The fourth edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars took place on 9th of May, 2019 and announced the most awaited list of the year – Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
Let’s crack a few facts of this famous ceremony:
- For starters, they are Asia’s largest celebration of cocktails.
- Asia ‘s 50 best bars is a comprehensive ranking list which ranks some of Asia’s biggest drinking dens.
- Hosted in the Capitol Theatre, Kempinski Hotel at Singapore, the ceremony hosted around 450 big shots from the industry. Now that’s a number!
- According to the award’s official website, the rankings are determined by a group of “200 drinks experts, including renowned bartenders and consultants, drinks writers and cocktail specialists from across Asia.”
- This year’s list features nine countries, with 12 new entries ranging from cocktail bars, speakeasies, lounges, and wine bars.
- Post the announcement of the winners, the festival kicks off with some of the craziest parties, workshops, and special cocktail promotions.
- Along with the list of 50 best bars in Asia, they also have 6 unique award categories –
LEGEND OF THE LIST – MANHATTAN, SINGAPORE, which for the first time in two years slips from the top spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list.
ALTOS BARTENDERS’ BARTENDER 2019 – SHINGO GOKAN. No fewer than three bars bearing Gokan’s name populate the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list: Speak Low, The SG Club and Sober Company. His skills rightly recognised all over the world and his contribution to the Asian bar scene is unprecedented.
KETEL ONE SUSTAINABLE BAR AWARD 2019 – BAR TRIGONA, KUALA LUMPUR. With disposable wastage increasing at an alarming rate, the association awards the bar with the most sustainable efforts towards environment. Interesting fact is that Bar Trigona is managed by a famous Indian mixologist, Ashish Sharma.
CAMPARI ONE TO WATCH 2019 – PUSSYFOOT SALOON, SEOUL. The creation of Wendell Louie and Bob Louison, one of the most recent additions to Seoul’s already bustling bar scene, Pussyfoot Saloon opened in February 2018 and is already leading the way in terms of the city’s cocktail innovation.
- HIGHEST NEW ENTRY – COA, HONG KONG. Jay Khan’s bar pays homage to both spirits, offering the city’s largest agave collection, clocking in at around 200 bottles.
- HIGHEST CLIMBER – JIGGER & PONY, SINGAPORE. The bar climbed up 33 places in the list since 2018.
ASIA’S 50 BEST BARS LIST 2019
1. The Old Man, Hong Kong
Beating Manhattan (Last year Winner) the Old Man reigns at No 1. Opened in 2017, the bar pays homage to Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer prize winning 1952 novel with a menu of nine experimental cocktails inspired by the writer’s favourite ingredients and combinations.
2. Manhattan, Singapore
Now down to the second position, Manhattan pays tribute to one of the greatest cities, Manhattan. Its current cocktail menu celebrates the 19th century’s Golden Age of drinking through the iconic libations born of the era.
3. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei
Indulge’s owner Aki Wang is at the forefront of Taipei’s dynamic cocktail scene and is popular because of their take on international bar trends with a Taiwanese twist.
4. Native, Singapore
Inspired from the native local and regional landscape, they are the second highest ranked bar in Singapore.
5. Atlas, Singapore
Treat for Gin and Champagne lovers, there are more than 250 Champagnes and 1000 Gins available at at this grand Art Deco lobby and bar in Singapore’s Bugis neighbourhood.
6. High Five, Tokyo
Among the most popular bars of Japan, their modern approach to cocktails is winning hearts all over the region.
7. Speak Low, Shanghai
The secret entrance to Shingo Gokan’s stand-out bar might no longer be a secret, but its mystique still reigns strong. A slide-away bookcase in a cocktail equipment shop leads to a funky space that wouldn’t.
8. The Bamboo Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
Opened since 1953, it is a paradise for music lovers. Major highlights are Long-standing libations, such as the Thaijito, are joined by music-inspired creations including Riffin’ The Scotch – Johnny Walker Gold, mushroom, pear and agave – which ‘breaks the barriers,’ much like Billie Holiday did for jazz.
9. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
Popular for its classic and vintage taste, they do business the old school way. No liquid nitrogen or smoke guns are to be found at this charming bar.
