Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021: 101 Bars Make Their Mark

Coa Team | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

As the world is trying to find some semblance of normalcy, we take this time to celebrate Asia’s 50 Best Bars, and although the global situation is a difficult one, the bar industry has once again come together to commemorate the hard work of the many, including the release of a 51-100 ranking. This year’s exciting list sees many new bars placing, with a broader list than ever before. We also speak to some of the winners and take a look at the comparative list of 2021 vs 2020.

Coa | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“It’s a very interesting list this year. On the 51-100 ranking, we see bars from Vietnam and Sri Lanka – two countries that have never features on a 50 Best list before. We hope that the awards event and the inaugural 51-100 list announcements will also act as a show of strength and much-needed optimism for the bar community and give people making travel plans double the choice of expert-approved fine drinking destinations as the continent begins to open up in the coming months. Through our 50 Best for Recovery 2021: Opportunity for Change programme, the overriding motive is to throw a floodlight on more brilliant hospitality venues and people influencing positive change than ever before. We are extending the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list to celebrate those ranked between 51st and 100th, as well as adding 600 new venues to our 50 Best Discovery platform. We have also just released the inaugural 50 Next list, which is an unranked list of young people shaping the future of food and drink. We will also continue to support all those bars we worked with throughout the pandemic, including those 108 bars which received cash grants from the Recovery Fund in 2020.” — Mark Sansom, Content Editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021

