TOP BARS IN THE WORLD
CONNAUGHT BAR, LONDON
No matter the workings of the cocktail world around it, the Connaught Bar stays true to its principles – artful drinks and graceful service in a stylish setting. Under the watchful gaze of Ago Perrone, the hotel’s director of mixology, the bar moves forward with an effortless glide. Last year marked 10 years since designer David Collins unveiled the bar’s elegant Cubist interior and in celebration it launched its own gin, crafted in the building by none other than Perrone himself. The latest cocktail menu, Vanguard, has upped the invention and the Connaught Masterpieces isn’t a chapter easily overlooked. Along with the Dry Martini, the Bloody Mary is liquid perfection and the Mulatta Daisy is Perrone’s own classic, in and out of the bar. In 2019, Connaught Bar earns the title of The Best Bar in Europe, sponsored by Michter’s.
FLORERIA ATLANTICO, BUENOS AIRES
One imagines Florería Atlántico must have had some surprised visitors in its time, entered as it is through the nondescript door of a florist, but this is an ‘everyone’s welcome’ sort of speakeasy, attracting a wide-ranging Buenos Aires crowd to the old docks of the Argentinian capital. The bar’s décor and drinks continue this narrative, telling the stories of the American bartenders who brought the culture of cocktails, the English and the Dutch with their gin and genever, the wines (and amaris) of the Italians, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Far from being another clone of an international concept, Aline Vargas and Renato Giovannoni’s Florería Atlántico – The Best Bar in South America 2019, sponsored by Seedlip – goes its own way. It’s an ode to its country, its products and its people.
THE NOMAD, NEW YORK
The eponymous bar of the mid-town Manhattan NoMad hotel now has an established footing at the elite end of the cocktail world. Unlike many international hotel bars, which feel right for a lounging, daytime drink, the NoMad is best as an intimate, nocturnal experience. Dark walls present a dramatic, sultry feel, with soft lighting providing muted illumination to the hotel’s network of bar spaces. Under the stewardship of bar director Leo Robitschek, classic cocktails are made with a meticulous attention to detail, but the house mixes – not least the sharing cocktails – reveal the NoMad’s true panache. The cocktail list is served in all of the NoMad’s spaces and, wherever you find yourself in New York’s foremost hotel bar, expect spotless, five-star hospitality.
AMERICAN BAR, LONDON
The American Bar is so many things – a venerable institution of nearly 130 years, the bar of legendary bartenders, the home of countless classics, the 2017 World’s Best Bar, and the 2019 Legend of the List, sponsored by Asahi – but one thing that is sometimes overlooked is its music. As the Savoy’s director of bars, Declan McGurk, reminds us, the American Bar is “as much a piano bar as it is a cocktail bar”. Indeed, it’s impossible to imagine the experience of this lavish lounge bar without its resident pianists, holding court, teasing the keys. The Savoy Songbook menu sees a dozen cocktails inspired by favorites from chief pianist Jon Nickoll’s repertoire. With day-night appeal and a customer age range of 18-100, head bartender Maxim Schulte’s drinks tend to not riff too far from the classics, covering the bases.
THE CLUMSIES, ATHENS
Whether for the high-class cocktails, homely food, open-armed Greek hospitality or charming ambience, The Clumsies is a place in which everyone feels at home. Set in a townhouse in downtown Athens, The Clumsies freely flows through the ground floor, from the statement bar at the front to the quieter back room and terrace where you’ll find a staircase to a private bar and billiard table. The Clumsies Revisited is a compilation of the bar’s greatest hits, with simplified methodologies for guests to recreate the cocktail magic at home. A bar launched on a tight budget in a recession by two aspiring young bartenders – Vasilis Kyritsis and Nikos Bakoulis – The Clumsies was a smash from the start with locals and international travellers alike. For the past five years it’s been able to call The World’s 50 Best Bars its home too.
ATTABOY, NEW YORK
Chiselling the bar experience back to its key elements – the vibe, the drinks, the service – and perfecting them is Attaboy. That’s the reason this place is still heaving six years on from its opening – simply great drinks and great times. Extraneous to these core values are pretention and excess, so don’t expect grandstanding décor or high-concept cocktails. Quite the opposite – within the bare-brick walls of Attaboy is an everyman space, with booths and a rudimentary bar. There’s no menu here but once you’re seated, a bartender will soon appear to get a gauge on your preferences and mood. Cocktails at Attaboy are bespoke, but tend to have classical foundations and there are some house specials to try too. Sam Ross (the co-owner along with Michael McIlroy) is the inventor of two modern whisky classics: Penicillin and the Paper Plane.
