The World's 50 Best Bars: Under the numbers

Hamish Smith puts this year’s results under the microscope to analyse how the trends are shaping up.

The ‘world’ in The World’s 50 Best Bars list has long been the Awards’ strength – no other list has better uncovered standout venues from such a wide geographical spread. Yet there was always one inescapable fact: over the 13 lists The World’s Best Bar had always been between London or New York. Indeed, never had there been a bar from outside of these two cities in second place either.  
For a long time, that wasn’t controversial. London and New York had long been where talent gravitated – super-leagues, if you will, where the money rolled and bartending ambitions were sated. These competitive playing field propagated world-class bars and few argued that the awards winners from 2009-2021 – Milk & Honey London, PDT, Artesian, Dead Rabbit, American Bar at the Savoy, Dandelyan, Dante and Connaught Bar – weren’t the best around, regardless of where they called home.  
Well, the world has been catching up these past years. While these two hubs have strength and depth, scenes across the world have emerged with bars and bartending talent that can mix it with the best. And so to 2022 and a first for the list: Barcelona is now home to the 2022 World’s Best Bar, and that bar is Paradiso. It’s not alone in the top 10 either – from the same city is third-placed Sips and Two Schmucks in seventh.
Paradiso has been climbing the list ever since it debuted in 2018, and it was last year that it made the leap into the upper reaches of the list. From third to first was always an achievable step, particularly given its location in a growing cocktail scene frequented regularly by Academy judges. But it’s also true that few would have put it as the favourite against last year’s winner Connaught Bar and runner up Tayer + Elementary for the winner’s medal in 2022.  
What makes a world’s best bar?
If that’s the bird’s-eye view, what about down on the ground, the bars themselves. What does it take to be named world’s best bar? We can take it for granted that these bars have great service, sparkling décor and finely tuned marketing – Paradiso is no slouch here – but what about their approach to drinks? It’s arguable that six of the nine previous winners have foundations in a classical style, tying the knot between history and modernity. The three exceptions are Dandeylan, Artesian, the four-time winner from 2012-2015, and this year’s champion, Paradiso. Here, the currency is less rooted in tradition, and in the cases of Artesian and Paradiso, the presentation of cocktails became almost as important as the liquids themselves. Within this style, drinks tend to be framed around conversation pieces, that augment the drinking experience, and they often come with the grand unveiling of new, ever-wondrous menus. Paradiso’s win reminds us that the theatrical drinks trend has not entirely made way for ingredient-centric cocktails and aesthetically minimalist serves. The queues coming out of Paradiso on a nightly basis proves that liquid entertainment remains a sell.
From here the top 10 throws up more surprises. Having planted its flag at the summit for two years, Connaught Bar dropped down and much more steeply that anyone could have predicted – finishing in eighth. Why? With no big changes to offering and personnel at the bar, it’s hard to say, only that it’s slippery at the top – just one bar, Artesian, has managed more than two wins on the spin.
Monica Berg and Alex Kratena’s Tayer + Elementary, which leads on many of the modern trends (think minimalist serves, ingredient-led, sustainable/seasonal cocktails), meanwhile stayed in second. Nobody but the number-crunchers at 50 Best knows how close it was between the top two, but you sense it was a good fight between bars that offer opposing approaches to cocktails.  
Sips, in third, was always likely to climb the ladder, launched as it was in 2021, immediately making it into that year’s list. In the event, it rose 34 places – the highest of any bar this year. Founded by Simone Caporale and Mark Alvarez, this bar came with expectations –