World’s Top 50 Bars – Says Who?

It’s that time of the year where some bars have been deemed to be among the top 50 in the world. I’ve only been to a selection on the list but don’t doubt that the rest deserve to be highly rated.

Though as ever such a list isn’t without controversy, from the way that people were polled and the criteria that may have been used.

The poll was conducted by World’s 50 Best Bars editor Lucy Britner and
US drinks writer Camper English. The pair canvassed around 100 bar professionals including the Playboy Club’s Salvatore Calabrese, King Cocktail Dale DeGroff, Esquire US’s David Wondrich and diamond ice-carver Hidetsugu Ueno. We believe this is the first time that the top names in the industry have come together to vote for their favourite bars – making it our most authoritative list to date.

On Twitter Angus Winchester noted that “we were only asked to nominate our Top 3… or at least I was. But no criteria supplied which was odd”, which is something I’d agree with after all are you rating the drinks, the atmosphere, etc?

Though it’s not to say that the list isn’t valid as just looking at the top 10 it does show some great bars that I’ve visited of and know people have spoken highly of them.

  1. PDT, New York
  2. Connaught, London
  3. Artesian, London
  4. Death & Co, New York
  5. Milk & Honey, London
  6. American Bar at the Savoy, London
  7. 69 Colebrooke Row, London
  8. Drink, Boston US
  9. Harry’s New York Bar, Paris
  10. Black Pearl, Melbourne, Australia

Do you agree with how the list has been pulled together, or have some suggestions about how you would derive a list of the top 50 bars?


  1. Sian says:

    I really don’t like list like this. It’s all subjective. One day I might really be in the mood for the American Bar, another I just might not fancy it and one of the others floats my boat – it doesn’t make one better than the other. And to be honest, I’m curious about the choosing of a private members bar – that’s unfair when few people will get to experience Milk & Honey (to my knowledge, they never have an open door policy, even before 8pm).

    Without a criteria, this list really doesn’t have much credibility. Are we going by uniqueness of drinks, comfy chairs, sexy bar staff? Fancy loos, even. I judge bars on all of those things. This is a list of fine, fabulous bars. But it’s a list that really means nothing.

  2. Neil says:

    A top 50 compiled by asking only 100 people? How were the 100 chosen, are they representative of the world or is it biased to the UK, or US, or Europe..? At least Family Fortunes only asked people for their top five or ten. As Siam says, it is rather subjective.

    A worthy attempt but a bit ambitious in its aims and limited in scope. Top 50 gins, anyone?

  3. Ben Ellefsen says:

    It’s evidently an ill-executed accumulation of (admittedly very good) bars, but I think it’s easy to ignore the obvious, and admittedly unforgivable criteria (or rather lack thereof) on which the list is based, when faced with the fact that to many consumers, this list will be an invaluable reference tool, providing suggestions for bars that they may otherwise never discover (*especially* gems like M&H). I appreciate this is more of an argument for lists in general, than for this list in-particular, but nevertheless…

    IMO there are 3 important considerations when compiling lists:

    1) who you ask for opinion/votes
    2) what criteria you use / how you phrase the questions
    3) (importantly) how you prevent abuse in the voting system

    Come up with good enough answers to these between us and I reckon I could make a pitch for our developers having a crack at an online survey to redress the balance :-)

  4. Sian says:

    If Neil and I were to write a list of even just our top 10 bars in London, we’d have two very different lists. And they’d both be brilliant lists, full of excellent bars. And neither would be more right than the other.

  5. craig says:

    firstly, its just a list, not the world cup of bars or anything, so while I know some of the bars very well, and they are delighted to be recognised by their industry as being top notch, they also know that, as some of you have already said on twitter, its what your paying guests think that is most important, as that is both the reason they are there, and indeed the bottom line.

    Secondly, why shouldn’t industry folk be asked their opinion on what is good, or great, or even perhaps the best in their business, and that opinion be not only valid, but considered an expert view? This is true in all industries, while some do have consumers awards too, and those awards are just as valid, they also tend to be more local, be it town or sometimes country, as though obviously lots of people travel the world drinking and forming opinions about which bars they think are best, these people would be bloody hard to poll, as they are travelling the world and not in direct comunication with industry as a whole. I assure you though, the bars are just as interested, if not more so in their opinion, as they need them to not only to come back, but tell others about them. My experience of the bars on the list (been to nearly half of them) is they care deeply about the folk in their bar, no matter what they do for a living.

    Third, consumers and bartenders look for different things in bars? I think nearly everyone looks for different things in bars. The fact you are writing about bars tells me , as someone who drinks for a living, I would have probably quite a lot of common ground with you on what we wanted in our best bar, its about passion and expectation. I have many friends who don’t really drink crafted cocktails or spirits though, who just enjoy a warm, friendly place that serves their favourite beer, are they qualified to have an opinion on the best bars in the world, of course, is it relevant here, perhaps not really. I have reservations about at least one of the bars I’ve been too being on the list, and would certainly disagree with the order as my personal preference, but that doesn’t really matter. The list is about recognition of the bars hard work, and as a guide to those of us who are even aware of the lists existence, that next time we are in Barcelona, we should really check out Dry Martini.

    Private Members bars serve drinks, at bars, so of course they should be included. Its a lot easier and more affordable to join Quo Vadis or M&H than it is for me to go to Tokyo, and the reason they are private, at least partially is so they can deliver the best service and drinks to those who really appreciate it. You neither have to be famous or wealthy to drink in them, you just have to want too.