Atlas has one of the best gin libraries in the world with more than 1,300 different labels. Since Atlas opened two years ago, it has made waves with its specialist angle as well as the breathtaking room the bottles are all housed in, winning the title of The Best Bar in Asia 2019, sponsored by Rémy Martin. A legacy project, the building was designed to mimic a grand hotel with a Great Gatsby-esque feel and is also home to some amazing art. In addition to the gin, the champagne menu is extensive and head bartender Jesse Vida has just launched an exciting cocktail menu. The bar is open from 10am, so customers can enjoy coffee and afternoon tea before moving into cocktails. The food menu hits the right notes as well.
THE OLD MAN, HONG KONG
Inspired by one of the most famous drinkers in history, The Old Man pays homage to writer Ernest Hemingway in a big way. Each drink is named after one of his famous texts, using novel ingredients in a most creative fashion, with culinary influences as well. The tiny space means you get involved in your neighbours’ conversations, something heartily encouraged by bar owners Agung Prabowo, Roman Ghale and James Tamang. The L-shaped bar has a revolutionary bronze cooling strip running down the middle of the whole thing – all the better to keep your drinks at an optimal temperature. Hemingway himself oversees the bar – or rather his likeness does in a piece of art ingeniously fashioned out of leftover building materials.
LICORERIA LIMANTOUR, MEXICO CITY
This Mexico City hotspot is a true leader in South American bar culture. Owner Benjamin Padron Novoa continues to work alongside industry-renowned bartenders José Luis León and Ricardo Nava to deliver a balanced blend of party atmosphere and internationally respected drinks in Mexico City. Limantour’s clean, simple decor is a contrast to the chaotic way of life in the city and the bar grabs hold of this energy and brings it off the streets for a drink. The space is always full, always vibrant and, most importantly, always fun. The drinks look bright and energetic but carry big flavours with elegance and balance. The bar remains one of the longest-serving venues in The World’s 50 Best Bars list with six consecutive listings and its popularity among the trade continues to rise with Mexico’s evolving cocktail scene.
This seriously sexy space at the Regent Hotel in Singapore almost single-handedly made the city state’s hotel bars cool again. The low-lit New York vibe, stellar drinks based on classics and, above all, fantastic hospitality have put Manhattan repeatedly at the top of several awards lists and in people’s minds. Recently appointed head bartender Sophia Kang and her team continue to please the crowds, whether during a normal service or the boozy, adults-only Sunday brunch. Manhattan also has the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse – filled with barrel-aged cocktails by its own team as well as guest drinks luminaries – and an inspiring ingredients room, which also houses an impressive collection of vintage American whiskies. There are several private rooms off the main bar area for your celebration needs.
Almost three years on, Native founder Vijay Mudaliar and his passionate young team are forging ahead with their unique philosophy. This Asia-centric bar uses spirits and other ingredients sourced only from the Asian region. The concentrated approach also applies to the vessels, playlist, aprons and many more of its accoutrements. The other important focus of this venue is sustainability – so much so that it picked up the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award 2019. It is not just a buzzword here; it is evident everywhere, from the edible colour art lining the stairs up to the bar, the choice of ingredients (no fresh citrus to avoid leftover peels), to the in-house compost and mini-garden. It truly walks the talk. Don’t expect the classics here though – their drinks are strictly new creations, and delicious ones at that.
Two years ago the revolving door of Carnaval, the venue of bartender Aaron Diaz’s imagination for eight years, finally opened. He is not only the creative mind behind the trendiest bar in Lima, he is also the prophet of a gospel called “coctelería conceptual”. At Carnaval, the team practices a meticulous sense of detail: cups are handmade by Peruvian artists, there is an ice room (with an ice chef who designs each of the 20 types of ice) and a spirits bible that contains more than 300 references, from Bolivian Sangani to Japanese whisky and yellow Chartreuse. The cocktail menu, Alchemy, draws on Peruvian flavors ranging from signature cocktails made in collaboration with chef Virgilio Martínez. Debuting at No.13, Carnaval wins the Highest New Entry Award 2019, sponsored by Iichiko Saiten.
