Brands Report: Top Ten Spirits

What are the best selling spirits in the world's best bars? Drinks International has polled more than 100 of the world's top bars to find the answers.


IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE how the choice of spirits in bars differs from global consumption. The Brands Report has gin as the number one spirit at the high-end bar – back on planet Earth it is outsold by whisky, vodka, brandy, rum and cachaça.

Regardless, in the world’s best bars, gin is king, with 48% of those surveyed pouring it as their number one spirit. What’s more, 75% of bars say gin is one of the top-two spirits sold. It is so far ahead of the competition, talk of gin saturation seems premature at best. One thing that is unlikely to change dramatically is that many of the classics of cocktail culture are gin drinks: 14 of 50 this year. Once remembered, they won’t be easily forgotten.

American whiskey is another spirit to have caught the imagination – and this year it overtakes rum to finish second. 15% of our polled bars said it was the number one spirit served and it’s no wonder – this is also a spirit that exploded in tandem with the cocktail revival. Seven of the top 50 cocktails this year require American whiskey, including two of the top three – the Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour. Outside of cocktails, unlike many white spirits, American whiskey is a sipper too. The craft boom in the US, allied to the more traditional brands’ innovation, gives you a category in fine health. American whiskey has the full package for bartenders.

Rum makes up the
top three of most-used spirits in our sample of
the world’s best bars, with 10% of respondents saying it was the spirit they rely on most. Seven of the 50 top classics demand it, including two of the top 10: Daiquiri and Mojito. With a wide range of styles and purposes, rum has the versatility to suit many occasions, from the light cocktail to the dark over-rocks serve. Almost a third said rum was a top two-selling spirit.

Vodka is still the biggest globally distributed spirit, and is in recovery in
the cocktail bar. It’s the ultimate mixing spirit, especially if you want the other ingredients to do the talking. Almost every bar has a vodka drink on the menu and, with the re-emergence of modern classics such as the Espresso Martini, vodka is starting to look cool again. In total, 9% of bars said it was their top seller.

Outside of the US, tequila has never quite found mainstream traction on any scale, but bartenders tend to be big fans, and so it shows in the Brands Report. 6% made it their top serve, but really tequila is part of the orchestra rather than a solo singer – almost a third of bars said it was among their top three spirits.

Scotch needs to look at itself. For a large category of unquestionable quality, it performs badly each year in our sample of the world’s best bars. It’s true that scotch can’t call upon many classic cocktails
for favours – Rob Roy, Penicillin and Blood & Sand are the only three in top 50 this year – so it needs to do more to make sure it joins the cocktail party. Just under a half of respondents said scotch was a top-five spirit in their bar but only one bar said it was their best-selling.

Elsewhere, our poll found that the much- loved mezcal continues
to outperform brandy (including cognac) and, as last year, the fashionable Japanese whisky and forever underdog pisco make up the top 10 at the expense of Irish whiskey, cachaça and absinthe. 

Find more on the Brands Report methodology here.