best is probably yet to come, as often the development of the gourmet food industry paves the way for the growth of a drinking culture as well.
Asia is the continent showing the most regular growth pattern. Its position never dropped and since 2016 it has literally doubled the number of venues in the ranking.
Conversely, Oceania has clearly been seeing a dramatic reversal of fortune, probably because of fierce competition from Asia and the changes in the style of bars in Europe. And while over the years innovation in Europe and the United States continued to advance, in Oceania it has come to a halt.
50 BEST BARS MENUs
5. Tayer + Elementary, Londra
13. Nomad Bar, New York
18. Native, Singapore
38. Employees Only, New York
39. Bulletin Place, Sydney
40. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
41. Artesian, Londra
A Cocktail Bar’s calling card
The menu is a cocktail bar's calling card. Indeed, a menu offers a direct, accurate preview of what customers can expect. But that's not all. This microcosm of recipes, secret formulas and spirits is often a battleground between spirit brands, which vie fiercely over presence in cocktails and, consequently, visibility on menus, which become a key promotion and communication tool.
However, the menu is not an essential criterion in evaluating a bar. And neither is the menu's graphic design, as demonstrated by a large number of venues offering a menu of the day - or a weekly selection - that changes depending on in-season ingredients or the bartender's inspiration.
There is no lack of bars that don't even have a cocktail menu - indeed, there are at least 4 on the top 50 list - and just rely on conversation with customers to choose what drinks to serve. This is a deliberate strategy, and in some cases it involves tailoring cocktails to each client's preferences, just like a bespoke suite - the best expression of a bartender's craft.
Normally, however, the menu lists the ingredients used to make each cocktail recipe. This is another great divide between bars that specify the spirit brands they use and those that don't.
The price of a glass...
The first obvious consideration is that having a cocktail at one of the world's top 50 bars is not necessarily more expensive than at any other drinking venue.
Unlike restaurants, where prices frequently soar exponentially once they rise to the Olympus of dining guides, in the top 50 bars the price reflects the type of venue as well as the spending power of the residents of the city or country where they are located.
Our analysis found that 61% of bars charge between 10 and 15 euros for a cocktail. Prices rise in cities where the cost of living is higher, yet only 3% of venues charge more than 25 euros. Where that's the cases, a higher price usually reflects a cocktail menu and recipes prepared with spirits that are in themselves more expensive, like vintage or collectible bottles. For obvious reasons of location, prices are also higher in bars attached to luxury hotels or premium hospitality facilities.
in the menu of the 2020's 50 best
What spirits are most frequently used?
Among the most popular and frequently used spirits in the world's top 50 bars, gin is clearly at the top of the list. It is such a pervasive presence that it single-handedly propels the white spirit category in the lead over dark spirits.
This causes a distorted perception of which of the two categories is the most frequently used, as numbers are thrown off by the fact that gin clearly dominates the white spirit category.
Dark spirits are nonetheless present in force, as due to their characteristics - aging, evolution and maturation over time, which bring great flavor quality - these products are not just used as base ingredients in drinks but also as flavorings to drastically change the flavor profile in cocktails.
While signature cocktails are viewed as the testing ground for a bartender's creativity, dependent as they are on individual inventiveness and inspiration, it's encouraging to note that 17% of recipes in bars on the top 50 list are classic cocktails.
While signature drinks reflect a barman's journey of research and experimentation, it's with classic cocktails that their skill and style can best be assessed. In addition, classic cocktails reflect a very different kind of research – not in new recipes but in ingredients.
On average, menus list 19 cocktails - a good number, though not huge. This is because, between making perfect classics and researching signature drinks, an overly large menu would be too high-maintenance while also creating confusion in customers.
50 best record
28 Hong Kong Street
Tippling Club and Star Bar
Singapore e Tokyo