  1. COA, Hong Kong, China (No. 3 in 2020)
  2. Jigger & Pony, Singapore (No. 1 in 2020)
  3. The SG Club, Tokyo, Japan (No. 9 in 2020)
  4. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei, Taiwan (No. 4 in 2020)
  5. Sober Company, Shanghai, China (No. 12 in 2020)
  6. Manhattan, Singapore (No. 8 in 2020)
  7. Atlas, Singapore (No. 5 in 2020)
  8. No Sleep Club, Singapore
  9. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo, Japan (No. 15 in 2020)
  10. Caprice, Hong Kong, China (No. 34 in 2020)
  11. The Bamboo Bar, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 7 in 2020)
  12. Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (No. 14 in 2020)
  13. Charles H, Seoul, South Korea (No. 29 in 2020)
  14. Native, Singapore (No. 6 in 2020)
  15. Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou, China (No. 36 in 2020)
  16. Sidecar, New Delhi, India (No. 40 in 2020)
  17. Bar Mood, Taipei, Taiwan (No. 13 in 2020)
  18. Bee’s Knees, Kyoto, Japan (No. 21 in 2020)
  19. Room By Le Kief, Taipei, Taiwan (No. 27 in 2020)
  20. The Diplomat, Hong Kong, China
  21. 28 HongKong Street, Singapore (No. 30 in 2020)
  22. Tropic City, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 24 in 2020)
  23. Tell Camellia, Hong Kong, China
  24. AHA Saloon, Taipei, Taiwan (No. 10 in 2020)
  25. Quinary, Hong Kong, China (No. 16 in 2020)
  26. The Pontiac, Hong Kong, China (No. 35 in 2020)
  27. High Five, Tokyo, Japan (No. 20 in 2020)
  28. The Wise King, Hong Kong, China (No. 18 in 2020)
  29. Barbary Coast, Singapore
  30. Penicillin, Hong Kong, China
  31. Union Trading Co, Shanghai, China
  32. Speak Low, Shanghai, China
  33. Union Brasserie, Bakery and Bar, Jakarta, Indonesia (No. 43 in 2020)
  34. Bar Cham, Seoul, South Korea (No. 50 in 2020)
  35. Backstage Cocktail Bar, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 33 in 2020)
  36. Tippling Club, Singapore (No. 17 in 2020)
  37. JungleBird, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (No. 37 in 2020)
  38. The Curator, Manila, Philippines (No. 42 in 2020)
  39. D. Bespoke, Singapore (No. 23 in 2020)
  40. Darkside, Hong Kong, China
  41. Alice Cheongdam, Seoul, South Korea (No. 47 in 2020)
  42. The Old Man, Singapore (No. 22 in 2020)
  43. Bar Trench, Tokyo, Japan (No. 39 in 2020)
  44. Le Chamber, Seoul, South Korea (No. 49 in 2020)
  45. MO Bar, Singapore (No. 46 in 2020)
  46. Vesper, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 11 in 2020)
  47. Three X Co, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  48. Teens of Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand
  49. Sago House, Singapore
  50. Star Bar, Tokyo, Japan
  51. The Back Room, Manila, Philippines (No. 45 in 2020)
  52. Asia Today, Bangkok, Thailand
  53. Thaipioka, Bangkok, Thailand
  54. The Old Man, Hong Kong, China (No. 2 in 2020)
  55. Draft Land, Taipei, Taiwan (No. 26 in 2020)
  56. Ishinohana, Tokyo, Japan
  57. Bar Landscape, Tokyo, Japan
  58. Coley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (No. 48 in 2020)
  59. Hoots’, New Delhi, India
  60. Mixology Heritage, Tokyo, Japan
  61. Oto, Manila, Philippines
  62. Lamp Bar, Nara, Japan
  63. Pussyfoot Saloon,Seoul, South Korea
  64. Epic, Shanghai, China
  65. 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong, China (No. 28 in 2020)
  66. Gibson, Singapore (No. 25 in 2020)
  67. Rabbit Hole, Bangkok, Thailand (No. 31 in 2020)
  68. The Shady Acres, Hong Kong, China
  69. The Bellwood, Tokyo, Japan
  70. Employees Only, Singapore
  71. Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall, Singapore
  72. Bar Orchard Ginza, Tokyo, Japan (No. 41 in 2020)
  73. Botanik Rooftop Bistro & Bar, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  74. Wishbone, Semarang, Indonesia
  75. Live Twice, Singapore
  76. Ne Cocktail Bar, Hanoi, Vietnam
  77. Summer Experiment, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  78. Pahit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  79. The Other Room, Singapore
  80. Bar Rocking Chair, Kyoto, Japan
  81. 008 Bar, Bangkok, Thailand
  82. Junior The Pocket Bar, Singapore
  83. A/A Bar, Jakarta, Indonesia
  84. Liquid Factory, Tokyo, Japan
  85. Sugar Ray You’ve Just Been Poisoned, Bangkok, Thailand
  86. Mixology Bar, Seoul, South Korea
  87. Mixology Salon, Tokyo, Japan
  88. Tender, Tokyo, Japan
  89. Soko, Tokyo, Japan
  90. Mü, Taipei, Taiwan
  91. Smoke & Bitters, Hiriketya, Sri Lanka
  92. Southside Parlor, Tokyo, Japan
  93. Smalls, Bangkok, Thailand
  94. Ark Lounge, Aomori, Japan / with Bar D, Kanagawa, Japan (tied)
  95. (none)
  96. Hybrid, Nha Trang, Vietnam
  97. Pine & Co, Seoul, South Korea
  98. Memento Mori, Tokyo, Japan
  99. Gen Yamamoto, Tokyo, Japan
  100. Goa Nights, Macau, China / Buccaneers Rum & Cocktails, Manila, Philippines (tied)

And The Winners Are…

Best Bar in Asia: COA, Hong Kong, China
Best Bar in China: COA, Hong Kong, China
Best Bar in India: Sidecar, New Delhi, India
Best Bar in Indonesia: Union Brasserie, Bakery & Bar, Jakarta, Indonesia
Best Bar in Japan: SG Club, Tokyo, Japan
Best Bar in Malaysia: Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Best Bar in Philippines: The Curator, Manila
Best Bar in Singapore: Jigger & Pony, Singapore
Best Bar in South Korea: Charles H, Seoul, South Korea
Best Bar in Taiwan: Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei, Taiwan
Best Bar in Thailand: The Bamboo Bar, Bangkok, Thailand

