Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019: An Analysis

Winners of Best Bars in Asia | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

A little, a little, a tipple. The recent Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 has shaken up more than drinks with a new winner and some surprising changes in its rankings. The awards ceremony was held at the Capitol Theatre in Singapore for the second year, celebrating cocktails, concepts and creativity. With all the commotion that was happening, we analyse some of our findings to see what’s changed.

Capitol Theatre Singapore | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

The list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019 has included 9 countries, with 12 new entries. These are the placings this year, with the new number 1 spot taken by The Old Man in Hong Kong, 2018’s runner up. In addition to the best 50 bars, special awards were also given to Pussyfoot Saloon in South Korea as One To Watch (sponsored by Campari) and Shingo Gokan took home the Bartenders’ Bartender Award (sponsored by Altos), an award voted by their peers.

Mark Sansom Content Editor | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

“The list this year is extremely strong. We’ve got some fantastic new entries from a great range of countries and the established bars continue to push the envelope in every aspect of their service and drinks.” — Mark Sansom, Content Editor of Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019

  1. The Old Man, Hong Kong, China
  2. Manhattan, Singapore, Singapore
  3. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei, Taiwan
  4. Native, Singapore, Singapore
  5. Atlas, Singapore, Singapore
  6. High Five, Tokyo, Japan
  7. Speak Low, Shanghai, China
  8. The Bamboo Bar At Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand
  9. Jigger & Pony, Singapore, Singapore
  10. Quinary, Hong Kong, China
  11. Tippling Club, Singapore, Singapore
  12. COA, Hong Kong, China
  13. The SG Club, Tokyo, Japan
  14. Charles H, Seoul, South Korea
  15. Gibson, Singapore, Singapore
  16. Sober Company, Shanghai, China
  17. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo, Japan
  18. The Wise King, Hong Kong, China
  19. Le Chamber, Seoul, South Korea
  20. Backstage Cocktail Bar, Bangkok, Thailand
  21. 28 HongKong Street, Singapore, Singapore
  22. Operation Dagger, Singapore, Singapore
  23. Bar Trench, Tokyo, Japan
  24. Aha Saloon, Taipei, Taiwan
  25. D.Bespoke, Singapore, Singapore
  26. Vesper, Bangkok, Thailand
  27. Coley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  28. Bar Orchard Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
  29. Alice Cheongdam, Seoul, South Korea
  30. Union Trading Company, Shanghai, China
  31. Tropic City, Bangkok, Thailand
  32. The Pontiac, Hong Kong, China
  33. Lobster Bar & Grill, Hong Kong, China
  34. Rabbit Hole, Bangkok, Thailand
  35. Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou, China
  36. Stockton, Hong Kong, China
  37. The Curator, Manila, Philippines
  38. 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, China
  39. Union Brasserie, Bakery & Bar, Jakarta, Indonesia
  40. Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  41. Employees Only, Singapore, Singapore
  42. Smalls, Bangkok, Thailand
  43. Bar Mood, Taipei, Taiwan
  44. Junglebird, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  45. Draft Land, Taipei, Taiwan
  46. The Other Room, Singapore, Singapore
  47. Oto, Manila, Philippines
  48. Teens Of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
  49. Mixology Salon, Tokyo, Japan
  50. The Back Room, Manila, Philippines

The Old Man Hong Kong | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

Best Bars in China: Waking The Sleeping Dragon

China has 12 bars on the list, the most of any single country, with 9 bars situated in Hong Kong and 4 in China. The Best Bar in Asia goes to The Old Man, which incidentally makes them the Best Bar in China (sponsored by Perrier). China’s economy is concentrated in Hong Kong and Shanghai, so it makes sense these cities support most of China’s list, with Hope & Sesame making a surprising entry in the city of Guangzhou. Perhaps we will see a few bars from Beijing next year? COA makes its interesting debut as the Highest New Entry Award (sponsored by Seedlip), placing at No. 12 on the list.

“First of all, I have never ever dream on becoming number 1 in Asia and we are so honoured and fortunate to be crowned and without the industry people around the world who always shown is support and never-ending love we wouldn’t be in this position.” — Agung Prabowo, Co-Founder of The Old Man.

Manhattan Singapore | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

Best Bars in Singapore: Not So Tiny Red Dot

Singapore on the other hand, the smallest country on the list, has 11 bars listed, making them the second highest contributor, but all things considered, they have the economy to match the demand for high bar traffic. Manhattan, which was best bar in Asia last year dropped a spot to number 2, but has been awarded Legend of the List (sponsored by Michter’s) and Best Bar in Singapore (sponsored by Michter’s) for its consistent placing in the top spot for years. Jigger & Pony makes the Highest Climber Award (sponsored by Mr. Black) leaping up by 33 spots placing at No. 9.

“It’s a great honour to receive such prestigious recognition. Being named as the best bar in Singapore where highly competitive and world class bars are situated, the team cannot be more proud and grateful.” — Gabriel Carlos, Assistant Bar Manager of Manhattan.

Bamboo Bar | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

Best Bars in Thailand: A Little Hospitality Goes A Long Way

Thailand makes the list with 7 bars, with Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental taking No. 8 on the list as well as Best Bar in Thailand (sponsored by Four Pillars). Thailand has a burgeoning cocktail culture that is growing year on year, making them one of the best spots not only for food, but drinks too, which is vastly contributed by it being a frequent holiday destination.

