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How We Did It
Hamish Smith, editor of The World's 50 Best Bars, explains how the voting process works
WHICH ARE THE BEST BARS IN THE WORLD? Here at The World’s 50 Best Bars HQ, we like to think our list provides the most credible response to the question.
Each year we aim to capture the voice of the most knowledgeable and travelled industry experts in the world, in order to present a snapshot of the bars that are at the top of their game globally. We poll, we count the votes and then we present the results in a magazine, on a website and at a ceremony in London – and we call it The World’s 50 Best Bars.
Unlike many lists and articles out there, we do not assert our own views, or that of a small panel, but defer to the collective voice of the global industry. This year we selected 476 bar experts - what we consider to be the strongest, most diverse collection of industry authorities ever assembled to express their views on the best bars in the world. An untidy number, you might think, but we do not have a quota or target. Each year, new industry personalities emerge from all corners of the globe who fulfil our criteria of being influential, knowledgeable and, crucially, well travelled.
Of course, this kind of survey takes words and makes them into numbers which, as with all quantitative analysis, has its flaws. It is used to simplify a complex question, but in another respect there is a clarity to distilling opinions down to just a handful of choices. We ask Academy members to name their five best bars in order of preference – not easy given that they may visit hundreds each year.
We then add a very small weighting to each vote, so choice one is worth a small fraction more than choice two, continuing incrementally down to choice five. This enables us to discriminate between bars that have received the same number of votes. We don’t set out a criteria as to what makes bars the best, as we trust implicitly in the Academy’s professional opinion, but there are some basic rules.
The bar voted for must be open. It must have been visited in the past 18 months and the voter must have no financial interest in or have worked in the bar for at least a year. We also ask that two of the five choices be international, ie not based in the country of the voter’s residence. Though we are confident of the worldliness of our Academy, this helps to maintain an international emphasis.
The voting took place this summer, giving our resident pollster Angel Brown a couple of months to count up the votes and form the top 50 from the list of 652 bars that received votes.
Given that the bar industry is a rapidly changing landscape, the Academy of voters is fluid. Those that have been less active fall out of the Academy, while others take their place. In general, the Academy increases in size from year to year. This is not unquestioning expansion, more a symptom of how the bar industry has developed, with high levels of professionalism increasingly adopted around the world.
Europe is a traditional stronghold of bar and drinks culture and therefore is the region to which many of the most qualified industry professionals gravitate. Given that Europe is a continent of 50 countries, each with its own distinct culture and bar personalities, its diversity and strength dictates that it has a significant share of the vote.
This year just over a third of the Academy came from Europe, though as other regions develop, its share will likely fall. While the number of voters from Europe stayed relatively stable, their percentage share dropped 5%. Similarly, North America has an advanced bar industry, and while the region only amounts to the US and Canada (we class central America and the Caribbean as Latin America), it is home to some of the most influential and travelled industry professionals on the planet. As such, almost a quarter of the Academy emanated from North America this year.
Like Europe, we did not reduce the number of voters in North America, but accounting for advancement elsewhere, its percentage share dropped 4% from last year.
Asia is the coming force of the global bar industry and we have increased its share of the Academy in recent years. With big international names moving to Asia to take up residence and new homegrown talent also emerging, this year its share of the vote was up from 15% to 20%. Latin America, too, has a developing bar industry with more and more local experts joining the worldwide community. This year, we took voters from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia and Costa Rica. In some countries – for example Cuba – there are fine and knowledgeable bartenders, but the requirement of frequent travel precludes their involvement. Latin America’s voting representation grew from 8% last year to 11% this year.
Australasia, like the other developed bar regions of the world, has seen its Academy membership numbers frozen and, with the increase elsewhere, saw a small percentage share drop from 8% to 7% in 2016. As a region we are talking about Australia and New Zealand. Even with this percentage cut, Australia remains one of the best represented countries in our voting pool. Africa & the Middle East makes up the smallest proportion of our Academy as it can offer the fewest globally travelled bar experts. South Africa, though, saw an increase in numbers this year, helping to push the region’s membership up from 3% to 5% of the total.
In a perfect world, in which every city, country and region were similarly developed and could offer equally qualified voters, we would have an even balance across our regions. But the reality is talent – of all nationalities – tends to gravitate to more developed areas of the globe. So our emphasis, no matter where our voters are based, is internationalism. The inescapable truth is if you do not regularly travel, you cannot have an opinion on the world’s best bars.
A big thank you goes out to all who took part in this year’s poll. Without the Academy, The World’s 50 Best Bars would not be possible.