10. Quinary, Hong Kong
Launched in 20102, Quinary is one of the top drinking dens of Hong- Kong is known as the most forward-thinking bars. The industrial-designed space, with a long, glowing bar, takes a modernist approach, with drinks engineered to stimulate the senses, using technology like rotovap distillation and centrifuges.
11. Tippling Club, Singapore
Opened 10 years ago, Tippling Club is the go to gastro cocktail destination which explores the untapped visions of drinks and food pairings.
12. COA, Hong Kong
Named after the harvesting agave tool, they offer crazy distilled spirits.
13. The SG Club, Tokyo
Opened by popular bartender Shingo Gokan, this is his first solo project on home turf. The bar emphasises on a fusion of Japanese and American bartending styles, incorporating unsung flavour combinations using ingredients from all over the world, The SG Club, which stands for “Sip” and “Guzzle”, claims two floors, with slightly different drinking experiences offered on each.
14. Charles H, Seoul
Located on the lower level of Four Season’s hotel, the bar pays tribute to the 20th-century writer Charles Baker.
15. Gibson, Singapore
Named after the famous pickled onion Martini, Gibson is the brain child of Marian Beke. Everything in the bar is inspired by the region, whether from Singapore itself or from the team’s travels around Asia.
16. Sober Company, Shanghai
With an ironic name, the sober company is a mix of modern and contemporary Chinese dining & cocktail experiences.
17. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
This bar represents an apothecary with some of the best herbal infused drinks in town.
18. The Wise King, Hong Kong
New entrant to the list, the wise King pays a tribute to the 13th-century Spanish monarch Alfonso X.
19. Le Chamber, Seoul
Resembling a library, the place reveals illuminated bars with lounge chairs and glowing chandeliers.
20. Backstage Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
A theatre based playhouse hotel with red velvet sofas and heavy staged curtains.
21. 28 Hong Kong Street, Singapore
A classy speakeasy which is really hard to find but despite the secrecy (or perhaps because of it), 28 HongKong Street has become a landmark destination thanks to a fun, laid-back vibe and stellar cocktails from the creative mind of founding bartender Michael Callahan.
22. Operation Dagger, Singapore
Fall in love with the striking interior of raw concrete, minimalist furniture and shelves lined with apothecary-style tinted bottles. A dramatic bar clouded with thousands of light bulbs.
23. Bar Trench, Tokyo
This back alley speakeasy has the best dapper bartenders who showcase plenty of imaginative mixes such as traditional absinthe and sugar cube drips, smokey mule variations and what not!
24. Aha Saloon, Taipei
A new entrant in the list, this bar is a music-themed hostelry with old vinyl records and vintage cassettes serving Taiwanese and core Asian flavours craft cocktails.
25. D.Bespoke, Singapore
Ginza style bar with customized crafted drinks for their customers.
26. Vesper, Bangkok
Inspired from the James Bond movie, Vesper has evolved since opening in 2014 with barrel-aged interpretations of classic cocktails, plus mixes inspired by modern art.
27. Coley, Kuala Lumpur
Located at the back of the Bangsar’s inc café the name of the bar pays homage to The Savoy Hotel’s most famous female bartender, Ada ‘Coley’ Coleman, who left her mark on the industry in the early 1900s with the Hanky Panky.
28. Bar Orchard Ginza, Tokyo
For almost a decade now, husband-and-wife team Takuo and Sumire Miyanohara have been mixing and muddling Japan’s most prized fruits into an ever-changing medley of fresh, creative intoxicants.
29. Alice Cheongsam, Seoul
This speakeasy in Gangnam’s district is a trendy spot but is still an adventure to find. The way to the bar involves white rabbit signs, a flight of stairs and a secret door at the back of a flower shop. Once through it, you enter a wonderland of wacky cocktails, served in what looks like a gentleman’s club.
30. Union Trading Company, Shanghai
Yao Lu’s brain child is an absolute success due to its principles of old fashioned hospitality. They are experiences that shine through at his buzzy, all-smiles neighbourhood bar, where style and service are evenly matched. Cocktail menu changes regularly, but certain bar classics are found all the time.
31. Tropic City, Bangkok
A true oasis within Bangkok’s up-and-coming Charoenkrung neighbourhood, this cool joint reinterprets “tropical” in its widest sense, inspired from Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and even the Bahamas. It has a strong focus on rum.
