Why (and how) We Started Following 50 Best Bars

Ramos Gin Fizz cocktail

I’ve been meaning to explain WHY I started tracking the 50 Best Bars list ever since my spreadsheet went slightly viral (by spreadsheet standards) – but decided to point out some of the issues I have with it when an Instagram post made that more relevant. Now I’m finally back to finish my original post.

(Pictured: A Ramos Gin Fizz at Herbs & Rye in 2015. They entered the World’s List in 2016 at #68 and were on the first North America list in 2022 at #28. I hadn’t yet started following any bar lists at this point, but this cocktail made a lasting impression on me so feels like a fitting “first ever drink at one of the World’s Best Bars.”)

The 50 Best Bars list first came on my radar in 2017 when my husband and I were planning our honeymoon to London and Scotland. We had taken a few small trips together but mostly one or the other tagging along to a work trip – this was really our first time planning a big trip together. We asked around for recommendations and in one late night Google session, searching for London bars, the 50 Best Bars popped up. I’d seen the list before but this time I noticed that many of the recommendations we received from bartenders were on the list. Lists and awards are great but personal recommendations always win – so seeing so much overlap made me take notice.

We visited several bars from the list on that trip – Happiness Forgets, Dandelyan, Callooh Callay, and American Bar at The Savoy. Then, based on recommendations from people at those spots, we then visited several bars that debuted on the list soon after – Three Sheets, Coupette, and Swift. The list wasn’t the be all and end all of our bar outings, but it provided some good starting points from which to play “bar tag.” (More on bar tag in a post soon!) After that trip, we often used the list (along with personal recommendations) to get us started in a new city. These days I think my personal experience has changed into a more critical look at what ties some of the winners together and what factors get them to the top – I talked about this a fair bit in my last post.

The World’s 50 Best Bars list has existed since 2009 and seems to have added the 51-100 list in 2015. While the bars on the 51-100 list aren’t in the official “50 Best” list (obviously), I’ve chosen to track them because a)MORE DATA and b)not every great bar has a PR team or is interested in chasing the hype and attention it takes to get enough voters in the door. They also added the “50 Best Discovery” program in 2019 which is great, but I’d love to know more about how bars get on that list. The website simply says “In 2019, the brand launched 50 Best Discovery, a travel- and experience-focused platform featuring thousands of bars and restaurants across the globe endorsed by the 50 Best Academy of experts.”

So that’s how we started paying attention to this list and how our take on it has changed over the years – but what about our personal stats?

(Pictured: Tuxedo Tails at Jewel of the South, July 2023. Our most recent visit to a bar on the list – Jewel of the South was on the first North American list in 2022 at #24 and was #5 on the list in 2023.)

ListUnique Bars (All Time)# Visited% Visited
North America661523%
Until now, we haven’t planned a trip specifically for the purpose of ticking off more bars on the list, but that will change when we visit Barcelona this fall. With three of the eight most represented cities on the list being in Asia (Tokyo, Singapore, & Hong Kong), we definitely need to start planning that trip as well.

How have you used The World’s 50 Best Bar lists (or others like it)? Do you seek out bars on best of lists or purposely avoid them?

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