Where are the World’s Top Cocktail Bars?

I recently went to the Little Red Door bar in Paris which was number 5 on a list of the world’s 50 best bars in 2022. I can only assume that being ranked highly on this list ensures that the bar stops being cool because the cocktails were delicious but the clientele was comprised almost entirely of American tourists.

The top 5 bars in 2022 were:

  1. Paradiso in Barcelona
  2. Tayēr + Elementary in London
  3. Sips in Barcelona
  4. Licorería Limantour in Mexico City
  5. Little Red Door in Paris

The organization that puts out these lists has a nice archive of the top 50 bars going back to 2009 (and the 2023 awards ceremony is later this month, so stay tuned).

I was curious to see if there were any surprises in where the best bars in the world are according to this list. So, I made some bar charts (😏).

These are the cities with the most appearances on the list over the past 14 years:

London is dominant in top 50 appearances over the years, with New York not too far behind. I have only been to London once, when I was 21, and drank very cheap cider so can’t really speak to the fancy cocktails, but it seems like the organization behind the list was started in London so it makes sense that it is highly represented.

I’ve never been to Singapore so can’t speak to the cocktails there but it does have a tasty eponymous drink and seems pricey enough enough to support lots of bars serving $20+ drinks. I also didn’t realize Australia had such a cocktail scene with Sydney and Melbourne ranking 4 and 6.

This is a map of cities sized by number of appearances on the list since 2022:

It seems like the rankings are including a broader set of countries over time, probably as the ranking organization expands and cocktail culture spreads around the world. Australia, the US and UK have a declining share of the rankings while other countries are on the rise. I’m very surprised that Canada is absent from these lists, I’ve heard that Toronto especially has a big cocktail scene.

Which cocktail bars have the most appearances on the Top 50 list?

These are the bars with the most appearances over the past 14 years:

Below are yearly rankings for a few of the top bars (lower is better).

Looking at these rankings over time, it seems like Connaught Bar in London has been consistently near the top for years. Employees Only in New York has fallen off in the rankings after a great run near the top in the early 2010s. I haven’t been but I don’t hear it talked about much among people who live here.

Attaboy in New York also has had a good run but has dropped out of the top 10 recently. I went once and it was delicious but the line to get in was absurd and for me a great cocktail bar has to feel a bit out of the way, it can’t feel too much like a tourist attraction. Perhaps that is the inevitable cycle for many of these places: excellence garners attention which makes the final product less excellent.

Last year’s top bar, Paradiso in Barcelona, has had a meteoric ascent, from number 37 in 2018 up to number 1 in 2022. Tayēr + Elementary was in second place and has been in the top 5 the last 3 years. Sips is in third after entering the rankings last year.

The network that forms among top bars

I’m interested in the network that forms among these top bars. My friend Rohan has gone to several of the top 10 this year and he tells me that many of the bartenders visit each other’s bars around the world, do guest appearances and promote each other. At Little Red Door, the servers all had little cards they handed out with lists of their favorite cocktail places in Paris. These came in handy because many people would ask them which other places they should check out.

Cynically, I wonder if this is a pay-to-play consortium where bars have to pony up to get promoted. I always find it interesting to learn about the way value flows in different industries outside of the primary customer <> vendor transaction. It looks like Little Red Door also has a consulting business where they help bars develop their concepts, which makes a lot of sense.

If you know more about how this list is made or have any questions about this data please reach out to me, on twitter or joe @ this website via email.

No one is asking, but the best cocktails I’ve ever had have been at Sunken Harbor Club and Bar Goto Niban in Brooklyn, Longfellow in Cincinnati and A Bar Called Gemma in Stockholm.

Find the top bars in your country or city

Here’s a little tool where you can see the bars that have made the list in places you’re interested in (you can filter on the top right). It might be easier to play with this and the visualizations in the other tabs at this link.

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