China has 13 bars in top 50, 5 bars in top 100
India has 1 bars in top 50, 1 bars in top 100
Indonesia has 1 bars in top 50, 2 bars in top 100
Japan has 6 bars in top 50, 16 bars in top 100
Malaysia has 3 bars in top 50, 2 bars in top 100
Philippines has 1 bars in top 50, 2 bars in top 100
Singapore has 12 bars in top 50, 6 bars in top 100
South Korea has 4 bars in top 50, 3 bars in top 100
Sri Lanka has 2 bars in top 100
Taiwan
has 4 bars in top 50, 2 bars in top 100
Thailand has 5 bars in top 50, 6 bars in top 100
Vietnam had 3 bars in top 100

Ketel One Sustainable Award: Penicillin, Hong Kong, China
Michter’s Art Of Hospitality Award: MO Bar, Singapore
Mancino Bartenders’ Bartender Award: Bannie Kang of Mü, Taipei, Taiwan
Campari One To Watch Award: Epic, Shanghai, China
Heering’s Legend Of The List Award: Quinary, Hong Kong, China
London Essence Best New Opening Award: The Diplomat, Hong Kong, China
Disaronno Highest New Entry Award: No Sleep Club
Nikka Highest Climber Award: Caprice Bar, Hong Kong, China and Sidecar, New Delhi, India
Roku Industry Icon Award: Shingo Gokan of The Odd Couple, Speak Low and Sober Company, Shanghai, China, and The SG Club, Tokyo, Japan

A COA-lition Of Mezcal Drinkers

For the first time a mezcal forward bar takes the winning spot, led by Hong Kong native Jay Khan. The bar who takes its name from the tool used to harvest agave which focuses on educating patrons on the magical succulent wins the much-coveted number 1 spot, with a menu inspired by the Mexican native spirit.

“To be able to receive this amazing accolade, we are beyond grateful! Our mission since day one is to reintroduce these beautiful terroir driven spirits to as many guests as possible. With this award, hopefully we can reach even further out and continue spreading our love for traditional Mezcal and 100% agave tequila either be it in cocktails or straight from the bottle.” — Jay Khan, COA, Hong Kong, China.

Malaysia Boleh!

This year sees 5 Malaysian bars making the list, with 3 bars making the top 50 and 2 bars making the top 100, namely sustainable-centric Bar Trigona (No. 12), rum rummers Junglebird (No. 37) and much deserved first-time entry oriental themed Three X Co. (No. 47), as well as local legends Coley Cocktail Bar (No. 58) and new entry Pahit (No. 78).

“It’s been great to see so many fantastic bars from Malaysia enter the 2021 list. The progress from Bar Trigona keeps on growing and Ashish Sharma and his team are leading the way in terms of their sustainability principles and how their drinks interact with their locale. Three X Co. is a bar I’ve been hearing a lot about in recent years, so it was great to see it break into the list for the first time. Pahit is a true star in the making, so it will be great to see its progress in the coming years.” — Mark Sansom, Content Editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

No. 12 | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“Slowly but surely we are moving forward and more Malaysian bars are joining the list”. — Ashish Sharma, Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

No. 37 | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“We’re very happy to have made it back on to A50BB again this year. It’s been such a strange year we really had no expectations. We’re stoked to stay at #37 for the 2nd year running being surrounded by so many incredible bars. There were some great new entries this year as well, including Three X Co. that we are absolutely thrilled for. I personally have always been quite surprised they hadn’t been included in previous years. Huge achievement from Bar Trigona as well for pushing a couple steps closer to the top 10.” — Joshua Ivanovic, Junglebird, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

No. 47 | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“We are very thrilled and humbled. It’s especially meaningful that we receive this award during this difficult time.” — Angeline Tan, Three X Co., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

For our interview with Three X Co., see Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021: Three X Co. Enters The Top 50 For The First Time.