KATANA KITTEN, NEW YORK
If the frontline of service is a smile, Katana Kitten’s Masahiro Urushido is a grand master of the hospitality business. He has good reason to beam of late – just over a year after opening, his peers put his Japanese-inspired American dive bar among the best in the world. Urushido’s bartending prowess is no new thing, of course – his New York spurs were earned at Saxon & Parole; his skills, long before in his homeland, Japan, where cocktail-making technique is an art form. Katana Kitten is named after a Samurai sword and a baby cat. The message here is sharp-edged craftsmanship juxtaposed against playfulness, which is carried through in the relaxed, everyone-welcome vibe and a simple but perfected cocktail menu. Katana Kitten is the winner of the Best New Opening Award, sponsored by Thomas Henry.
GUILHOTINA, SAO PAULO
São Paulo’s Guilhotina is a place to lose your head, though not literally, assures bartender-owner Marcio Silva. The idea when this bar opened in late 2016 was to offer the Brazilian city a venue that dealt in great drinks and service but headlined on fun. Guilhotina is now recognised as one of the most renowned bars in Brazil, attracting both local and international guests. A bar framed by peeling brick walls, high ceilings and piping and the original flooring – this is an unpretentious, informal setting where guests congregate around high stools, a porch and sidewalk tables. Behind the bar is a showpiece backdrop of modern shelving, accommodating plants, bottles and bar trinkets. Combined, they contribute to Sliva’s cocktail menu, which runs to 21 options, but here there’s no pressure to keep in line. Classics are only a bar call away.
THREE SHEETS, LONDON
When the Venning brothers launched this east London hangout in 2016 on a tiny budget it would have been hard to imagine how popular and respected Three Sheets would become. The little venue takes simplicity to the next level – not just with its minimalist back bar and lack of virtually any ornament, but its menu too. The way Max and Noel Venning designed their menu has welcomed a new way of drinking. With just three cocktail sections, hosting three drinks each based on strength and flavour, it’s easy for guests to navigate and find their desired cocktail more easily – and the weekly menu change means they’ll never get bored. Simply put, the Venning brothers have taken this unassuming venue in a lesser-known part of London and turned it into one of the most forward-thinking, innovative bars in the world.
Himkok – Norwegian for moonshine – is spread over multiple levels. First up you are face to face with the tiny distillery that produces nearly 80% of all spirits used in the house. They are shaken up into drinks in the many microbars around the building. The ground floor is completed by an atmospheric cocktail bar and a courtyard focused on local ciders and beers. Upstairs you will find a barber shop and yet another bar serving cocktails on tap, fittingly called Taptails. But on a deeper level, Himkok is more than a bar – it is an institution that embodies the Norwegian culture through cocktails and spirits. Its sustainable practices are impressive too, earning it the inaugural Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award in 2018.
HIGH FIVE, TOKYO
Now into its 11th year of operation, Bar High Five is a pilgrimage for cocktail aficionados. Fans come from afar to catch master Hidetsugu Ueno’s famous classic cocktails, such as the White Lady or locally inspired creations such as the Full Blossom. His diamond ice carving skills are legendary too should you be so fortunate as to witness them. Located in the heart of glitzy Ginza, this basement bar relies on interaction with guests to hone in on preferred flavors and spirits and, with a swelling global audience, now has the international staff to enable this. As with many traditional Japanese bars, this is not one for big groups, more an intimate experience. You can’t book a table either, so cross your fingers and try your luck – if you find a spot at the bar, you won’t be sorry.
SALMON GURU, MADRID
When it opened in 2016, Salmon Guru turbocharged a rather dormant Madrid scene. It showed locals there was life beyond the Gin Fizz with imaginative, quirky drinks suited to an elegant, quirky bar – a space divided into three distinct areas, running the gamut from 1950s tropical to comics lounge and Shanghai bordello. But Diego Cabrera – by far Spain’s most significant bartender of the past decade – and team don’t rest on their laurels. Last year saw them travelling to Amazonia to bring back unique flavors for a special menu that is the talk of the town. Here, everything is turned into a conversation piece – that’s why it is packed every night of the week. Climbing 28 spots up the list since 2018, Salmon Guru is the winner of the Highest Climber Award, sponsored by Tanqueray.
Barcelona’s Paradiso isn’t a bar, it’s a Broadway show. From the moment you enter through the pastrami bar freezer door (speakeasy, yes, but Mediterranean style), to the moment you leave the bar’s Dali-esque interior, it’s all about having fun. So, while the cocktails aren’t the only things to entice the crowds, they certainly take center stage and none more so than this year – co-owner Giacomo Giannotti has hammed up the theatre from an already playful base. Take a bow, the Illusionist menu. Housed in vessels (if we can call them that) bespoke-made by local craftspeople, some cocktails change color, others transition from sweet to bitter, there are those that are guillotined in half in front of you and others you can’t even find. But if drinks in Trojan Horses aren’t your thing, go for the classic twist Super Cool Martini.
