Quicktake: For the 2021 World’s 50 Best Bars, The Connaught took the top place and Little Red Door was the only France bar to make the list.
The World’s Best Bar 2021: The Connaught
The Connaught took No. 1 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list for the second year in a row. As mentioned in last year’s dispatches, the list slightly favours high end hotel bars for its top spot. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a well-deserved award for one of London’s most luxurious bars that nails the holy trinity of decor, service, and cocktails. Plus, who doesn’t love a martini trolley?
Take a look at the full list to find out which 49 other bars made the cut.
What’s New for the World’s 50 Best Bars 2021
Even before the Covid disruption, changes were underway for the 50 Best Bars list. After taking over, William Reed Media family, also responsible for the 50 Best Restaurants, made organisational changes to ensure wider global coverage of voters and a 50/50 gender balance. You can learn more about these changes in my Paris Cocktail Talk interview with Mark Sansom, Content Editor for the World’s 50 Best Bars and Restaurants. And these changes continue to positively diversify the voting panel, which now comprises approximately 600 voters from 55 countries. This year, 50 Best Bars included 28 Academy Chairs (the most so far) to cover regions around the globe. As chairs, we are responsible for assembling panels from within our regions with the necessary knowledge, impartiality and respect for diversity.
Usually voters must be well traveled enough to meet the requirement to vote for a certain number of bars outside of their country. However, this year that requirement was lightened. This meant voters who were unable or unwilling to travel could take a closer look at their home turf. And while I can’t speak for how other chairs composed their anonymous voting panels, it certainly changed how I structured the French panel. I took the occasion to include voters who are well travelled domestically but may not have made the cut in prior years due to a lack of international travel. (Note: panel composition changes on a yearly basis with a required percentage of rotation)
I believe that the combination of more global coverage, but with the possibility to look more deeply inward on a national level, brought out positive changes. This year’s list welcomed 18 new entries. These results also highlight the 50 Best’s focus on building community. In the early years the global bar community was less connected and we saw many of the same bars from a relatively small group continually on the list. As that community expands and builds networks across more nations, we see more new entries taking the place of some bars that have been on the list since the beginning (e.g. Employees Only, which dropped from the list for the first time this year)
Finally, last year the ceremony was virtual, while this year it returned to an in-person event. With their community-building ethos, 50 Best was keen to get back to face to face. Participants were required, by UK law, to show proof of vaccination before entering the country and self-isolating until receipt of negative test results. This also meant that over half of the Academy Chairs were able to meet in person. We took part in the general meeting to solidify directions, better understand requirements, exchange ideas, ask questions and generally make sure we are all on the same page. And, while it was not only cool to meet fellow Chairs, it was also informative and reassuring to know they have the same concerns about maintaining personal integrity and standards. While you can’t control everything, that seems to bode well for future lists.
France in the World’s 50 Best Bars
For the second year in a row, Little Red Door was the only French bar to hit the top 50. This makes a total of 8 placements on the list for LRD, the highest count for any French cocktail bar. French presence on the list continues to peter out, which seems natural given the growing global placement of voters. For a deeper look at this, I covered France’s listings over the World’s 50 Best Bars first decade and how they reflect the changing landscape of the French cocktail culture.
|Bar du Plaza Athénée||x|
|Little Red Door||x||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
While the top 50 establishments easily grab headlines, there’s more of interest here if you scratch below the surface. In recent years 50 Best also released rankings for 51 to 100. Here’s where you’re likely to find up and comers worth knowing who may not have yet garnered global attention. France has consistently placed a few bars in this range. This year, we had three from Paris: Danico at No.69, and new entries The Cambridge Public House at No.92 and Fréquence at No.96. These are all bars that more than deserve recognition. But as usual I would still love to see more bars outside of Paris hit the list. This would have been a good year for it to happen with more domestic-focused voters.
Finally, though currently residing in the UK, French-born Remy Savage received the Roku Gin Industry Icon award. He has a significant history of working in France, including bar manager of Little Red Door and launching their first conceptual menus.
What does the future hold for the World’s 50 Best Bars?
We will continue to see the positive effects of a more intentional focus on diversity equity and inclusion. This will be reflected in both voting panels and the bars making the lists and discovery.
Another trend that won’t be slowing is sustainability. This year for the first time, the Chairs judged a selection of cocktail menus. Sustainability was one of the five criteria on which the menus were scored. And, for me personally, it’s a very important consideration. Lab 22 took the title this year.
And while “best” is subjective, World’s 50 Best very intentionally does not define it for their voters. Thus, tasking them with the responsibility of making that determination. And, I believe our collective definition will continue to evolve to include ideas around diversity as well as hopefully accessibility and safety standards.
My guess is Asia will continue to figure strongly and we will start to see bars from Africa make it into the list. And if you want an inkling of bars you may see inch up to the top fifty, i’d recommend taking a look at the 50 Best Discovery. In fact, this is a great list to consult not just to see what might happen with the list but for local or travel reference. They also feature restaurants.
And speaking of restaurants, I’m also looking forward to a time where we see more cross over the the World’s 50 Best between these two lists. I believe it’s natural that a great food venue should/could turn out great drinks and vice versa. Let’s watch this space to see how that pans out.
And that’s a wrap on this year’s dispatch!
Want more coverage on this year’s 50 Best Bars? Check out the articles and analysis from Hamish Smith in the Drinks International Global Bar Edition 2021.