The 2021 list brings with it a few surprises, like a local bar making the highest-placing debut

Given the devastating impact the global pandemic has had on the region’s bar scene, Asia’s 50 Best Bars is a welcome respite from an extraordinary year for the F&B industry.

Spanning 10 countries and introducing eight new entries, the 2021 list brings with it a few surprises, including a highest-placing debut from a Singapore bar.

Clinching the #1 spot is Hong Kong’s Coa, a four-year-old establishment by bartender-owner Jay Khan with an extensive collection of 200 handcrafted Latin American liquors. From debuting at #12 in 2019 to placing third last year, the Mexicana drinking den has completed the final act of its meteoric rise.

While Jigger & Pony retains its title as Best Bar in Singapore, it slips from the pole position to #2 this year. Rounding up the podium finishes is The SG Club, located in Tokyo, Japan.

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Taiwan’s Indulge Experimental Bistro takes the fourth place, reclaiming the title of The Best Bar in Taiwan, while Sober Company in Shanghai, China, takes the fifth spot.

Singaporean bars occupy the next three placements, starting with Regent Hotel’s Manhattan, home to 150 rare American whiskies. The Instagram favourite Atlas takes seventh place with its picturesque interior and 8m-tall gilded gin tower, while a new kid on the block sets a new record for the highest new entry — located along Keong Saik Road, No Sleep Club secures the Disaronno Highest New Entry Award with its #8 spot, besting records in recent years (Bee’s Knees #21, 2020; Coa #12, 2019).

Even from outside the Top 50 last year, No Sleep Club was named Campari One To Watch in 2020. Headed by bartenders Juan Yi Jun and Jessica Hutchinson, the all-day bar and restaurant is known for its selection of innovative cocktails and for repurposing surplus ingredients from its kitchen.

Two new Singapore bars also debuted on the Top 50 list: Barbary Coast (#29) and Sago House (#49). They join well-known local favourites Native (#14), 28 HongKong Street (#21), Tippling Club (#36), D.Bespoke (#39), The Old Man (#42) and MO Bar (#45 and winner of the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award).

Slipping out of this year’s Top 50 list are Gibson (#25, 2020) and Nutmeg & Clove (#32, 2020).

In total, 12 bars here made it on the 2021 list, up from 11 last year. Now, Singapore stands between China, with 13 Top 50 bars; and Japan, with six.

The annual list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars is based on the votes of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy, an influential group of 220 bartenders, bar owners, drinks writers and cocktail aficionados. In previous years, each Academy member voted for seven bars, with at least two of these from outside their home country.

With travel restrictions in place throughout 2020, voters had limited travel opportunities and were instead asked to nominate a total of five bars, including up to four from their home country.

While this year’s list was announced over a virtual ceremony, 50 Best has confirmed its partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board to bring the Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony back to Singapore in 2022.

“We look forward to holding a physical awards ceremony not only to celebrate and recognise the best in the business when the situation improves, but to bring together bartenders, bar owners, drinks writers and cocktail aficionados from around the world,” says Mark Sansom, content editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars. “We are hopeful that the ongoing vaccine rollout will allow the bar community to take this opportunity to reunite in Singapore next year.