INDULGE EXPERIMENTAL BISTRO, TAIPEI
Indulge Experimental Bistro may seem relatively new to the global bar firmament but it is a firmly established favourite of Taipei, turning 10 this year. Aki Wang’s bar has an international feel but in the details is an ode to Taiwan’s produce and heritage, only viewed through the lens of modern mixology. The latest menu pivots around the interaction of five elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth – and mankind. The signature drink Element Wood N°2 is a delicious and judicious mix of Taiwanese single malt whisky, homemade pickled plum soda water, incensed pine ocean cordial, fresh pine and pineapple sage. The cocktails at Indulge are theatrical serves, brimming with imagination yet never out of step with narrative. It’s this consistency, allied to sharp-edged creativity, that keeps the crowds coming back to this modernist bar that never forgets its roots.
THE DEAD RABBIT, NEW YORK
An Irish bar for the modern age, Dead Rabbit is, conversely, a classic too. Now in its seventh year, the crowds still flock, feasting on the best Guinness in town and the venue’s famous Irish Coffee. If owners Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon’s intentions were to recreate Irish pub hospitality in New York, they were triumphant, but Dead Rabbit can go up the gears too. Climb the stairs to the Parlour and you’ll see why bar manager Jillian Vose is one of the most respected cocktail makers in the USA. The bar’s famous comic-book menus are something to behold and have evolved further this year, taking the Rabbit character into a darker realm. So this is a bar but also a brand, with extensions now running to merchandise, whiskey, action figures and also a film.
The narrow, almost innocuous front of Coupette is appropriately modest for the simple, clean interior of the bar. The Bethnal Green space may be small, but it’s created some of the most famous cocktails of recent years, such as the Champagne Piña Colada and Apples, which have made Coupette a true destination bar. Its focus on French spirits, particularly calvados, makes it one of the best specialist bars in the industry and, combined with owner Chris Moore’s expertise in the category, Coupette has been at the forefront of calvados’ mini renaissance. The bar itself marries expert hospitality with authentic French ingredients. One of the highlights of its most recent Summer menu is the Rose & Bergamont Spritz, with Lillet Rosé, Italicus, rose liqueur, sugar syrup and sparkling wine.
THE SG CLUB, TOKYO
Shingo Gokan‘s recent venture is his first bar in his home country, inspired by 1860 when the first Samurais visited the US. The bar imagines what those visitors would have encountered and brought back to Japan from their travels. The multiple levels provide several experiences depending on mood and personality. Guzzle is right as you enter, a more casual and lively drinking space, while Sip is in the basement, with an old-fashioned shoe shine set up at its entrance, and feels like a dark and moody speakeasy. Savor on the third floor is a members’ cigar bar and open late. Across the venue the drinks use a combination of western and Japanese ingredients to great success in a fun yet professional environment. Based in Shibuya, the SG Club is Gokan’s homecoming bar, but it also caters to an international audience.
DR. STRAVINSKY, BARCELONA
Inset against the grey, centuries-old stone buildings of El Born are the striking red doors of Dr Stravinsky. They open into a world of liquid wonder, the likes of which has not been seen before in Barcelona – and scarcely anywhere else. This is the domain of Antonio Naranjo, one of Spain’s foremost drink-smiths, not to mention an alumnus of Himkok in Oslo. Where most bars are backdropped by bottles, Naranjo displays jars and flasks of his liquid alchemy. Almost all the liquids used here are processed or produced on-premise. For all the science, the decor is far richer than the usual sterile lab-bar look, with deep-red walls, hardwood features and a back-lit, gleaming back bar of homemade potions making this molecular mixology in a vintage setting. Venture with an open mind – the uncharted experience is Dr Stravinsky’s prescription.
EMPLOYEES ONLY, NEW YORK
The evergreen Employees Only, beloved by almost everyone who visits, is the only venue to have appeared on all 11 lists of The World’s 50 Best Bars. Over the years it has come to occupy a hallowed place in industry hearts, centrally because of its operators’ forensic understanding of how to deliver a fun bar experience. EO, as it’s known to devotees, does not try to be the place for avant-garde cocktails or out-there concepts. It does the simple, rich and tasty with a swagger, a smile, and often a shot of your favorite spirit. Here a meal on the mezzanine can easily turn into a cocktail at the bar and any which way from there. The unexpected big night out is EO’s expectation. EO’s Manhattan cocktail is one of the best in town and its steak is fine fortification.
