“This is the perfect award for Mexico”: Hanky Panky’s Walter Meyenberg on winning the 2022 Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award

31 August, 2022

Mexico City’s Hanky Panky has been named as the winner of the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award as part of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022.

The award, which debuted in 2019, is voted for by The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy, who are asked to name the bar where they received the best hospitality experience during the voting period.

Drinks International sat down with Hanky Panky’s founder, Walter Meyenburg to talk Mexico, the pandemic and how caring is in his blood.

“Mexicans have hospitality in their hearts. The way we treat people and the way we make everyone feel special. If you have hospitality naturally in your soul, and you mix it with a high-quality product and a great city the result in the bar is amazing.”

Hanky Panky opened seven years ago and in a relatively brief time, the Mexico City speakeasy has become a fixture of the international cocktail scene.

The bar burst onto the 50 Best list year placing at number 12 and collecting the Highest New Entry Award in the process.

“The team is so crucial to what we do, we are like a big family. Ismael [Martínez] and Gina [Barbachano] have been here almost since we first opened, and the other guys have all been there for a few years now. Even the newest member of the team who just joined Hanky Panky has been working with me or within my group for four years.

“It’s easier when you have known each other for a long time. We know what each other likes and doesn’t like and we know how to communicate. So, in the beginning, it might have been difficult for everyone to understand the concept that I was trying to deliver but now it’s super easy.”

From the beginning of the pandemic, Mexico took a radically different approach to restrictions. Borders remained open, flights continued, and Hanky Panky opened its doors to the international cocktail community.

“Mexico didn’t have the kind of restrictions that other countries had. We had the opportunity to receive everyone and that built solid relationships between bar teams from around the world.

“We guested everyone we could because we wanted to guest everyone, it wasn’t about the list, it was about supporting my friends around the world whose bars were closed and they were getting bored and depressed. Now, when we travel to all of the bars around the world, it’s like visiting family.

“It’s strange to say but the pandemic actually helped us a lot because we were in the spotlight. Our city was the only place fully open and receiving guests, so it was a great opportunity for us to showcase what we do.”

But Walter and his team have earned the Art of Hospitality recognition for more than simply providing the world’s locked-down bars a subterranean corner of Mexico City to play open during the pandemic, stop by Hanky Panky for even a quick snifter and it’s clear that great service comes naturally.

“Hospitality and sharing have been part of my life since I was born. My grandmother is from Lebanon and dinner would be mezze tables with everyone sharing and enjoying each other’s company. Even in the industry, they call me Lebanese Mama because I’m always the person sharing dishes, serving, and making sure everyone is ok. I say hello to everyone, I kiss them on the cheek and everyone around the world always jokes that I’m their mama!

“With the bar, it comes naturally because now you’re in my place. It’s like coming to my home, I want to take care of every detail and make people feel special. That’s our main asset and our main philosophy, take make you feel special and most importantly, make you feel human. Sometimes we forget to be human but for me, the mecca of hospitality is the humanity.

“Being recognised for our work and passion is one of the most amazing rewards imaginable. This award is more special to me than our number on the [50 Best] list because this is full recognition of what we do.

“This is the perfect award for Mexico. I don’t feel that this award is for me, it’s for my community, my country, our philosophy, our roots, our passion. It’s great for the bar because it puts us under the spotlight and means more people will visit us but it’s more important to think about it as a great opportunity to showcase our country.

“It’s crazy to think that we’re the first bar in Latin America to win this award but I don’t like to think about that, I’d prefer to be recognised as the Lebanese Mama.”

The Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award is the first of two special awards announced ahead of the unveiling of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022.

The live ceremony will take place on Tuesday 4 October 2022 in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, the first time the awards will be held outside of London.

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.