    I think its not unreasonable to ask these questions though
    1) who you ask for opinion/votes
    A list of who was asked should be available
    2) what criteria you use / how you phrase the questions
    Does it need clarifying, its the 3 bars you consider to be the best. I think that we all will have a slightly different take on that to be obvious and indeed that diversity to be celebrated
    3) (importantly) how you prevent abuse in the voting system
    Its just not that likely or important a list, that widespread and organised abuse would be happening or indeed worth while. And as we have all agreed I think, the bars on list are great and worthy in the majority, and though we would all perhaps have put some different bars forward, we were not asked, so either ignore it as not relevant (to you, cos you were not asked) or keep it in mind next time you happen to be near one of them, and your thirsty and in the mood for trying somewhere new.



  6. Thecocktailgeek says:

    First I think it important to clarify that I have no ‘issue’ with lists per se. I appreciate their strengths and weaknesses and on the whole in fact rather like them. What I do not like is the way that they are often put together in a fashion that is far from objective and yet have titles that make rather grandiose statements. This is one such list. It’s title, and the fact that it has been compiled by a drinks industry organisation, might lead you to conclude that it is a list of the world’s 50 best bars. It’s not. The reason it is not a list of the worlds 50 best bars is nothing at all to do with it’s content, instead it is due to a fundamental problem with the way it has been compiled. By inviting nominations from a very specific type of person (ie bartenders and other ‘drinks professionals’), the list fails to take account of the only segment of people that are truly qualified to judge the worlds 50 best bars, consumers. That is not to say the views of these industry people are not valid, they are very much so, but I am certain that many of them do not experience a bar in the same way that consumers do. Putting aside for a moment the very significant risk that those involved in nominating bars simply voted for their mates, or bars owned by popular or influential individuals (no criteria for nominations were given), there is a serious question to be asked about what happens when my of these people visit a bar, and how it compres with the average consumer. I simply do no believe that when Salvatore Calabrese, David Wondrich or Angus Winchester walks into a cocktail bar worth it’s salt, they re not immediately recognised and given star treatment. To do otherwise would simply be daft.

    Ultimately only consumers can be the judge of which bars re the ‘best’. As soon as you strt down the path of assuming that bartenders and other industry people can replace the views of consumers, then you are heading backwards very rapidly indeed. There are difficulties in gathering objective consumer data, and I don’t propose to have the answer. What I will say however, is that this list is a very nice “the drinks industries favourite 50 bars”. Change the name, and I’m a happy man..

  7. craig says:

    Some good points there, I’d agree that some of the judges would be recognised by some of the bars, but might you too not be recognised when you go into a bar you frequent, that’s one of the pleasures of revisiting no? Also a lot of folk in industry like to sit at bar, or where they an see it clearly, as there is a pleasure in watching something you care about being done well (I wouldnt at all be surprised if you did the same), and you observe the bar as a whole, how service is being performed to all the guests. You are of course right, there will be times and bars who may pay court and special attention to “honoured guests”, but I would say the likes of Angus would see past just his own drinks, and pay note to all that is going on around him. I certainly try too, as understanding what people like about bars, is quite a large part of my job.

    Only consumers are can be the judge? They are judging everyday and every time they return, their judgement will make or break the bar ultimately, and awards such as Observer Food Monthly which is voted for by guests are rightly prized as highly, but you do a disservice to the bar industry and the people in it when you say they are not qualified to recognise quality themselves. I don’t think this view replaces the views of the guests, its just the view of the industry, which hopefully knows a thing or two about it. Agree with you though, would be good to see who was asked.

    This may of course be just a personal view, but favourite bars are not the same as best in my eyes. My list of top 10 favourite bars and best bars would have a few differences, for example, Tootsies in Nashville, The Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe and Gordons wine Bar in London would make it into my favourites, but not my list of only the best (I’m defining best I suppose, as best practice, drinks, service etc) though the likes of M&H New York, Harrys in Paris and Bramble in Edinburgh (and I will declare a personal interest there, as two of my best mates own it, but thats not the reason it makes list) would be on both.

    Anyway, I think we should meet up and discuss with drinks in hand, December is not far away, and is the traditional season of drunken disputes, so how about it?

    And as a starter for 10, my top 10 Best and Favourites merged, as best they can be, the order changes everyday except for #1, but content more or less constant, till I find a new edition of course, with perhaps the list we are discussing, I really need to go to Barcelona!

    1. Milk & Honey, New York (I had a cocktail epiphany on my 1st visit)
    2. Bramble, Edinburgh (interests already declared above)
    3. Quo Vadis, London (When I worked in London a lot, I was a paying member, was worth every penny)
    4. Harry Bar, Paris (please note, I only ever drink Sidecars when I’m there)
    5. Clachaig Inn, Glen Coe
    6. Any bar Jake Burger is behind when I go in
    7. The Spaniard, Belfast
    8. Bow Bar, Edinburgh
    9. Dukes, London
    10. Gordons, London

    Is of course skewed by where I live, especially as Im petrified of flying, so have not been to USA in years, and Oz at all, but its my view and I recommend all, whole heartedly



  8. craig says:

    bugger, I forgot Whistling Shop in London & Grogans in Dublin

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