EL COPITAS, ST. PETERSBURG
When you hear about a small basement bar in the urban yard of St Petersburg you’d hardly be surprised, assuming this is just one of the many. However, El Copitas has travelled the world to bring a hearty piece of Mexico to your glass, with a twist of warm Russian hospitality. The bar takes the form of a small, intimate space, with guests invited to sit around a large table to enjoy their welcoming copita of tequila. The tacos are worth the visit alone and the cocktail menu changes every week to keep the locals coming back. A lot of attention is given to seasonal ingredients. But perhaps the biggest pull is being able to catch a chat with the owners who, when not adventuring, are usually found at the bar sharing endless stories.
Now settled into its new site in Hackney, east London, Scout has continued where it left off in Old Street, leading the way in the use of sustainable and seasonal ingredients in cocktails. The bar is the brainchild of industry star Matt Whiley, but this year Rich Wood has joined forces. The Scout brand has extended too, with a twin venue launching in Sydney in February 2019. But the London bar remains the flagship, and although the upstairs is reminiscent of the minimalist, straight-edged look we knew from its first incarnation, the space now has an art-focused basement bar, Gold Tooth. The downstairs evokes a more dive bar environment, with writing on the walls, and hosts gallery nights for local artists while serving tapped cocktails. A colorful contrast to the laboratory-made drinks on the ground floor.
JIGGER & PONY, SINGAPORE
One of the first proper cocktail bars in Singapore, Jigger & Pony had to move from its original location at the end of 2018, but it was just what the doctor ordered. The new venue at the Amara Hotel in Tanjong Pagar is quite an upgrade. The clever design includes two bars: the mezzanine allows for guest bartenders without affecting normal service and gives a feeling of exclusivity, while the long communal table from Amoy Street, which encourages customers to interact with each other, did make its way over and holds pride of place right at the entrance. The new menu is actually a magazine and features 27 cocktails based on the classics but with fresh twists. What isn’t new is the hospitality, which is as warm and professional as ever.
OPERATION DAGGER, SINGAPORE
Once you find your way into this subterranean bar, you’ll be greeted with a light cloud, formed from a several hundred lightbulbs (one for each Eureka moment the team have had), bunker-chic decor and a whole lot of creativity. Founder Luke Whearty lived the bar mantra of “going down the road less travelled” by creating a menu with culinary-centric cocktails such as Goma-shio or Oyster Ice Cream. There are no spirit references on the menu so customers won’t have any preconceived notions of taste. And the ongoing experimentation produces some of the most delicious results. For example, the house fermented natural wines uses ingredients such as cabbage, beetroot or rhubarb instead of the traditional grapes to great success. If you can’t decide, try the Omakase menu with three to five drinks and accompanying bar bites.
BABA AU RUM, ATHENS
Celebrating a decade since it opened its doors in downtown Athens, Baba Au Rum is bar-world royalty. As the name suggests, this is a rum specialist, but one that does not confine itself to the usual tropical tiki trappings. Its owner, Thanos Prunarus, who is often found conducting a warm Athenian welcome, is an ambassador for rum. Through its décor and influences, his bar is aimed at like-minded cosmopolitans. The Avant Garde menu has seen a reboot this year. Try the Modernist with rum, spices, citrus and rose blossom vermouth – a fine way to whet the palate. Elsewhere on the bar’s Avant Garde menu are cross-spirit cocktails to suit most tastes, but if rum is your course of travel, head straight to the Rum Society list for the bar’s refined spins on journeyed rum classics.
LA FACTORIA, SAN JUAN
Opened in 2013, La Factoría in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, shows no signs of slowing down. Through natural disasters and political turmoil, La Factoría endures as a beacon of hope in the hospitality community and beyond. With its tropical cocktails infused with salsa, La Factoría has a sense of place, but maintains the international standards which have made it a stalwart of The World’s 50 Best Bars, now in its fifth year. Its guest shifts globally have spread the word, taking its Caribbean way of life to cities around the world, in turn enticing converts to its island home. This is the La Factoría way – incredible cocktails harnessing local flavors, some of the best hospitality on the island and an authentic atmosphere that seeps out of every crack of paint in the walls.
