It was a super proud moment for me tonight at the Capitol Theatre in Singapore when the 2019 list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars was announced. The new entries included two bars from the Philippines, for a total of three Philippine bars making it on the list this year—the Philippines’ best performance so far, topping the two bars (The Curator Coffee & Cocktails and ABV) listed on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars inaugural year in 2016.
Four-time list veteran The Curator Coffee & Cocktails, located in Legazpi Village in Makati, ranked No. 37 this year (down from No. 25 in 2018), retaining its title of Best Bar in the Philippines for the third consecutive year. OTO, a two-year-old bar located in the hip and bustling Poblacion district of Makati came in at No. 47.
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Shangri-La at the Fort’s speakeasy The Back Room debuted at No. 50, an impressive feat for a bar that is less than a year old, having opened only last September 2018. Head bartender Aldrin Ivan “Poch” Ancheta was at the awards and shared his thoughts: “Overwhelming honestly. I still couldn’t believe it personally. We really weren’t expecting it immediately. It’s one of our goals but not within less than a year of opening,” He adds, “I have a very young team. Being included in the list now means we really have to work harder moving forward.”
Also present at the awards, The Curator co-owner Jericson Co had this to say about having two other bars join The Curator this time around: “So proud! They both have connections to The Curator with David (Ong), of course, being a part-owner of both OTO and The Curator, and with Poch of The Back Room originally working at The Curator. So of course, (we have) a pseudo grandfather role and I’m super happy about that. It makes life easier if there’s a colocation among us and that everyone has their voice being showcased. So we hope this continues.”
The No. 1 spot went to The Old Man in Hong Kong (No. 5 last year). Conceptualized by Agung Prabowo, James Tamang, and Roman Ghale, this elegant bar is an homage to Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1952 novel of the same name. They have created cocktails inspired by Hemingway’s favorite concoctions, including a butter-fat-washed gin and a beeswax-infused bourbon.
Last year’s No. 1 bar, Manhattan in Singapore came in at No. 2, and was bestowed the Legend of the List Award, sponsored by Michter’s, honoring this landmark bar that has most consistently proven its excellence over the history of the list.
You can check out the complete list of winners here.
Special awards were also handed out during the evening. Japanese cocktail master Shingo Gokan was voted Altos Bartenders’ Bartender by the bartenders from the establishments in the 2019 list.
Bar Trigona in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is this year’s winner of the Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award which spotlights the bar on the list with the highest sustainability rating, as determined by audit partner The Sustainable Restaurant Association. Pussyfoot Saloon in Seoul, Korea is the recipient of the Campari One To Watch award which recognizes a bar that is not on the list, but considered a rising star in the region.
The Asia’s 50 Best Bars list was introduced in 2016 as an extension of The World’s 50 Best Bars which was launched in 2009. The annual list is created from the votes of more than 200 industry experts across Asia. Now on its fourth year, this year’s edition kicks off a new three-year partnership between William Reed Business Media, which organizes the 50 Best awards, and the Singapore Tourism Board. This partnership will also see The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards making its Asian debut in Singapore later this year, to be followed by The World’s 50 Best Bars awards in 2021. This makes Singapore the first city, apart from its original home of London, to be confirmed as host of both World’s 50 Best awards.
After tonight’s awarding, the Asia’s 50 Best Bars festivities continue with #50BestTalks, a thought-leadership and discussion platform that brings together leading industry talent, bar owners, and media to encourage positive change in the drinks sector. The talk will feature an all-female line-up of panelists that will tackle key topics, trends, cocktails, and bar culture under the title “Female Spirit.”
Last but not least, the Singapore Cocktail Festival (SGCF) is happening from 10 to 18 May to showcase the region’s vibrant cocktail culture. Asia’s 50 Best Bars is working with SGCF to bring its celebration of the best bars and bartenders across the continent to the Festival Village on Empress Lawn from 10 to 12 May, including guest bartender shifts featuring some of our top Filipino bartenders. You can visit www.singaporecocktailfestival.com for the complete schedule of cocktail experiences.
Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa
Cocktail photos courtesy of Asia’s 50 Best Bars
Follow the author on Instagram and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa