Monday, May 27, 2024

The 50 Best Bars in North America, According to the ’50 Best’ List (2024)

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Cocktail lovers are scrambling for reservations and bar owners are preparing for the rush of new customers. It can only mean one thing: The 50 Best organization has announced its annual list of the 50 Best Bars in North America. This year’s best bar, crowned at a ceremony on April 23 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, is Handshake Speakeasy in Mexico City, led by bar director Eric Van Beek. The top spot was previously held by Double Chicken Please (now ranked seventh), a Manhattan cocktail bar serving creative drinks like the “Cold Pizza,” which features Parmesan, burnt toast, and tequila.

Handshake Speakeasy, which opened in 2018, is the first bar in Mexico to take the revered list’s number-one spot. The bar’s interior plays into a sleek, prohibition-era vibe—a polished black marble bar, black velvet seats, and gold accents throughout. The drinks are similarly understated: the piña colada, for example, comes not in a hurricane glass with a colorful umbrella but clarified and carbonated with a single long block of ice.

Of the 50 bars on this year’s list, 26 are in the U.S. (On last year’s list, that number was 28.) Fifteen of the winning bars are in Mexico, seven are in Canada, and two are in the Caribbean. New York had a strong showing, with 12 bars. Superbueno, a new addition to this year’s list, placed second. The East Village bar, which opened in 2023, reinterprets classic cocktails with modern spins and Mexican ingredients and spirits. A mushroom margarita features earthy huitlacoche, and the cheekily named “vodka y soda” is a surprisingly complex cocktail of vodka, guava, and pasilla chile.

“Best” is, of course, a subjective title, but the organization does have some clear procedures for reaching its final list: 50 Best taps a group of 270 bar industry experts across the region to cast a maximum of seven votes for bars they’ve visited in the past year. The group’s makeup is half bartenders and bar owners, a quarter “well-traveled cocktail experts,” and another quarter drinks writers and educators. According to 50 Best, at least 25% of voters are new to the voting pool each year. “Given that this list is based on personal experiences, it can never be definitive,” the 50 Best website reads, but still, industry insiders and mixology enthusiasts tend to treat the list like a bible.

Inclusion on this list can significantly increase a bar’s business. But the organization has also faced its fair share of criticism. Voters aren’t required to pay for their drinks or meals, which means they may be more likely to cast votes for bars and restaurants with the resources to offer free meals and trips. “We trust that voters make an independent choice and are not swayed simply by the fact that they might have been hosted by other brands that are not 50 Best,” a spokesperson tells Bon Appétit via email.

The organization has also been criticized for the way it divides and excludes regions; In the voting for North America’s 50 Best Bars, for example, Canada is divided into two regions, the US four, while Mexico and the Caribbean are each considered a single region. Central America is not considered for inclusion on the list.



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