PRESIDENTE, BUENOS AIRES
Housed in a period building in the cosmopolitan streets of Buenos Aires, Presidente is a glamour spot for nightlife fashionistas. With a glowing back-lit bar, high ceilings and original features throughout, the aesthetics are rich, but in drinks, atmosphere and service this place goes beyond the style bar, offering the full package. Though locally famed for its flamboyant cocktails and venerable collection of spirits, Presidente is equally adept at showcasing Argentina’s fare, with homely-but-refined food and the best of the country’s wines. In Seba, Garcia Presidente has one of Argentina’s top talents overseeing the bar’s operations – his reputation as a drinksmith is unparalleled in these parts, making this a busy, up-tempo visit every night of the week. Presidente brims with life, but for more considered drinking, there’s a classy speakeasy to its rear.
Munich has no shortage of places to get your libationary fix, but Schumann’s remains the number one port of call. On the Odeonsplatz, the bar is delicately poised in the middle of Munich’s historic centre, adding a definite sense of gentility and occasion to proceedings. Venturing inside, the bar is a minimalist temple to mixology. Red leather stools are lined up along the long wooden bar, where guests can check out the menu of more than 60 drinks, largely aperitifs and American classic cocktails. Schumann’s is a German institution that never gets too comfortable. Far from it: the evergreen owner Charles Schumann is still focused on bringing you to new frontiers. With beer, sake, whisky and small plates on the cards, this mainstay keeps coming up with new ways to bring you back.
SPEAK LOW, SHANGHAI
The first thing you need to do to visit Shingo Gokan’s famed speakeasy, Speak Low, is find it. Head to the old Shanghai’s French concession area, look for a bar tools shop called Ocho and search for the secret entrance within. As you go up the stairs of this four-story building, you will find different concepts, each getting more serious and exclusive as you go. The first bar is fun, with a downtown New York vibe and serving drinks such as the Corpse Reviver No.2. The next level up also ups the game by using Japanese ingredients with some rarer spirits including Shingo’s namesake cocktail, Speak Low. Last but not least is the exclusive members-only bar. In a city where speakeasies have become the standard, Speak Low still shows them how it’s done.
LITTLE RED DOOR, PARIS
Little Red Door has pulled away the curtains this year to reveal a new look. After seven years at the top of the Paris cocktail scene, it was time for a change, with street side windows now revealing what all the fuss has been about. Though there’s also new lighting and a blue marine color scheme, the core principles of this avant garde bar remain the same. It is the flagship of the Bonomy Group, and of Paris, oriented to cater to the French capital’s discerning drinkers and the cocktail-curious international guest. The latest menu by Rory Shepherd and team is another cerebral exploration of the cocktail experience, this time lassoing our interpretation of flavour and language together. Each cocktail is named after a foreign-language phrase that has no direct translation into English.
The bar formerly known as Linje Tio is a bit like Prince circa 1993 — the name has changed, but the goods are still delivered and the party is always on. A multi-space venue since it opened, Tjoget houses a wine bodega, a beer café, a pan-Mediterranean restaurant and, of course, a cocktail bar. In tandem with the restaurant, the bar seeks inspiration in the flavors and fragrances of southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, reinterpreted through Scandinavian. Drinks with gooseberry cordial may mingle on the menu with carrot juice or Turkish yoghurt, and beets are ever present through the ever evolving Beets by Tjoget. Sophisticated but never pretentious, Tjoget was built as a party bar – with a revolving cast of DJs – meant to last, if the owners have their way, 20 years.
THE OLD MAN, SINGAPORE
Sister venue to the original in Hong Kong, the Old Man Singapore may be significantly larger but it still maintains its charm and service level, even on those busy nights. Andrew Yap is head honcho here. This veteran of the Asian bar scene ensures that the original recipes are executed to a tee and provides the warm hospitality that guests have come to expect. The iconic L-shaped bar encourages mingling with other patrons and its ingenious bronze cooling strip is there, as are the spirit-forward, highly creative drinks – direct replicas of the Hong Kong menu. This venue also includes a lounge space for larger groups. Located in Chinatown on the popular Keong Saik Road, there is no sign to indicate its location, merely a pineapple lamp above the door, so keep your eyes peeled.
In one of the most unexpected power plays in the bar industry in recent times, Dandelyan, The World’s Best Bar 2018, sponsored by Perrier, was dramatically closed in early 2019. Out went the much-loved Modern Botany cocktails, to be replaced by a brand new bar : Lyaness. Operator and chief schemer Ryan Chetiyawardana’s new concept is a departure, but continues to play with perceptions of what cocktails can be. Under the microscope at Lyaness are everyday ingredients, with the debut menu unpicking the myriad flavours that the likes of pineapple, raspberry and banana can be bent to produce. To the unwitting drinker the menu appears simple, but there’s always complexity under the bonnet. One of Lyaness’s weirder base ingredients is Onyx – a collaborative custom liquid that plays with the very definition of what a spirit is.