32. The Pontiac, Hong Kong
The Pontiac is a local cocktail and dive bar focused on inclusivity. Beckaly Franks and her team serves a cocktail list that includes favourites such as the now-famous Hobnail (Irish whiskey, ginger, Averna, Angostura, orange oil) and the equally (and rightly) lauded Dope Slap (pisco, Laphroaig, banana, orange bitters, lemon).
33. Lobster Bar & Grill, Hong Kong
Almost every top mixologist in the great drinking city of Hong Kong has been behind the ramp at Lobster Bar & Grill, on the sixth floor of Island Shangri-La hotel. Debuted in 1991, this buzzy upscale bar still serves some of Hong Kong’s most expertly-crafted libations, with the current menu split between The Past, The Present and The Future.
34. Rabbit Hole, Bangkok
Rabbit Hole adds fuel to the growing fire. Championing the city’s growing love affair with well-made craft cocktails and specialty spirits, the three-storey space has all the hallmarks of a modern, stand-alone Bangkok bar. Popular for their local produce infusions their savoury section is highly recommended.
35. Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou
The first classic speakeasy of Guangzhou which opened in 2016. Among a grandmother’s parlour of eccentric collectibles lies this hidden speakeasy, whose access alone requires a minimum century of MENSA points. It brings far-reaching technique (centrifugal clarification, sous vide infusions and dry ice distillation) to a bar scene that previously stuck to the traditional.
36. Stockton, Hong Kong
Known for its gentleman’s club feel the bar has earned its name for the complex cocktails.
37. The Curator, Manila
Voted as the Best Bar in Philippines 2019, it is a hotspot for millennials. It caters to the ideology of third-wave coffee by day and kick-ass cocktails by night.
38. 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo, Hong Kong
It is named after a 1963 movie by director Federico Fellini. The bar offers six seats, which hug a white marble-topped bar. The bar treats patrons to a small amuse and a basket of excellent, freshly-baked bread, before being presented with the restaurant’s leagues-deep 2,000 bottle wine list and classic cocktail menu.
39. Union Brasserie, Bakery & Bar, Jakarta
Named as the Best Bar in Indonesia 2019, it is a popular all-day dining bar in Jakarta. Under the French bistro theme, Union can transform from the place to enjoy Bourbon pork ribs during sunlight to the ideal setting for an Old Fashioned Tea after sundown.
40. Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur
With a menu focusing on indigenous and sustainable ingredients, Bar Trigona speaks to its Kuala Lumpur setting beyond the gilded walls of its host Four Seasons hotel.
41. Employees Only, Singapore
Mimicked by popular New York city bar, they bring the ideology of aesthetics and intoxicants into Singapore.
42. Smalls, Bangkok
Launched by an American photographer, David Jacobson, Smalls is a cosy and intimate French salon-inspired bar that offersmore quality-minded drinking experience.
43. Bar Mood, Taipei
The classy mix of Japanese and Taiwanese trends is visible in their drinks.
44. Junglebird, Kuala Lumpur
The first rum bar in Kuala Lumpur which brings the classic cocktail genre to the city.
45. Draft Land, Taipei
Popular for their sophisticated pre-batched drinks like India pale Punch. A strong entry to the list.
46. The Other Room, Singapore
Started by master bartender Dario Knox, the menu covers more than 150 spirits, aged in different types of wooden cask to give unique layers of flavour.
47. Oto, Manila
Their name suggests their passion for music. The menu is short but continuously evolves.
48. Teens of Thailand, Bangkok
Popular among all ages this bar is flocked by teens of the city. Opened by Niks Anuman-Rajadhon as an antidote to Prohibition-style speakeasies, the drinks list is equally accurate and concise, ranging from Aviations and Negronis to fragrant gin and tonics, infused with local spices, and unmissable seasonal gin flights.
49. Mixology Salon, Tokyo
Brain-child of Shuzo Nagumo, one of the hottest names in Japanese bartending right now. The sleek, narrow bar is equipped with just eight seats – six of which are at a bar – offers “teatails”, fragrant gyokuro and hojicha-flavoured cocktails served in delicate glassware available à la carte or via three, four, or six-course tasting menus.
50. The Back Room, Manila
New entrant to the list of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars, this bar is only opened in late 2018 in a hidden space in the Shangri-La hotel at the Fort, Manila.