drinks international brands report

Brands Report 2021: How We Did It

04 January, 2021

Brands Report editor Hamish Smith explains the methodolgy behind the report's polling system.

The Brands Report is a snapshot of the buying habits of a sample of the best bars in the world. The poll is by invitation only and the number of respondents is restricted to 100 – the object is not to gain a wide insight into thousands of bars but just those that operate at the most influential end of the pyramid. We define this group as the world’s best bars as they are all nominated for or winners of major global awards. The sample is taken from bars that have appeared in The Word’s 50 Best Bars (1-100), Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards, Top 500 Bars; regional awards such as Asia’s 50 Best Bars and Germany’s Mixology Awards; and countrywide awards: the Class Bar Awards, Australian Bartender Awards and the Time Out Awards from various markets around the world.

This methodology means our pool of bars is ever changing, tracking to the success stories of the industry. Of course, a balance has to be found between narrowing in on the parts of the world where the most elite bars exist and achieving a global geographical spread. This year the 100 bars taking part in the survey were drawn from 33 countries around the world. As you’d expect, markets with a high concentration of top-end bars are represented accordingly, with the likes of the US, England and Singapore contributing the most to the survey. But each region of the world has a good number of bars represented.

By way of example, from South America we have Colombia’s Alquimico and Argentina’s Presidente. From Europe the sample includes Barcelona’s El Paradiso and Two Schmucks, Milan’s Drink Kong, London’s Tayer + Elementary and Kwant, and Sweden’s Tjoget. From North America there’s the US’s Dead Rabbit and Nomad Bar, Mexico’s Licoreria Limantour, and from Canada Bar Raval. Down under, Maybe Sammy is among the Australian bars. In Asia, SG Club and Bar Benfiddich represented Japan, with Coa from Hong Kong and Jigger & Pony from Singapore. From the Middle East, Lebanon’s Electric Bing Sutt and Dubai’s Zuma represent.

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 selected wine, beer, modifiers 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 credentials too. This is where the 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 Trending list move on to the Bestselling list the following year, as curiosity and excitement transition to weight of 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.

But, if Drinks International’s website viewing numbers are anything to go by, The World’s Bestselling Classics section is the list with the widest appeal. Here we see classics, paradoxically, do go in and out of fashion – our list of 50 is slow moving but trends are discernible, particularly over a period of years.

We finish with the Spirits list, where we track the most used categories in the elite bar. Spoiler: the winner is always gin. While these lists are snapshots – by no means unit-by-unit accurate – they are consistent in their results, which reassures us of the insight they provide. The brands that make it into these lists have invested time and money in supporting those who support them. At a basic level, they are in this list because bartenders serve them.

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