The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 event in Singapore was an enlightening showcase of the globe’s finest drinking establishments. This was the first time the event has been held in Asia, signifying the growth of the bar industry here. And South America had a big year too.
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The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 event, held at the stunning Pasir Panjang Power Station venue offered some quirky contenders – a Melbourne bar in a caretaker’s cottage and another in a 200-year-old Creole cottage in New Orleans, a London pub as a Parisian cocktail bar, and even a London bar with shapes for a name – and some grand bar industry greats, like The American Bar at Gleneagles and The Connaught Bar at London’s Connaught Hotel.
From the stunning venue of Pasir Panjang Power Station to the surprise success of a host of newcomers, it was clear that in the bar industry, adaptability and creativity are the keys to survival and growth. Here, we dive into the top ten things we learned at this illustrious event and run down the full list of the World’s 50 Best Bars from #50 to #1.
Pasir Panjang Power Station Is A Hot Venue
Pasir Panjang Power Station helped to power Singapore’s progress, post-war. So, it made sense that the power station, which was finally, fully decommissioned in the 1990s, and turned into an events space usually presided over by 24OWLS, a music, lifestyle, and entertainment company, would mark Singapore’s emergence as one of the world’s cocktail capitals and the first ever Asian host of the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Turning into the venue after checking in and taking some photos at the World’s 50 Best Bars backdrop, guests were greeted by the epic sight of the Pasir Panjang Power Station turbine hall lined with pop-up bars on either side, and, far ahead, the hulking stage that would welcome the award winners not long later.
And, true to its original use, Pasir Panjang Power Station is a hot venue – so hot in fact most of the attendees at the World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 spent at least some of the evening sticking as close as possible to the huge fans strategically stationed around the space.
Barcelona Passed The Baton
Although rumors were rife that a bar in Singapore would become the World’s 50 Best Bars’ #1, as Paradiso had done the previous year when the event was held in their home city of Barcelona, Singapore’s highest ranked bar was, in fact, Jigger & Pony at #14. However, perhaps due to the impact of being 2022 hosts, when voters descended on the city, the #1 spot stayed in the Catalan capital with Simone Caporale and Marc Alvarez’ Sips, where they serve serious cocktails in some unserious ways.
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining (Or Two)
Perennially in pride of place in the upper echelons of the World’s 50 Best Bars list, The Clumsies slid to #19 in 2022. And, this year, the iconic all-day Athens bar dropped even further to #47.
However, every cloud has a silver lining, and so it was for The Clumsies whose descent was softened by receiving the title of Rémy Martin Legend of The List.
Plus, The Clumsies co-owners Nikolas Bakoulis and Vasilis Kyritsis were placated even more with two trips up the stairs to the stage – one to collect that Legend of The List Award, a prize given to the bar that has performed most consistently recent years, and the other to collect The London Essence Best New Opening Award 2023 for their new project, Line – a bar they opened with Dimitris Dafopoulos in a space that used to be an art gallery, with suitably meditative takes on fermented products like beverages and bread.
A Big Year For South America
Most of the South American attendees gathered together, stage left, to witness a wildly successful night for the continent.
In a pre-announcement, Tres Monos, in Buenos Aires, received the World’s 50 Best Bars’ Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award 2023, and, on the night, were named at #11, a couple of places behind Alquímico, in Cartagena, at #9, whose Jean Trinh – who visited Vietnam earlier this year – and colleagues added even more color to the event by setting off some smoke bombs on the stage.
Besides that, Lady Bee, in Lima, whose name is a conflation of two classic cocktail names, the White Lady and Bee’s Knees, was named Campari One To Watch and ranked at #52.
The French-Vietnamese-themed CoChinChina had its rising star status rubber stamped with #26 place, and with CoChinChina’s Inés de los Santos and an especially jubilant Lucas Rothschild in attendance. Carnaval, in the Peru capital, Lima, was at #42.
And Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni of Florería Atlántico, a bar he opened in 2013 in Buenos Aires that stood at #30 this year, took the Roku Industry Icon Award. It’s another accolade for the globe-trotting bartender who, in 2020, received the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award.
Handshakes And Hanky Panky In Mexico
Of course, Singapore hosting the event in Asia for the first time was big news. But, as newsworthy was the rise this year of Central and South America, and, in particular the acclaim for the bar scene in Mexico City in a list featuring 28 cities and 11 new entries.
Handshake Speakeasy, in the city’s hip Colonia Juarez neighborhood reached #3. And Benjamin Padrón and José Luis Leon’s game-changing Licorería Limantour wasn’t too far behind, at #7. Walter Meyenberg’s Hanky Panky, where there’s a queue round the block most nights just to get in, was at #22. And Baltra Bar, by José Luis Leon, the brilliance behind the legendary Licorería Limantour, was at #45.
