Winning a coveted Spirited Award has put hundreds of cocktail bars from around the world on the map. Now Tales of the Cocktail, the 19-year-old New Orleans-based organization that established the awards in 2007, has made the metaphor a reality by building the definitive interactive map of the world’s best bars.
Held annually every summer, the Spirited Awards has been the customary closing night ceremony of the week-long Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans. (Full disclosure: Forbes is the official media partner of Tales of the Cocktail.) Among the prestigious categories recognized over the years are Best American Cocktail Bar, Best International Cocktail Bar, World’s Best Cocktail Menu, and Best American Bar Mentor—many of which have propelled winners to massive success and prominence in the mixology world.
“After we won the World’s Best Bar at the Spirited Awards in 2019, we saw a spike in business immediately following the award ceremony— especially during the daytime,” says Linden Pride, owner of Dante, the Greenwich Village institution renowned for its Negronis. “And there was constantly a crowd outside the restaurant during peak hours. It was humbling to receive such recognition from our peers and definitely helped open doors for new business opportunities and partnerships within the industry.”
This year’s Spirited Awards will take place on September 23 with new categories that acknowledge how difficult the past year has been for the hospitality industry. To celebrate fifteen years of the Spirited Awards, Tales of the Cocktail has now made it easier for spirits enthusiasts to belly up to every award-winning bar—and finalist—through its user-friendly map.
“There really isn’t an interactive tool that helps consumers identify and visit the very best bars in the world. And we wanted to create a tool that shines a spotlight on the industry’s finest,” says Eileen Wayner, Tales of the Cocktail’s recently appointed CEO. “And when we were reflecting on fifteen years of the Spirited Awards, we realized that we’d woven together more than 900 bars, and we were truly excited to provide consumers and the industry an interactive way to discover bars and plan trips.”
So whether you’re looking for the perfect Manhattan in Manhattan or a fantastique French 75 in Paris or a classic Singapore Sling in the island nation it’s named for, TOTC’s new custom tool has you covered.
“We’ve been working on this for roughly a year,” Wayner continues. “We knew that this was an anniversary year for us and so we wanted to do something to acknowledge that legacy. We mined the data, cross-checked and cross-referenced, and determined which bars were still open. And we made sure that we researched the correct websites or Instagram handles or addresses.
“We’ve been collecting this data for fifteen years so we wanted to present it in a way that’s a little bit more user-friendly than a marathon of spreadsheets.”
The world cocktail bar map is divided into regions—enabling users to click on a desired country, city, or individual bar and view all the accolades it has received over the years. For instance, if you wanted to see which establishments have won Best International High-Volume Cocktail Bar, a comprehensive list will be served up to you. And TOTC will update it regularly as news about closings and re-openings pour in.
Due to the pandemic, of course, many past Spirited Award winners have gone on to that big watering hole in the sky, but the foundation made the decision to keep them all in the map. “Covid has certainly had a devastating impact on our industry and we do need to acknowledge the tremendous devastation,” Wayner says. “Part of our rationale for keeping bars on there that have closed is as an acknowledgement of communities. Bars pop up in communities, talents live in those communities—and while they may go to a different bar or have founded their own bar in that area, it’s an important part of the legacy of their local communities.
“We wanted to keep those bars on the map because they were incredible, they were founded by talent, and they were important for the industry.”
Of the 932 bars that have been honored by the Spirited Awards since 2007, more than 80 are permanently closed. And of the thirteen top winners—establishments that have earned either the World’s Best Cocktail Bar or World’s Best Bar award—three are temporarily closed (Drink in Boston, Pacific Cocktail Haven in San Francisco, and The American Bar at the Savoy in London).
Two top award winners have also closed permanently: Milk & Honey, the late Sascha Petraske’s influential New York speakeasy, which shuttered several years ago, also served last call at its London outpost in September 2020. And another Manhattan institution, Pegu Club, founded by Audrey Saunders and revered as a breeding ground for bartending talent (such as PDT founder Jim Meehan and Toby Maloney of Violet Hour), closed after nearly 15 years in 2020 due to Covid.
But there are still more than 800 world-class bars to choose from—and alpha cities are a good place to look. London has 73 locations on the map and Manhattan is right behind with 72. (If you add the Brooklyn bars on the map, New York would be No. 1.) Two California cities are next—Los Angeles has 38 nominated cocktail bars and 32 can be found in San Francisco. And for those who like to go the extra mile for an award-winning cocktail, there are 27 bars to be found in Dubai and Sydney.
Wherever the spirits move you to drink, there is a world of possibilities—and now an easy way to find them.