World's 50 Best Bars 2016: Australian bars slip out of top 10

Sydney's Baxter Inn slipped out of the top 10.
Sydney's Baxter Inn slipped out of the top 10. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

In the end it wasn't the lockout laws that did it, or even the dead of hipsterism, but a lack of fresh ideas.

Australia has crashed down the peer-judged leaderboard of the world's top bars this year, with Sydney and Melbourne's beloved cocktail crown jewels vanishing from the top 10.

It was a turbulent year for the official World's 50 Best Bar awards, handed out at ethanol-rich do in London's trendy Spitalfields, inside a repurposed church.

Last year's Artisan, the surreal, inventive cocktail destination just round the corner from the BBC near Oxford Circus, lost its crown after three years in top spot, eliminated from the top 50 after a change in personnel.

And eternal runner-up, New York's the Dead Rabbit, claimed first place, at last, despite staging an unpopular tantrum last year when they were yet again pipped at the post.

In 2015 Sydney's Baxter Inn was sixth on the list after three London and two New York drinking holes. It was the highest an Australian bar has ever ranked (along with the Bayswater Brasserie in Sydney in 2009).

Tash Conte of Melbourne's Black Pearl cocktail bar (No. 22 on the list).
Tash Conte of Melbourne's Black Pearl cocktail bar (No. 22 on the list). Photo: Penny Stephens

But this year Baxter Inn ranked 12th and Melbourne's Black Pearl, which had been ranked No. 10 in 2015, came in at 22.

Sydney's Bulletin Place also clocked a mention at No. 46.

Outside the top 50, Melbourne's Eau de Vie came in at No. 90 and Sydney's Lobo Plantation at 95.


Australia can take some solace from the fact it is still the third best country for cocktails, with three bars in the top 50.

Hamish Smith, editor of the World's 50 Best Bars magazine, Drinks International, said there was not a particular kind of bar that did well in the awards – anything from hotel bars to tiki bars and speakeasies were represented.

"What unites them is that they have great hospitality, great drinks and great attention to detail from the moment a guest walks through the door to the moment they leave," he said.

James Irvine from Baxter Inn at the World's 50 Best Bars awards in London.
James Irvine from Baxter Inn at the World's 50 Best Bars awards in London. Photo: Nick Miller

"There was a lot of disappointment last year, Dead Rabbit has come second twice and fifth once so they were expecting it. (They) have nailed one particular thing: hospitality in every single detail, executed perfectly. The bartenders acknowledge you, the drinks are on point, the music is just right."

Australia's bars had not gotten worse, but they hadn't quite moved with the times, he said.

"There are two academy favourites in the list, the Baxter Inn and the Black Pearl, that are almost classic bars now, people love them…  We haven't seen a new wave of Australian bars coming through. But you know there's always next year.

Scorched orange daiquiri from Bulletin Place.
Scorched orange daiquiri from Bulletin Place. Photo: Supplied

"The Australian scene is vibrant… it's doing well and I'm sure there are more bars to come."

Despite the dip down the international rankings, the Baxter Inn's James Irvine said he was still proud to be the best bar in Australasia.

"We treat everyone like a local," he said. "It's a good-time bar."

Bulletin Place came in at number 46.
Bulletin Place came in at number 46. Photo: James Brickwood

Sydney's lockout laws hadn't hurt Baxter Inn in particular because its closing time was before the lockouts.

"But as a city we are affected by it," Irvine said. "It's a deterrent for nightlife in general. This is something I'm quite passionate about. Sydney is a global city and we're shutting it down. Instead of policing it, (dealing with) isolated incidents, we're shutting it down which… is a deterrent.

"The fact that you drive from Sydney International Airport and you see light-boxes on the side of the road saying '1.30 last call' that's pretty embarrassing."

There was no deficit in the quality of hospitality, but it was let down by the laws, he said.

Irvine said Dead Rabbit was one of his favourite venues in the world.

Apart from that, he liked Maison Premiere in Brooklyn.

The Dead Rabbit's founder and operating partner Sean Muldoon said there was no secret to success – he just "lived it every single day".

"You always strive to be better, you look at what your competitors are doing, you look at what the consumers want and constantly try to make it better," he said.

"It means a lot to us (to win this award)."

If he's not drinking cocktails, he just goes to a local wine bar. His favourite is a little local French brasserie.

The top 10 bars were dominated by London and New York, apart from the Clumsies in Athens at No. 9.

The awards are the result of a worldwide industry survey produced by magazine Drinks International, with the final list based on nominations from an academy of more than 400 renowned names in the drinks industry.

The full list: World's 50 Best Bars 2016

1. The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, New York

2. American Bar, London

3. Dandelyan, London

4. Connaught Bar, London

5. Attaboy, New York

6. The Gibson, London*

7. Employees Only, New York

8. Nomad Bar, New York

9. The Clumsies, Athens

10. Happiness Forgets, London

11. Manhattan, Singapore

12. Baxter Inn, Sydney

13. Licoreria Limantour, Mexico City

14. 28 Hongkong Street, Singapore

15. Speak Low, Shanghai*

16. The Broken Shaker, Miami

17. Candelaria, Paris

18. Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

19. Nightjar, London

20. Maison Premiere, New York

21. Operation Dagger, Singapore*

22. Black Pearl, Melbourne

23. High Five, Tokyo

24. Little Red Door, Paris

25. Linje Tio, Stockholm*

26. Central Station, Beirut*

27. Lobster Bar, Hong Kong

28. Mace, New York

29. Smuggler's Cove, San Francisco

30. Bar Termini, London*

31. La Factoria, Old San Juan

32. Oriole, London*

33. The Jerry Thomas Project, Rome

34. Dante, New York*

35. Trick Dog, San Francisco

36. ABV, San Francisco*

37. The Walker Inn, Los Angeles*

38. Nottingham Forest, Milan

39. Aviary, Chicago

40. Baba au Rum, Athens

41. Quinary, Hong Kong

42. Himkok, Oslo*

43. Lost & Found, Nicosia

44. Ruby, Copenhagen

45. PDT, New York

46. Bulletin Place, Sydney

47. Bramble, Edinburgh

48. Callooh Callay, London

49. Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires

50. Buck & Breck, Berlin

*new entry