Upon the pronouncement that Paradiso—Barcelona‘s wildly imaginative and unexpectedly cozy cocktail bar hidden behind a pastrami shop—took the top spot at this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars, a tidal wave of headlines narrowed in on the news. And yet, this highly deserved honor was only one of many milestone moments from an event that’s become a beacon for bar-goers worldwide. Paradiso is more than worthy of the position—we first visited back in 2016 and have observed even more impressive advancements ever since. But Barcelona, which hosted this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars announcement event (the first time it’s ever been held outside of London) also nabbed the third spot with Sips and the seventh spot with Two Schmucks. This represents an extraordinary advancement for a powerful ranking system with a top 10 that’s been dominated by NYC and London since the beginning.
In the cavernous rooftop of Las Arenas de Barcelona—a former bullfighting ring turned mega-mall, with an event space surrounded by 360-degree views of the city—the bartenders from and owners of 49 of the 50 bars on this year’s list gathered with brand representatives and media to learn where exactly they’d ranked. Attendance was almost double the size of years’ past and an ecstatic energy suffused the room, along with a jovial warmth. Regardless of country or continent, the entire industry battled through the last two years of closures and restrictions, and camaraderie was strengthened.
“The first-ever World’s 50 Best Bars event was in 2012. This sees us entering a decade of events and we thought it was high time to get the show on the road,” Mark Samson, content director of World’s 50 Best Bars and the emcee of the evening, tells COOL HUNTING. “We scoured the world and we came to Barcelona. It’s got great accessibility but we were also drawn to this city’s gastronomy and cocktail scene. It’s always been associated with fine food, but the way the people here have approached cocktails in recent years has made it the perfect place to assemble luminaries from all over the world.”
Since its inception in 2009, the mission for World’s 50 Best Bars has evolved. “Our raison d’être is that we want to shine a spotlight on as much of the cocktail world as possible,” Samson continues, acknowledging that the 2022 list includes watering holes in 26 cities. “We’re very well-established in the cocktail metropolises, but now our aim is to turn the spotlight into a floodlight and illuminate so many bars around the world. Our 51-100 list, which we launched five years ago, has been the best way of doing that.” This floodlight vision also led to the founding of Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2016 and North America’s 50 Best Bars this year.
Each year, bars vying for the list are judged by more than 650 experts, ranging from bartenders to cocktail specialists and drinks writers. Outside of this central accolade, the night included other notable awards. Stockholm’s Röda Huset earned the Campari One To Watch award. Paris hot spot Little Red Door, which ranked fifth on the overall list, also took home the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award.
Beyond the awards, the event itself acted as mixer for other top talent. Alexandra Purcaru, the co-founder and beverage director of Selva in Oaxaca, was on site with Altos tequila. “We were happy to be ranked 22 on the North America’s 50 Best list,” she says. “That was big news for us this year. As a woman, it’s a great achievement. 50 Best is one of the best ways to get to know people in the industry, as well.”
“The strange but beautiful thing that happened during Covid was that the cocktail industry became much more cross-cultural,” Ivy Mix, co-owner of the highly awarded cocktail bar Leyenda, tells us. “It used to be focused so much on the States, but this has since become the one thing that everyone cares about. It’s enabled someone like me from Brooklyn to go and see people like Ago from the Connaught. It makes it easier to interact and exchange.”
This sentiment was mirrored by Remy Martin‘s global head of on-trade and EMEA, Scott Fitzgerald, who adds that, “The list evolves every year. There are new faces and countries that haven’t been formally recognized by this community in the past.” Joseph Magliocco, president of Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, says, “This is a global collection of the top on premise people in our industry—there’s so much creativity and talent under one roof, in one place.”
There were also invaluable surprises from the night. For instance, the top spot from North America in the 2022 World’s 50 Best Bars ranking went to Mexico City’s Licorería Limantour (at number four). With Handshake Speakeasy at 11, Hanky Panky at 13 and Baltra Bar at 32, CDMX received necessary attention for its innovative scene.
It was still a good night for NYC. The city’s top bar this year, Double Chicken Please, took the sixth spot overall—a mighty move as it was the downtown destination’s first year on the list (earning the Disaronno Highest New Entry award, too). GN Chan, co-owner of the dynamic concept known for exemplary cocktails and a delicious chicken sandwich, tells us, “We’re honored to be here. This is a giant leap for our team. I may have created the brand but the whole team completes it. We believe in hard work and fairness—and we want to bring happiness to everyone who walks into DCP.” It was closely followed by longtime CH favorite Katana Kitten at nine, Attaboy at 22, new sky-high entrant Overstory at 34, former number one spot Dante at 36 and Employees Only at 47. All worthy cocktail spots, but so were all those chosen, including three in Athens (including The Clumsies) and bars in Singapore, Naples, Cartagena, New Delhi and beyond.
Images courtesy of World’s 50 Best Bars