About the Academy

The World's 50 Best Bars Academy is the mechanism used to create The World's 50 Best Bars list. None of the employees of the organiser or any of the sponsors associated with the awards, including the main sponsor, has any influence over the results.

The Academy comprises 540 members, each selected for their expert opinion of the global bar scene. To create the Academy, and give it a fair representation of the international bar landscape, we divide the world into 20 geographical regions.

Each region has a chairperson appointed for their knowledge of their part of the bar world. These Chairs each select a voting panel, updated annually, ensuring a balanced selection of drink writers, bartenders and cocktail aficionados. 

Learn more about how the voting works

The Academy Chairs

  • Hamish Smith

    Smith is an award-winning drinks journalist, specialising in the bar industry. Based in London, he edits UK bartender magazine CLASS, works across sister title Drinks International as Bars Editor and is a former editor of The World’s 50 Best Bars. Over a 10-year career in drinks, Smith has established himself as a key commentator of the global bar industry. 

  • Vivian Pei
    An ardent supporter of the Singapore cocktail scene, Pei is a cook, writer and general F&B geek. She has judged cocktail competitions, been an unofficial Asian bar ambassador and plays a key role in supporting women in the industry through her work organising Speed Rack in Asia and Australia. In response to the pandemic, she co-founded the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association to champion the local craft cocktail industry and create a Covid-19 relief fund. The group is also working on recovery tools, mental health support, ensuring career opportunities and providing educational resources for its members.
  • Ara Carvallo
    Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Carvallo has over 20 years’ experience in the bar and spirits sector. Today, she focuses her work on supporting drinks sector entrepreneurs creating the brands of the future. Carvallo is also the co-founder of Barra Mexico, the leading spirits tradeshow in Latin America and the first zero-carbon bar show in the world.
  • Arina Nikolskaya
    Nikolskaya is head of the Moscow Bar Show, which is the leading bar exhibition in Eastern Europe. A perfect mix of two of the world’s greatest drinking cultures – half-Irish and half-Russian – she is a leading figure in the Russian-speaking bartending community. Nikolskaya regularly travels the world on the hunt for new ideas, speakers, techniques and inspiration to bring back to Russia and to help deliver a unique experience to thousands of bartenders every year.
  • Bára Urbanová

    Czech editor and journalist Urbanová has almost 20 years' experience in food and drinks. From 2010 to 2015 she worked as editor-in-chief on Barlife magazine and in this capacity assisted in organsing the Prague Bar Show and Czech Bar Awards. Since 2015 she has been editor-in-chief and co-owner of online journal AtBars.com, which focuses its content on bars' business and related fields.

  • Ben Mintz

    Mintz is the Editor of Neat Pour, a daily publication for the beverage industry. Prior to Neat Pour, he founded and edited a community news source. When not travelling, Mintz can be found at home, in New Orleans, US, sipping on a Perfect Manhattan.

  • Brian Owango
    Owango is Kenya’s pioneer bartender. Credited with bringing the culture of modern mixology to Kenya in 2004, he has been integral in developing the industry via community development programmes, competitions and the Nairobi Cocktail Week. Currently, he runs a one-stop events company called Aqueous, based in Nairobi. He balances his time and energy in the hospitality world by teaching and practicing capoeira.
  • Chris Beaney
    Based in Accra, Beaney has been a vital part of the Ghanaian bar and restaurant scene for the past nine years. He has over 20 years’ experience as an operator, manager, trainer and consultant for restaurants and bars in London and Africa, educating more than 200 staff in the art of bar craft. He has written articles for UK and US bar industry magazines, shining the light on the emerging hospitality scene in west Africa.
  • Christine Sismondo

    A National Magazine Award-winning writer, Sismondo has been writing about spirits, cocktails, bars, books and history for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and other publications for over 20 years. She’s also the author of America Walks into a Bar: A History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, Prohibition, a six-part podcast series for Wondery’s American History Tellers and, most recently, Canadian Spirits: The Essential Cross-Country Guide to Distilleries, Their Spirits and Where to Imbibe Them. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