“Credit to the team who work tirelessly to sustain the biz during this difficult time. Is good for 50 best to extend the list from 51 to 100 for more bar to be part of it. Hopefully that help to raise the standard hospitality and encourage more creativity for the local cocktail scene.” — CK Kho, Coley’s Cocktail Bar and Pahit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

51-100: Greater Asian Diversity

This year not only sees quite a drastic change up in the top 50, but with the introduction of the 51-100 list we also saw a greater inclusion of new bars that are known locally, but not as much internationally, including 3 bars from Vietnam and 2 from Sri Lanka. With the expansion of this list, we also see Japan dominating the top 100 list with a whopping 16 bars, saying very much to their approach and perfectionism. This year also sees 4 bars tied, Ark Lounge in Aomori with D Bar in Kanagawa, Japan, tied in at No. 94; and Goa Nights in Macau with Buccaneers Rum & Cocktails in Manila, Philippines both coming in at No. 100.

“2020 has been an incredibly tough year on the industry but it has been heartening to see how resourceful and creative people have been and also how supportive. When we started the SCBA, the response was so positive. While a few people may have wondered why we went ahead with these awards, I think it was important during this time to acknowledge past efforts and also to provide some motivation for those who have been struggling. With many bars who have spent a good part of the year in lockdown, this will hopefully give them the strength to continue fighting. I was particularly happy to see some of the newer and/or smaller independent venues do so well. It just shows that passion and perseverance do pay off️. Congrats to all on the list and here’s hoping to better times ahead!” — Vivian Pei, Senior Academy Chair for China and Korea; North Asia; Southeast Asia – South; and Southeast Asia – North.

“I’m unbelievably proud that COA has taken the top spot – no one deserves it more than Jay Khan and team. I would say the next dose of awesomeness for me is that No Sleep Club debuted in the top 10 – a fantastic achievement for an incredible bar. Also great to see Hong Kong cleaning up with the special awards, bagging a grand total of 5. Moving forward in my region, I hope to see more bars from Taipei clock in, and hope Macau makes a comeback. In terms of the list overall, I can’t wait to see more from India, and I predict Vietnam will debut on the top 50 list too – about time!” — Holly Graham, Academy Chair for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

BEST BAR INDIA | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“I personally thought it was great to see some brand-new entries on the list – I feel like one of the biggest positives to come out of the travel restrictions has been giving locals bars that opportunity to get in there. Always good to see bars from outside of the heavy hitting countries steadily climb up that list.” — Priyanka Blah, Academy Chair for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.

BEST BAR JAPAN | Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 | Food For Thought

“I thought it was a superb list and very interesting. Since people weren’t traveling last year, the votes were much more local than usual and we got some names in the top 100 that people in Japan know and love but people outside probably haven’t heard of. And likewise there were bars outside Japan I hadn’t heard of, so I can’t wait to get traveling again. The top 100 was a great development. I hope they make that permanent.” — Nick Coldicott, Academy Chair for Japan.

Changing Seats At The Bar

Although the world is facing its worst ever pandemic, there has been a silver lining. The list this year is voted on with slightly different rules to cope with changes, where voters only vote for 5 bars, 4 within their home country and 1 outside. This change is mainly due to the fact that most voters would not have the opportunity to travel as much as before, but what this has done is allow for more visibility of local bars, hence widening the pool. We can’t wait to see more bars on the list, especially from countries that have been in waiting for a long time such as Myanmar and Cambodia, hopefully soon.

We are closely monitoring the easing of travel restrictions internationally and our voting structures will reflect panellists’ ability to move between countries. For this round of voting in Asia, for example, the number of international votes required from a panellist was reduced to a minimum of one vote, with four votes available for their home territory to reflect the localised situation we have today. At the heart of 50 Best’s ideology is to encourage consumers to enjoy the very best bar experiences. In a post-pandemic world, we will still look to show bar-goers the best experiences on the international stage, whether they are only able to make one trip per year or a dozen.” — Mark Sansom, Content Editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

For our thoughts on Asia’s 50 Best Bars, see Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020.
For our thoughts on The World’s 50 Best Bars, see The World’s 50 Best Bars 2020.
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 and drinks writer and is the editor of independent publication Food For Thought. He has been a freelance journalist for the 15 years and has previously worked as a lawyer and in digital marketing. He currently is the Principal Consultant of A Thought Full Consultancy, a food and beverage marketing consultancy.

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