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Bars To Watch 2014
We have scoured the globe to bring you our top tips for the bars that might feature next year
The Keefer Bar
135 KEEFER STREET, CHINATOWN, VANCOUVER, CANADA
The Keefer Bar is the manifestation of one hell of an imagination. Vivid doesn’t cover it - your eyes get tired looking for a resting spot. Ignoring the bizarre knick-knacks there is definitely a discernible apothecary theme, taking in tinctures, bitters, syrups and teas. Danielle Tatarin, who runs this kooky Vancouver joint agrees "there is a certain randomness" to the place. The space itself is dark, long, narrow, with wooden walls that support shelves of liquor bottles, bitter herbs, infusions and glassware. Apparently Antoine Amedee Peychaud’s apothecary in 1800s New Orleans is a big influence. Of course Peychaud is famous for his family recipe of bitters and brandy - an inspiration for Tatarin who blends her own traditional Chinese medicinal bitters with classical cocktail recipes "as an homage" to the roots of the cocktail. In keeping with its Chinatown neighbourhood, the bar’s food is dim sum, or at least inspired by the little steamed dumplings. The eclecticism of this place just works, with customers of all shapes and sizes swarming to take up residence. So, we make this dark, eccentric drinks den a dark horse for the 2015 list. Stranger things have happened, though there isn’t much stranger than this bar - and that’s why we like it.
THE BLIND PIG @ SOCIAL EATING HOUSE
58 POLAND STREET, SOHO, LONDON
Beware bar industry, Jason Atherton is coming for you. Like his mentor Gordon Ramsay before him, this English chef is building a global empire - right now his portfolio stands at 14 restaurants, most of which have adjoining bars. Top-notch places as well, two of them - The Blind Pig @ Social Eating House in London and The Library in Singapore - finished in our top 100. Impressive work since they’ve been open just a year and two years respectively. Perhaps that’s because running the bars is Gareth Evans, World Class UK champ from 2013. Probably the biggest buzz surrounds The Blind Pig, which is upstairs at the Michelin-starred Social Eating House in Soho. Under the panelled ceiling and behind the copper bar you’ll find Liam Webster running things. The drinks are a twist on classics, much like the bar itself, which Webster describes as "a speakeasy in looks, but without any of the attached stigma" and influences have come in the form of PDT, Socio Rehab, Nightjar and Milk & Honey. There is urgency about the service learned from the kitchen, where dishes are despatched apace. Sit at tables where you can nibble on food that won’t be outdone by the cocktails, or stand and sway to the old school hip-hop, funk and soul playlists. Either way the bar is a star of the future and our top pick for World’s 50 Best Bars stardom next year.
JIGGER & PONY
101 AMOY STREET, SINGAPORE
Before May 2012, Singapore may have had the Sling, but no one had chanced their arm at a proper classic cocktail bar. There were those who dabbled but Indra Kantono and Guo Yi put all that right with Jigger & Pony. This modern speak is named in tribute to the days when cocktail recipes were listed in jiggers and ponies and, true to its name, this venue delivers immaculate renditions of 19th-century favourites. A splendid serpentine bar wraps around drinksmith Aki Eguchi like a ribbon around the star attraction. His Negroni is the best around but there are also signatures inspired by classics such as the Corpse Reviver #101, prepared with vodka, St Germain, jasmine sweet vermouth and absinthe Jelly. At Jigger & Pony there’s due respect for the bar world’s hallowed days but this is not cloying nostalgia. Here the atmosphere is fun and immersive and there’s every chance Jigger & Pony will follow 28 Hongkong Street’s footsteps to W50BB status. One of our favourites for the list next time out.
THE REGENT COCKTAIL CLUB
1690 COLLINS AVE, MIAMI BEACH, US
The Regent Cocktail Club missed out this year by a width of a cocktail stick. Since it opened in 2012 as part of the Gale hotel on South Beach, it has become one of the best places to get a cocktail in the warmer end of the US. The days are numbered for the old breed of Miami merchants flogging luminous slush with crude names. Miami is not reborn but it has undergoing a serious colonic. Leading the clear-out is the Regent Cocktail Club which, after all, has pedigree - its first incarnation, The Regent, opened in the space in 1941. This place is sympathetic to its roots. It’s the kind of bar where rooms are called lounges and the people making the drinks are bartenders, not mixologists (a word, along with astrology, that surely should be outlawed). Run by Julio Cabrera - who is about the only man in the world who can pull off a red tuxedo - this bar gets our pick for improving the drinking habits of South Beach. We make it an each-way bet for the top 50 next year.
ZZ’S CLAM BAR
169, THOMPSON STREET, NY, US
ZZ’s Clam Bar is an exemplar of the restaurant-bar trend sweeping America. Owned by Major Food Group from Greenwich Village NY, this bar majors on seafood and cocktails. Thomas Waugh’s drinks menu isn’t heavily influenced by any particular style, instead it’s just three to four-piece drinks made using simple, quality ingredients. Food-wise, you have oysters, clams and caviar but slightly less alive-looking morsels come in the form of tartares and ceviches. Essentially, if you’re a well-done sort of eater, you’re struggling here. The guys at MFG - Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick - are serious players in the New York scene, so as long as the clams keep getting caught and the cocktails keep getting made, this place should only grow in notoriety. A decent outside bet for W50BB prominence next year.
148 SAN SEBASTIAN, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO
La Factoria is a proper place to drink. Loud music, effortless cocktails and wine in the kind of setting describable as shabby chic - before, that is, fashionable types in big cities raided charity shops and the style became ubiquitous. But this place came before all that - and it drips with Latin character. The chequer-board floor, which is lit by dangling lights, is made for dancing and large mirrors hang from walls that are so filthy it’d be easier to fill in the clean bits. La Factoria is an authentic San Juan drinking spot that attracts a good mix of locals and visitors. If you visit, prepare to have serious fun, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. This is an outside bet, but it would be a truly welcome addition to The World’s 50 Best Bars 2015.