This can be a large yr for the Asian bar trade. For the primary time ever, the World’s 50 Finest Bars finale can be hosted in Asia, scheduled for Singapore this October. One other first was simply marked, nonetheless, with the first-ever internet hosting in Hong Kong of Asia’s 50 Finest Bars 2023, that I attended just a few days in the past. One other hallmark is the truth that this was the primary full-scale gathering of the bar neighborhood in Asia since 2019.
Attracted by a slew of occasions within the run-up to the finale — largely within the nature of bar takeovers by among the bar world’s most outstanding personalities and bars — this had the added benefit of exposing me to plenty of numerous venues throughout Hong Kong that I’d usually haven’t visited, from izakayas (Japanese type consuming homes) to scrappy dive bars and speakeasies corresponding to The Aubrey on the Mandarin Oriental – Izakaya, High quality Items Membership – Dive Bar, The Pontiac – all spherical enjoyable bar, amongst others,
Let me circle again first, to a 2018 go to to the town and a chat with my go-to man for bar suggestions — Dev Sehgal, a Hong Kong bar veteran who has been within the metropolis for a decade and as insiders say, the OG of Hong Kong bars. At the moment the beverage supervisor on the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, and for a number of years earlier than that, he was the bar supervisor of 8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, the one Italian restaurant exterior of Italy to get three Michelin stars. It’s essential to go to Coa, he says. A coa, if you’re curious, is a long-specialised device used to reap agave, the plant that’s then used to make agave spirits like mezcal and tequila. Coa, the bar launched in 2017,shouldn’t be simple to search out. With the phrases ‘Coa’ written in a particularly small font on a brick wall exterior the bar, it whispers, quite than shouts its presence in Central Hong Kong.
I discovered as I entered, the exact same Coa displayed on the wall inside, and Jay Khan, the founder behind the bar. Jay’s frequent visits to Mexico, obtained him fascinated by the agave, particularly as he instructed me then, “They’re the one spirits that specific their flavour naturally.” Versus say, darkish spirits like whisky the place the majority of the flavour comes from maturation, or gin, the place it’s a vary of botanicals that contribute to the flavour.
Coa, once I visited in 2018, was pretty empty, and it has been a difficult few years for Jay and his staff to remain pure to their mission. Though the rewards had been gradual to return, it has since been a heady trip for them, coming in twice now as the #1 bar in Asia, and as I go to two days earlier than the finale, I’m lucky to be whisked in by Jay, as a result of the road exterior is a block lengthy.
Asia’s 50 Finest Bars 2023, hosted by Mark Sansom, Director of Content material, for World’s 50 Finest Bars, is a tightly hosted affair of simply 75 minutes, save for the final 10 minutes in the case of the announcement of the Prime 3 bars in Asia. Previous to that, it has been a bumper yr for India, with a document 9 bars within the Prime 100, 5 within the positions 51-100 (Americano, Hideaway, PCO, Dwelling, Hoot’s) and 4 within the Prime 50 (Copitas, The Bombay Canteen, The Residing Room by Masque and Sidecar). No shock that it’s New Delhi’s Sidecar that receives the Amaro Lucano award for the #1 ranked bar in India, clocking in at quantity 18 on this yr’s checklist.
Within the run-up to the finale in October, the bars are abuzz with rumours of who would possibly emerge as #1. Would it not be Coa for a record-breaking third yr, or wouldn’t it be Singapore’s Jigger and Pony, with their breathtaking new cocktail menu, or wouldn’t it be the Bangkok Social Membership, from the 4 Seasons Bangkok? For a number of years, it has been a toss-up between Jigger and Coa, and as you might need guessed by now, it’s Coa once more that triumphed.
I ask Indra Kantono, the co-founder of Jigger and Pony, if he feels that this might be the yr for an Asian bar to be recognised as the #1 on this planet. “Whereas it’ll be superb to see an Asian bar be recognised because the primary on this planet, we consider that it’s extra essential to foster the expansion of the bar tradition and neighborhood,” he says.
Jay echoes Indra’s phrases within the media interplay that follows. When requested, how Coa will proceed to stay related, he says, “We’re going to proceed to stay the identical”. Amen.
The author is is the co-founder of 30BestBarsIndia