Brands Report: All-Time Leagues

It’s those brands that endure for the long haul that make it into the top tables each year. Hamish Smith tallies up this year’s winners and losers

The all-time leagues are where we sort the bar-world fads from the fixtures. Over the nine years we’ve been polling the world’s best bars to find out which brands they buy, we’ve seen many come and go. It becomes important then, that we take stock and recognise those that have consistently performed at the top table – brands that are built to last.

For our All-time tables we assigned 10 points for a first place finish in a single year, counting down to one point for finishing 10th. Rankings are therefore based on aggregates of a brand’s points accrued over the years of polling.


This is a cross-spirit question – simply what is the bartender’s favourite spirit? You might expect a wide range of answers, and you’d be right, but top of the pile more often than not is Tanqueray. Out of the thousands of brands on the market, the world’s best bartenders have said Tanqueray is their favourite five times out of six years. Now that’s love.

In second, Havana Club remains, though mainly because bartenders polled in the early days were much more smitten by the brand – it hasn’t featured among the top 10 for Bartenders’ Choice for three years. Jumping ahead of Bacardí, we have a new brand in third spot – Del Maguey. The mezcal brand grew in popularity under founder Ron Cooper and, with Pernod Ricard’s might behind it now, we should see it reach its potential. Whether mainstream popularity will also see it fall down the love charts among the elite is anyone’s guess – for now, it’s on the podium in our Bartenders’ Choice All-time league.


The vodka All-time tables have been updated but the story is the same. Absolut’s consistency sees it maintain its place at the top, in spite of Ketel One’s flawless six-year record – it will be a long time before it can make up for its fallow years of 2011-2012. Grey Goose also remains ahead of the Diageo/Nolet-owned vodka, pitching in with high-ranking points through the nine-year life of this poll of the world’s best bars.


It’s the same top three in gin as the big bar brands of the category continue to dominate. Tanqueray and Beefeater were neck and neck last year, but the Diageo brand has stolen a march this year. Hendrick’s, which is in fourth among the All-time gins, was the second most voted-for in the gin league this year, thus putting distance between Tanqueray and Beefeater. In a comfortable third is Bombay Sapphire, which has a solid points base after top spots in 2010-2011.


Few brands in the All-time lists have perfect records, but Johnnie Walker is one. At this point its lead seems unassailable. Chivas Regal in second has seen its scotch league positions drop in recent years, but it is not in much danger of being leapfrogged by The Macallan, which lies some way back in third. Though that’s an achievement in itself – the malt has become a must-have member of the inventory at the world’s best bars, ahead of big brand blends.