A Good Night For Night Hawks
As the buses outside Pasir Panjang Power Station whisked guests over to the rowdy first of a series of after-parties at Quaich Bar Wanderlust at the InterContinental Singapore, it was clear that this was a good night for night hawks. It was a good night for the bar of the same name too.
Night Hawk, the broom cupboard-sized Singapore cocktail bar simultaneously inspired by Blade Runner and Edward Hopper, received the World’s 50 Best Bars first ever Bareksten Best Bar Design Award, happily collected by Peter Chua, the Night Hawk director and owner.
Thriving Cottage Industries
The Melbourne bar, Caretaker’s Cottage, really is a former caretaker’s cottage that the city’s vertiginous developments forgot. Surrounded by highrises, the cottage, built in 1914, has a quaint lawn outside, and inside is a bumping space where the bartender makes the drinks while also DJing, from a bar that’s equal parts DJ booth.
All that gives it a kind of house party energy. Matt Stirling, who opened the bar with Rob Libecans and Ryan Noreiks, admits even his mom loves the place so much, she’s in there most nights, conducting proceedings.
Sydney’s Maybe Sammy was an eye-catching award-winner too, with what looked like around 20 of their bartenders storming the stage to pick up their The Best Bar in Australasia 2023 Award at a heady #15 on the list.
As if one cottage industry wasn’t enough, New Orleans’ Jewel Of The South cocktail bar, opened in a 200-year-old Creole cottage by cocktail pioneer and former US Bartender of the Year Chris Hannah, edged its way into the list at #49. Expect contemporary-minded riffs on classics like the Sazerac (rightfully, as New Orleans is the birthplace of the beverage), the French 75, and the Manhattan.
Seoul Has A Zest For Life
Countless stories have emerged of the pandemic propelling bars to extreme measures of self-preservation – like Jean Trinh who took the Alquímico team to a farm to keep them busy.
That time caused an introversion in the Seoul bar scene too. It encouraged Zest, the Highest New Entry Award and also the best bar in Korea, which ranked at #18, doubled down on sustainability, with a focus on local produce – using upcycled orange peels to make their house gin or finding a very special shochu completely made from the produce of a village 2 ½ hours out of Seoul by one person, and eschewing imported tonics and sodas to make their own in-house.
Sustainability In Stockholm
Despite its obvious sustainable cred, Zest in Seoul didn’t receive The Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award. Stockholm’s Röda Huset, which means red house in Swedish, did.
Head bartender Hampus Thunholm headed into the project with some pedigree as the former beverage director of the famously remote Swedish restaurant, Fäviken. And, in 2022, Röda Huset was quickly recognized with the Campari One To Watch Award.
That’s because at Röda Huset he’s created a menu of 17 cocktails full of some of the best produce from across the country that he’s sourced – making homegrown plums, carrots, and raspberries front the main characters in his drinks.
Gleneagles Is Flavor Of The Month(s)
Fresh from its success at the World’s 50 Best Hotels launch in London in September, when Gleneagles won The Art Of Hospitality Award while reaching #32 on the list, its “intimate, glamorous and maybe even a little decadent,” American Bar has taken the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu for its ‘Book of Berries’ menu, which the 50 Best described as beautifully presented and clearly communicated drinks.
The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 List:
50. Galaxy Bar, Dubai
49. Jewel of the South, New Orleans
48. Atlas, Singapore
47. The Clumsies, Athens
46. Locale Firenze, Florence
45. Baltra Bar, Mexico City, Mexico
44. L’Antiquario, Naples
43. Carnaval, Lima
42. 1930, Milan
41. Scarfes Bar, London
40. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai
39. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
38. The Cambridge Public House, Paris
37. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
36. The SG Club, Tokyo
35. A Bar With Shapes For A Name
34. Argo, Hong Kong
33. Freni e Frizioni, Rome
32. Sago House, Singapore
31. Röda Huset, Stockholm
30. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
29. Wax On, Berlin
28. Satan’s Whiskers, London
27. Katana Kitten, New York City
26. CoChinChina, Buenos Aires
25. Baba au Rum, Athens
24. Café La Trova, Miami
23. Caretaker’s Cottage, Melbourne
22. Hanky Panky, Mexico City
21. Drink Kong, Rome
20. Coa, Hong Kong
19. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
18. Zest, Seoul
17. Overstory, New York City
16. Salmon Guru, Madrid
15. Maybe Sammy, Sydney
14. Jigger & Pony, Sinagpore
13. BKK Social Club, Bangkok
12. Line, Athens
11. Tres Monos, Buenos Aires
10. Himkok, Oslo
9. Alquimico, Cartagena
8. Tayer + Elementary, London
7. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
6. Little Red Door, Paris
5. Connaught Bar, London
4. Paradiso, Barcelona
3. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
2. Double Chicken Please, New York City
1. Sips, Barcelona