HAPPINESS FORGETS, LONDON
Once again this east London speakeasy has held its own among the big-budget heavyweights of the global bar industry. The underground space continues to be one of the most reliable hideouts for great drinks, with efficient service and fun, relaxed vibes. Owner Alastair Burgess insists Happiness Forgets is just a fun bar that serves great drinks, but there’s no doubt that he keeps standards right at the very top. The lighting at Happiness Forgets is spot on, creating a moody, fun and relaxed buzz in a space where you can always expect world-class drinks. It remains one of the few neighbourhood bars that people travel from around the world to visit, which is impressive for a venue which was opened a decade ago on a budget of just £25,000.
Swift continues to cement its position as one of London’s top independent bars through its ability to suit any occasion or customer the busy streets of Soho are likely to throw at it. Once the site of legendary industry bar Lab, the bright and airy upstairs offers fizz, oysters and lighter cocktails. Downstairs hosts one of London’s widest ranges of world whiskies in a moody, refined environment – the best place to enjoy one of the capital’s finest Irish Coffees. The service is all smiles with owners Mia Johansson and Bobby Hiddleston rarely off-shift and always warmly welcoming. The pair, who are supported by Nightjar and Oriole’s Rosie Stimpson and Edmund Weil, have created a modern classic of London and doubtless one of the best bars in the world, after just three years of operation.
TRICK DOG, SAN FRANCISCO
Trick Dog became a destination bar when it opened in 2013 in a once-quiet residential neighborhood of San Francisco, now populated with other food and drink hot spots. The lure has always been the bar’s innovative cocktail menus that have ranged from a Dr Seuss-inspired rhyme book to a faux-Chinese restaurant menu to an instructional hippy survivalist catalogue. These launch every six months to great fanfare and provide a semi-annual requirement of a revisit, even to drinkers who have been there a hundred times before. The venue is semi-industrial, with a small balcony for diners and dynamic bartenders hustling through orders with great efficiency. They’re preparing cocktails accented with curiosity-piquing infusions such as seaweed and ‘everything bagel spice’, and garnishes including a miniature peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s all part of the allure of this ever-influential kitschy-clever cocktail bar.
MAYBE SAMMY, SYDNEY
While London has its Connaught, and Singapore its Manhattan, the hotel bars of Australia tend to be of the kind in which the bartender wears a name badge, the drinks are overpriced, and the service mixed. Maybe Sammy is one of the world’s best hotel bars — it just isn’t attached to a hotel. Owners Stefano Catino, Vince Lombardi and Andrea Gualdi have created a hostelry that ticks all the boxes of the world’s best: an inventive and delicious cocktail list, luxe surrounds and an attention to detail – not to mention great hospitality. Most nights you’ll see Catino commanding the room, doing what he does better than most – hosting and welcoming you. Gualdi is behind the bar, holding court and delighting guests with experiential serves. In 2019, Maybe Sammy wins the title of The Best Bar in Australasia, sponsored by illycaffè.
Five years ago, Flavio Angiolillo and Marco Russo’s intimate bar MaG became very popular and had unforeseeably evolved into a high-volume bar. Angiolillo and Russo were frustrated they could not deliver the same attention to their customers and decided to open 1930 Cocktail Bar, an homage to their initial habitués, who received coveted membership cards to the new speakeasy. Entering 1930 is like stepping back in time with vintage furniture and candle-lit rooms. 1930 recreates the original enchantment of MaG, but in a more relaxing and stress-free environment. Led by bar manager Benjamin Cavagna, its drinks menu is inspired by the various parts of the world which have defined modern mixology. 1930 changes continent every six months, with the theme in Autumn 2019 being Asia including music, decor and drinks inspired by the Orient.
SOBER COMPANY, SHANGHAI
Shingo Gokan does like his multi-storied buildings and this three-in-one ode to New York concept does not disappoint. The ground floor is Sober Cafe and Gokan’s way to introduce aperitivo culture to the market. There is an emphasis on coffee, highly creative soft-serve flavours, small plates and brunch. The second floor is Sober Kitchen, which provides modern Chinese cuisine such as foie gras mapo tofu and black sesame crème brûlée. After dinner you can adjourn to Sober Society where enthusiasts enjoy refined cocktails such as the Godfather III, or the more complex Blue in Green. If you make it through the first three concepts you will be allowed to go to Tipsy, the ultra-secret bar where your cocktail dreams can come true. After all, its motto is “come sober, leave tipsy”.