“It’s a great feeling. Not only for the Bamboo Bar but also for Thailand to be able to crack the top 10 for the second year in a row. We focus on improving the bar year on year so it’s fantastic to be recognised for it.” — James Rhind, Beverage Manager of Bamboo Bar Mandarin Oriental.

Best Bars in Japan: The Honing Of A Craft

Japan has a long-established culture of whiskey appreciation, and a very dynamic and professional style when it comes to everything they do. With 6 bars making the list, with High Five being placing at No. 6 also placing as Best Bar in Japan (sponsored by Nikka Whisky).

Indulge Experimental Bistro | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

Best Bars in Taiwan: Up And Coming

Taiwan on the other hand, has 4 bars on the list, with Indulge Experiment Bistro taking No. 3 on the list and Best Bar in Taiwan (sponsored by The London Essence Company). Taiwan is definitely making its impact, and is cited by many in the industry as the country to watch.

Indulge is not like a new bar – we have been open for 10 years this year. The whole team is always working hard on what they believe in. This is the third time we have receive The Best Bar in Taiwan award and we are very grateful. We feel very appreciated by receiving the award. It’s definitely one of the biggest achievements in our careers, and it motivates us to also work as well as we can.” — Aki Wang, Owner of Indulge Experiment Bistro.

Coley Cocktail Bar | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

Best Bars in Malaysia: Malaysia Truly Asia

Malaysia, maybe not the first country you think of when it comes to cocktail culture has 3 bars placing in the list. Coley Cocktail Bar takes No. 27 and is also Best Bar in Malaysia (sponsored by Peroni), with its unique localised cocktails catering to the Malaysian palate, with Bar Trigona taking the Sustainable Bar Award (sponsored by Ketel One). JungleBird, rum bar in Damansara named after the infamous Malaysian cocktail also appears on the list.

“We are lucky enough to have a team that agrees with what I’m doing and are willing to stay with me. So many people contributed to this award, the customers, the mentors and people that we work with from friends and family and fellow bartenders and almost everyone I met in throughout the journey.” — Kho Chee Kheong, Co-Founder of Coley Cocktail Bar.

Bar Trigona | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

I am very proud of our hard work and initiative to help local farmers and showcase local produced ingredients. In a very short period, with the help of Malaysian bar community, we have able to achieve this milestone.” — Ashish Anand, Beverage Manager of Bar Trigona.

Junglebird | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2019 | Food For Thought

“We are all immensely proud to be featured on Asia’s 50 Best Bars two years in a row. Our goal was always to help show that Malaysia has a great bar scene with real talent. With Coley, Trigona and JungleBird all featuring in the list, we feel we have all in some way cemented that. This award only makes us work harder to be better.” — Joshua Ivanovich, Lolita Goh and Divyesh Chauhan, Owners of JungleBird.

Best Bars in Korea: Soju Know Where To Go

Rising seven places to No.14, Charles H is the Best Bar in Korea (sponsored by Cointreau). With a complex number of ingredients that Korea produces, it’s interesting to see drinks incorporating local alcohol, from soju to makgeolli, and something we hope to see more of moving forward.

Best Bars in Philippines: Pinoy Pride

Philippines has 3 bars in the list with The Curator placing at No. 37 and The Best Bar in the Philippines. Manila also contributes two new additions: Oto (No.47) and The Back Room (No.50).

Best Bar in Indonesia: Making the Minum-mum

Indonesia has 1 bar listed, namely Union Brasserie, Bakery & Bar is The Best Bar in Indonesia. We suspect that there are also good bars in Bali so we’re waiting to see some traction with that.

Asia’s 50 Best Bars: Diversity in the Asian Drinking Scene

This year sees quite a few new bars appearing on the list, with many from South East Asia. We believe that Asia has so much more to offer and can’t wait to see even more diversity from countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.

We are happy with the way that the list is growing. We’ve seen a lot of new entries this year, in particular from the Philippines and Thailand. It’s a dynamic list that continues to evolve as bars drop off and new bars come in providing inspiration for people coming to Asia looking for quality drinks and excellent service. We continue to champion diversity. At this year’s #50BestTalks: Female Spirit we brought together four of the region’s top female bartenders for our first all-female panel, chaired by our Asia Academy Chair, Vivian Pei. We were really pleased with the level of discussion this raised and the feedback we received afterwards.” — Mark Sansom, Content Editor of Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

So there you have it, the best bars in Asia for 2019. We can’t wait to see what happens in 2020. Keep peered for our interviews with some of the winners on what advice they have for people seeking to enter the scene, as well as what it takes to make a successful bar.

For our thoughts on The World’s 50 Best Bars, see The World’s 50 Best Bars 2019.
For our thoughts on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, see The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019.
For all 50 Best related content, see 50 Best.

| PHOTOGRAPHY: WORLD’S 50 BEST | WEBSITE:: ASIA’S 50 BEST BARS |

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.

10 Comments

  1. I love the Old Man! Been there so many times! The waiting queue now is so bad though. 🙁

  2. I love how you mention Vietnam. Quite a few good bars there but not on the list. Maybe next year?

  3. High five for the Bar High Five. It is a serious bar in Japan and I am glad that it make it to the list.

  4. Very many good bar in Shanghai at the moment. Union Trading is on the list! Congrats to them!

  5. What a wonderful list. I’ve been to only 7 on the list. Most of the best ones I’ve been to are in Hong Kong. Pontiac!

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