Brands Report: How we did it

03 January, 2019

Hamish smith has the lowdown on the who, what and how of the way the annual lists are compiled


THE BRANDS REPORT is a poll that aims to track the trends of the best bars in the world. Primarily we’re interested in products, but also the cocktails that elite bartenders are making and the spirits categories they make them with.

Our pool of respondents is narrow by design. The object is not to gain a wide and vague insight – we target only the world’s best bars for our survey. That is something of a woolly description but we come armed with a definition: the world’s best bars are those that have been shortlisted in the past year for major awards globally.

So our bars are either winners or nominees from worldwide awards such as The Word’s 50 Best Bars (1-100) and Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards; regional awards such as Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Drink Magazine’s Bar Awards, the Mixology Awards; and countrywide awards: the Class Bar Awards, Australian Bartender Awards and the Time Out Awards from various markets around the world. In Latin America where no major awards exist, editor Hamish Smith has sought the recommendations of local bar figures and drinks journalists.

This methodology means our pool of bars is ever changing, tracking to successes of the industry. Using this process, we have assured a balance between drilling down on areas of talent and achieving a fair geographical spread.

This year 127 bars took part in the survey – an increase of 20% on last year – drawn from 38 countries around the world. As you’d expect, markets with a high concentration of high-end bars are represented accordingly, with the likes of the US, England, Australia and Singapore contributing the most.


We ask bar owners, head bartenders and bar managers to open up their spreadsheets and divulge their bars’ buying habits. Each respondent was asked to rank their three bestselling products in each spirit category (plus wine and beer and mixers).

A bestselling brand, even in the best bars in the world, earns its place on more than taste, so we also wanted to know the brands that are not necessarily doing huge volumes but have cool-appeal right now. This is where the Top Trending lists come in. Within these tables are the brands customers are increasingly asking for, perhaps because of word of mouth or even on bartenders’ recommendations.

Often the brands that figure highly in the Top Trending list move on to the Bestselling list the following year, as curiosity and excitement transitions to wider sales.

The Bartenders’ Choice list is where we see what bartenders themselves prize most, irrespective of what sells best or what is trending. So brands here have the kudos of bartender love, if not necessarily sales. The All-time Leagues are a study of those brands that have figured highest over the nine years we’ve been polling the world’s best bars.

But, if our website statistics are anything to go by, The World’s Bestselling Classics section is the list that gets the most bartenders excited. It’s a misnomer that classics can’t go out of fashion – as we find in this list, they never die, but are sensitive to the vagaries of fashion. This year we finish up with the Spirits list, where we test the claims that [insert category] is the hottest in the bar world.

If this report is anything it is a snapshot of the behaviours at the elite end of the bar business – not definitive, not absolute, but insightful nonetheless.

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