ELECTRIC BING SUTT, BEIRUT
Combining two vastly diverse Asian cultures, Electric Bing Sutt is an unconventional and hip Asian/Middle Eastern all-day bar in Beirut. Inviting from the roadside, this venue opens into a funky, dazzlingly neon interior with an open window façade on to the street and furnished with retro foldable chairs and Chinese porcelain stools. This is full immersion into global bar scene subculture, with signature cocktails and Asian-based, locally fused food items served by fun-loving, easygoing bartenders. The Best Bar in Africa and the Middle East, sponsored by Torres Brandy – is the brainchild of globally awarded bartending mixologist Jad Ballout and Chinese spouse Lynn Lin, who prepares the authentic, mouthwatering food found nowhere else in Beirut. Complementing that offering, the cocktails are concocted using advanced culinary techniques, aromatic distillations and complex infusions.
Tucked away under Moroccan restaurant Momo in a secluded alcove off London’s Regent Street is the last thing you’d expect to find – the new digs of globally acclaimed bartender Erik Lorincz. Kwant is his first London venture since a stellar tenure as head bartender at the American Bar at the Savoy – a move that couldn’t have been more eagerly anticipated. From the cream lounge of old to bamboo ceilings, herringbone-patterned carpet and palms frame a space which takes you to another clime, another era. The menu, though, is present day and Lorincz uncensored. He is fermenting pineapples, growing micro-herbs under hydroponics and dabbling in the exotic. Yet for all the wizardry the cocktails make for elegant sippers in the bar’s fine glassware, served by your white-jacketed host, who glides across the carpet of his new five-star tropical bar.
After a spell on the sidelines, Artesian is on its way to being back to its best. The new leadership team of Remy Savage (ex-Little Red Door) and Anna Sebastian (ex-Beaufort Bar) were hired to resurrect this famous bar’s reputation and they’ve done just that, bringing energy and fresh ideas to transform the menu and atmosphere of the Langham Hotel’s flagship bar. The new Minimalist menu couldn’t be further from the old Artesian mould – theatrical, often bonkers serves – but is just as creative. Pairing two ingredients in elegant glasses, this is stripped-back drinks-making with an emphasis on clean, complementary flavour combinations. Though drinks are never that simple in Savage’s hands, with either unusual ingredients or infused spirits stretching the concept to delicious effect. Artesian may look the same, but in the details that matter, it’s a new experience entirely.
COA, HONG KONG
Industry veteran Jay Khan has an affinity for all things agave and thus created this Oaxacan-inspired temple to all spirits derived from the spiky Mexican plant. If you’re wondering what Coa means, look no further than the implement, a sharp cutting tool used to harvest agave plants that he hand-carried back from Mexico. It takes pride of place above the bar. Khan and his staff exhibit a deep passion for and knowledge of small batch Mexican spirits, mezcal in particular. Try ordering a tasting flight of several brands of different vintages, or even some sub-categories of agave spirits such as raicilla or sotol. The bar also has a delicious house-made tepache that is worth the visit alone. Nestled in a small street in Soho, this simple, modern bar is candlelit, pitching just the right mood, so settle in and enjoy.
JERRY THOMAS SPEAKEASY, ROME
Jerry Thomas opened in 2010, making it the first secret bar in Italy. In the beginning, it was frequented mainly by bar industry types sharing a common love of cocktail history but also experimentation. In the following years, the team at Jerry Thomas travelled the world to research and study, even coming up with their own gin and vermouth. Nine years later, under the bar stewardship of Federico Tomasselli, it has expanded its clientele to cocktail enthusiasts, tourists and locals, all looking to savor one of the refined classics, such as the Improved Aviation or House Martini, in the Roman speakeasy. From the moment you make it past the mysterious but intimidating door ritual, this bar will impress you with its charm.
DANTE, NEW YORK
Weaving tradition with modernity, there’s something heart-warming about the story of Dante. When Linden Pride, Nathalie Hudson and Naren Young took over this Greenwich Village site 100 years after it first opened they could see the things that made this fading Italian café once great could be relevant again. At the heart of their mission was to renew the bar, while being authentic to its roots and appealing to the Greenwich Village community. So the classical décor was given a lift, and in came refined but wholesome Italian food, aperitivos and cocktails. The measure of a bar is the experience of its customers – in hospitality, drinks and food Dante has the fundamentals down to a fine art, earning the deserved title of The World’s Best Bar 2019, sponsored by Perrier.