Apr 29, 2022
JUST WEEKS AFTER THROWING a massive chef party at the 2022 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant awards, Bangkok was in the spotlight again, hosting mixologists and fans of well-crafted tipples at the Asia’s 50 Best Bars ceremony.
The event was a week-long opportunity (read: excuse) for the visitors to show off their skills, for some of the most talked about venues in town to welcome friends and for everyone to have a good time, glasses firmly in hand.
A testament to how much Bangkok has upped its drinks game, many high-profile bartenders chose some of the city’s newest bars to share their skills. Guest shifts were held at Mahaniyom, upstairs from nose-to-tail Isaan eatery 100 Mahaseth, and at Opium Bar, the cozy bar of Thai-Chinese fine dining restaurant Potong, currently one of the hardest tables to score. Brand new The Deck, where the paint has barely dried, was the choice of Jay Khan, owner and bartender at Hong Kong’s Coa, No. 1 in the 2021 rankings. “They have the best agave collection in Bangkok,” he confided.
Several awards were announced prior to the main event, including the extended 51-100 rankings. Keith Motsi of Charles H (No. 7 and Best in Korea) in Four Seasons Seoul, won the Bartenders’ Bartender Award. Being recognized by his peers was “humbling,” he told Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia. He went out of his way to acknowledge his staff for their support. “I am extremely thankful to my team who also make me look better than I actually am.”
The Art of Hospitality Award went to local favorite BKK Social Club (No. 10 this year and Best Bar in Thailand), in the Four Seasons Bangkok at the Chao Phraya River. The prize recognizes the best hospitality experience, as voted on by the 250-member strong Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy. “We consider BKK Social Club as a big living room where we love to welcome old friends and new friends,” said the hotel’s beverage manager Philip Bischoff. He admits that with travel restrictions over the last two years, it’s been a long wait to show off the bar’s trademark hospitality. “I am really glad that, finally, the team is able to present what they have been working so hard for.”
The 50 Best list was announced at the historic Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, whose own Bamboo Bar is on the list at No. 46. Charles Aird, director of food & beverage of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, is grateful that the 50 Best organizers chose the “warmth and mystique” of the iconic location.
Other than this year’s top bars, a number of other prizes were announced. The Industry Icon award went to Colin Chia, owner of Singapore’s Nutmeg and Clove (No. 36) and also the force behind Bangkok’s #FindTheLockerRoom (No. 78). Bar Mood in Taipei (No. 89) was named Sustainable Bar of the year, while the Best Cocktail Menu prize went to Bar Trigona (No. 29 and Best Bar in Malaysia) in the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Hong Kong’s Honky Tonks Tavern (No. 55) was named One to Watch, meaning a new and rising star, while at the other end of the spectrum the title of Legend of the List went to the Best Bar in Japan, Bar Benfiddich (No. 5). Tesouro took Best New Opening and Best Bar in India, debuting at an astonishing No. 4.
The most spectacular newcomer however was Argo in the Four Seasons Hong Kong, Highest New Entry (No. 3). Singapore’s MO Bar was the Highest Climber at No. 8, up 37 spots from 2021. Other Best in Country prizes included Smoke & Bitters for Sri Lanka (No. 42); The Cocktail Club (No. 32) for Indonesia; Sober Company (No. 11) for Mainland China.
That left 2021’s top two bars, which in the end finished in the same positions as last year: Jigger & Pony, Best in Singapore at No. 2 and Coa, Best in Hong Kong and No. 1, for the second year running. Ahead of the event, Coa’s Khan talked about being the incumbent. “There’s always pressure to be on the top of the list with so many great bars. But no matter the results we are glad we are part of this amazing community.” After the win, a clearly emotional Khan commented, “I didn’t think we would win this twice.”
Originally scheduled for Singapore for 2022, Asia’s 50 Best Bars moved the event location to Bangkok a couple of months out, when travel restrictions around the now-mostly-open region were still in flux. It was an attempt to ensure as many winners as possible would be able to be there in person, for what turned out to feel like a joyous college reunion.
Like many of the attendees, Rusty Cerven, bar manager of Manhattan (No. 9 in 2022) in the Regent Singapore, the only other bar to top the list twice (in 2017 and 2018), describes Asia’s 50 Best Bars as “the place” to forge links with friends from across the industry and from around the world. “I am mostly looking forward to reconnecting with all the industry folks,” he said ahead of the event. Khan echoed that sentiment: “The ceremony at the 50 Best Bars is definitely one of the best places to be and meet them all at once.”
Bars that couldn’t make the trip still expressed their support for their friends and colleagues. Aki Wang, owner of Indulge Experimental Bistro in Taipei (No. 6 and Best in Taiwan), said via email, “The whole Indulge Bistro team really miss all our 50 Best family members.”
There is a lot of new blood in the 2022 Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. That’s especially thanks to the addition last year of 51-100 rankings. More than a third of the 100 bars were new entries and the locations have never been more diverse. From Penang (Backdoor Bodega No. 97) to Kathmandu (Blackbird No. 96), plus Tesouro in Colvà and Smoke & Bitters in Hiriketiya, clearly this year’s list tried to leave no rock across the region unturned.
Smoke & Bitters only opened in 2020 and despite the pandemic, recognition came almost right away. When we asked co-owner Don Ranasinghe why that might be, he mused that their cocktails include “a vast array of house-made ingredients, using modern techniques but utilizing traditional knowledge. The location itself is quintessential Sri Lanka, set on back drop of a coconut grove over looking the Indian Ocean.”
The host city Bangkok, which placed a total of nine bars in the top 100, counted four new additions: BKK Social Club (No. 10), Asia Today (No. 43), #FindTheLockerRoom (No. 78) and The Loft (No. 88).
Here’s the full list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2022:
11. Sober Company (Shanghai, China)
12. Republic (Singapore)
13. Darkside (Hong Kong)
14. Sidecar (New Delhi, India)
15. No Sleep Club (Singapore)
16. Quinary (Hong Kong)
17. Tropic City (Bangkok, Thailand)
18. Hope & Sesame (Guangzhou, China)
19. Vesper (Bangkok, Thailand)
20. Lamp Bar (Nara, Japan)
21. The SG Club (Tokyo, Japan)
22. Penicillin (Hong Kong)
23. Atlas (Singapore)
24. Aha Saloon (Taipei, South Korea)
25. Bar Trench (Tokyo, Japan)
26. Hoot’s (New Delhi, India)
27. Tippling Club (Singapore)
28. Bar Cham (Seoul, South Korea
29. Bar Trigona (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
30. Home (New Delhi, India)
31. Sago House (Singapore)
32. The Cocktail Club (Jakarta, Indonesia)
33. The Pontiac (Hong Kong)
34. The Wise King (Hong Kong)
35. Junglebird (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
36. Nutmeg & Clove (Singapore)
37. Analogue (Singapore)
38. The Aubrey (Hong Kong)
39. Le Chamber (Seoul, South Korea)
40. Alice (Seoul, South Korea)
41. Memento Mori (Tokyo, Japan)
42. Smoke & Bitters (Hiriketiya, Sri Lanka)
43. Asia Today (Bangkok, Thailand)
44. Copitas (Bengaluru, India)
45. Union Trading Company (Shanghai, China)
46. The Bamboo Bar (Bangkok, Thailand)
47. Bee’s Knees (Kyoto, Japan)
48. Zest (Seoul, South Korea)
49. 28 HongKong Street (Singapore)
50. Speak Low (Shanghai, China)
For the 51-100 list, see here.
Sourced by 50 Best (William Reed Business Media)