Raise A Glass To The World’s Most Beautiful Bars
From Bangkok to Buenos Aires, a survey of the most drop-dead gorgeous watering holes around the globe.
We look forward to the annual ranking of The World’s 50 Best Bars much in the way some people do the Oscars, our tastes running more to the intoxicating than the theatrical. And while we eagerly parse the list for the wealth of insights and indicators of where the planet is headed, drinks-wise, it also inspires us to scour the globe for the kind of bars we ourselves like to frequent on our wide-ranging travels—i.e. those where the surroundings and interior design are as compelling as the cocktails.
In the end we found that while the ranking of the world’s best bars doesn’t always overlap with what we consider to be the world’s most beautiful ones, when it does happen it’s as sublime an act of synergy as gin meeting vermouth.
Such is the case with the latest winner, Paradiso in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood, now officially the best bar in the world, and, as it happens, one of the most gorgeous. One accesses the speakeasy style watering hole through a retro-style fridge door set inside an industrial-looking sandwich shop, thereby entering a whole otherworld.
“Sinuously shaped wood to recall the sea of Barcelona” and an homage to Gaudí; and “Carrara marble for the bar to recall [owner Giacomo Giannotti’s] Tuscan origins,” as the establishment notes; plus lush, tropical design elements just because the contrast is cool.
Game, set, and match—and that’s before you’ve even ordered a drink. “At the bar, myriad meticulously crafted cocktails served in outlandish vessels take center stage,” as The World’s 50 Best Bars puts it. “Paradiso signatures, such as the Supercool Martini, uses ‘supercooled’ gin to build an iceberg in the glass before tailoring the final product tableside for a uniquely personal guest experience.”
“It is an honor to name Paradiso as The World’s Best Bar and the win is credit to their outlandishly inventive cocktail program, sustainable ethos, work in the global bar community and brilliant sense of fun,” says Mark Sansom, Content Director of The World’s 50 Best Bars. This marks the first time in the list’s history that Barcelona has claimed the top spot, and “breaks new ground for this accolade being won by a bar outside New York or London,” as the organization puts it.
Among the other highlights from the list, assembled annually by an Oscars-style Academy of more than 650 drinks experts, renowned bartenders, consultants, drinks writers and cocktail specialists, worth noting: 26 cities are represented in all, including 14 new entries spread across Athens, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Dubai, Florence, Hong Kong, Lisbon, London, Naples and New York; with Florence, Lisbon and Naples all making the cut for the first time.
Meanwhile London has regained its position as the cocktail capital of Europe with a total of five bars on the list, including the previous year’s winner, Connaught Bar at the iconic luxury London luxury hotel, and also our pick for one of the most beautiful bars in the world.
Italy has four bars on the list across four different cities, including new entries Locale Firenze in Florence (No.39) and L’Antiquario in Naples (No.46), another personal favorite; ditto Lisbon’s luscious Little Red Frog (No.40). And no surprise here, New York leads the world and reclaims the North American crown with six bars in the 50 Best, more than any other city in the world, including two in the top ten.
Elsewhere, Licorería Limantour “continues to spearhead the meteoric rise of Mexico City’s emerging cocktail scene” at No.4, claiming the title of The Best Bar in North America. The Best Bar in South America at No.10 is Cartagena’s Alquímico, while Buenos Aires has three entries. Singapore takes the top spot in its region with Jigger & Pony (No.12) named The Best Bar on Asia, while Bangkok and Hong Kong also each have two bars in the list.
And New Delhi’s Sidecar, which last year was the first Indian entry since 2010, rose an impressive 21 places to No.26, while the beloved Bar Benfiddich in Tokyo clocks in at No.48. Dubai meanwhile has three bars on the list, including Zuma at No.38, from the global restaurant group that is giving Nobu a run for its money, named the Best Bar in the Middle East and Africa for the third year in a row.
Some of our favorites in our own design division: London’s incredible Artesian at The Langham, London, perhaps the world’s most beautiful hotel bar; the pocket-sized but unforgettable The Fumoir at the iconic Claridge’s Hotel in London; the beyond elegant The NoMad Library in Las Vegas which contains the late David Rockefeller’s book collection; Manhattan in Singapore, No.9 on the Best Bars in Asia list, is a tour de force of sophistication; the magnificent Múzsa bar at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest.
Then there’s the enchanting cliffside Champagne Terrace at El Farallon, the eye-popping restaurant seemingly carved from living rock at the impeccable Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in Mexico. The incredible resort is the jewel of Cabo San Lucas, and El Farallon is one of the most stunning restaurants anywhere in the world; you must of course start dinner there with a drink at the Champagne Terrace. This is otherworldly cocktailing at its best.
A few others we want to call out: Cold Drinks at China Live in San Francisco; the bar at BlueBlood in Toronto, one of the world’s most beautiful restaurants; the opulent Manhattan Bar at the incredible Conrad Singapore Orchard hotel; Montreal’s enchanting Bar Raval; the iconic Hemingway Bar at The Ritz in Paris; The magnificent Múzsa Bar at the Four Seasons, Budapest; and Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London.
As it happens, they all serve concoctions as alluring as their interiors, and all deserve places on some future edition of The World’s 50 Best Bars in our book. And in fact, the 50 Best organization has just announced a brand new accolade that salutes the very best in bar design, with the winner set to be crowned this October in Singapore.
When they finally elect us to the Academy, you’ll be the first to know.
This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2023 issue of Maxim magazine.