As an industry that’s wholly pegged to the idea of “going out”, the bar industry has ground to a near-halt due to the current pandemic.While brands and bars have scrambled to respond — offering bottled and packaged cocktails to-go and hosting online masterclasses — there’s no denying that takeaway only offers a small fraction of the whole bar experience. Everyone’s hurting, and perhaps now more than ever, it’s important to recognise those that have done exemplary work, to remind us about the possibilities of great hospitality.
On 14 May, the results of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards were announced through a live cast on social media. The results are based on assessments over the last 18 months, pre-pandemic months. ““We still believe it is important to recognise the brilliant bars on this year’s list, bring the community together and to maintain some vital optimism and positivity in such difficult times. We hope that the list will provide inspiration for guests as the bars sector prepares to recover and bars themselves reopen…” Mark Sansom, Content Editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
Just like in 2019, Singapore’s bars has had a strong showing, with local stalwart Jigger & Pony taking the no. 1 spot of the list, knocking the Ernest Hemmingway-inspired The Old Man Hong Kong down to the second spot. The bar, which climbed eight places from no. 9 last year, is best known for its exemplary service, flavour-forward drinks, and innovative cocktail menu – which comes in the form of a periodical magazine.
Three other Singaporean bars made it into the top 10: Art Deco triumph Atlas (no. 5), the locavore Native (no. 6) and the eponymously-inspired Manhattan (no. 8).
Meanwhile, two new entries from Singapore has made the list: MO Bar, with its whimsical yet refined menu take the 46th spot, while The Old Man Singapore, sister outlet of the second bar on the list, makes it debut at no. 22. Nutmeg & Clove, which trailblazer the way for tipples inspired by regional flavours, aso makes a comeback at no. 32 after dropping off the list last year.
India also sees its first-ever entry this year, with New Delhi craft cocktail bar Sidecar taking the 40th spot.
Some of the more intriguing, new entries on the list include Seoul’s Bar Cham. At no. 50 on the list, the bar specialises in native Korean spirits, with products like botanicals and liquors sourced from producers all over the country. Another is Room by Le Kief, a theatrical, modernist experience hidden behind a tailor shop in Taipei.
If anything, this year’s list is “not a celebration”, but a show of solidarity. There’ll come a day when the doors (wherever they might be hidden) reopen, and drinks are in people’s hands again — and these places will hopefully be there to welcome you.
View the full list of all 50 bars here.