  • Eleni Nikoloulia
    Nikoloulia first studied political science before moving to work in lifestyle and travel magazines in her home country, Greece. From here, she developed a great passion for the bar sector and is now dedicated to great Martinis, creative mixologists and exceptional bars. She is the co-founder of non-profit civil partnership Metron Ariston: Making Responsibility a Trend; co-organiser of Athens Rum and Whisky Festival; co-organiser of Cyprus Cocktail Festival; and co-organiser of Aegean Cocktails and Spirits, a project that promotes Greek spirits through various activations, projects and festivals.
  • Forest Collins

    Cocktail expert Collins founded her blog 52martinis in 2007 to chronicle her search for the best cocktail bars in Paris and cover small-batch spirits news from France. She is the creator of iOS app Paris Cocktails and host of the radio show and podcast, Paris Cocktail Talk. As a freelance writer, she has written for Drinks International, Serious Eats and other gastronomic publications with a focus on the Paris cocktail scene. Collins regularly judges cocktail competitions and is Treasurer of the France chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a by-invitation philanthropic organisation for women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverages and hospitality.

  • François Monti

    Monti is a Belgian, Madrid-based cocktail and spirits writer. He is the author of three books, including El Gran Libro del Vermut and 101 Cocktails to Try Before You Die. His writing has appeared in various publications across the world and he has led seminars at some of the largest global bar events, such as Berlin Bar Convent. He lives for a good seat at the bar.

  • Giampiero Francesca

    Francesca is based in Rome but constantly travels Italy and the world in search of the best cocktail bars. He is the creator and owner of BlueBlazeR, an influential Italian cocktail bar guide and magazine; the author of Spirits – I maestri del cocktail, a TV show; and is the producer of bar-tavel TV programme Drink Me Out, broadcasted on the main Italian free-to-air channel.

  • Jimena Blizniuk
    Blizniuk is a journalist and radio producer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, who has been compiling The World’s 50 Best Bars voting panel for South America for the past three years. In her media work, she focuses mainly on the bars sector and covers the highlights of the Latin American hospitality scene in her role as executive producer on Perros de la Calle, Radio Metro’s morning show.
  • Juliane Reichert
    Reichert is a Berlin-based bar journalist with a passion for the people behind the bar and heavily peated whisky. Having studied philosophy, she's constantly seeking the big questions around the global bar scene and is an enthusiastic observer of trends. She is at the frontline of bars reporting in Germany and beyond.
  • Karoline Nordefors
    Nordefors is a Swedish food and drinks writer, chef and bar industry personality based in Stockholm. She is well travelled and knowledgeable about the runners and riders of the Nordic bar scenes. You’ll often find her sitting in a bar on a high swivel chair watching the bartenders at work. Her all-time favourite cocktail is a French 75.
  • Leah van Deventer

    While foremost a freelance drinks writer with bylines in Rumporter, Food24 and more, Deventer is also a director of the Protégé Bartender Programme, a convenor of the South African Rum Awards and a regular cocktail competition judge. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, she’s slurped her way through 40-odd countries in the name of research, accumulating various accolades long the way.

  • Pedro Reyes

    Reyes has been a contributor to the best lifestyle magazines in Mexico – Accent, Vuelo, Expansión, Life&Style, Chilango – while he carried out his role as Deputy Editor for Travel+Leisure Mexico for five years. He is the author of ¡Acá las Tortas!, a book about one of Mexico City's beloved street foods, as well as being a leading commentator on the city’s bar scene. Now, he is Creative Director at Paladar, a gastronomic marketing agency that creates events and experiences around Latin America’s food and drink scene.

  • Rebecca Sturt
    The owner and managing director of Pineapple Bar Consultancy and Dubai Bartenders Club, Sturt has more than 25 years’ experience in the spirits and bar industry in a career that has spanned five continents. She has played a pivotal role in not only building concepts for global brands, but also in developing over 80 food and beverage concepts and training over 10,000 people, all the while developing the bar scene in the UAE.
  • Sam Bygrave

    Bygrave has worked in the drinks and bar industry for 20 years, as a bartender, a wine and spirits buyer, and today as a writer having spent eight years as editor of industry monthly Australian Bartender magazine. He has written for international publications Drinks International and The Spirits Business, among many others.