The fourth edition of annual Asia’s 50 Best Bar commenced last May 9 at Capitol Theatre and was attended by top bartenders, bar owners and drinks aficionados across Asia to celebrate the top listers of Asia’s bar scene.

Hong Kong’s The Old Man headed by Agung Prabowo earned the top post with the titles of ‘The Best Bar in Asia’, and ‘The Best Bar in China, making two-year top spot holder (Best Bar in Singapore and Legend of the List Award) Singapore’s Manhattan inch down to the second. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei, Taiwan garnered the Best Bar in Taiwan and was part of the top 3. The 2019 list features nine countries, and 12 new entries, with Singapore bagging a total of 11 bars.

Asia’s 50 Best Bar at Capitol Theatre
Hong Kong’s The Old Man headed by Agung Prabowo

Click here to see the complete list of Asia’s 50 Best Bar 2019 

It was an excellent time for the developing Philippine bar scene as we got three spots on the coveted list. Manila’s The Curator headed by David Ong and Jericson Co, a frequent Asia’s 50 Best Bar lister, was once again named Best Bar in the Philippines, though moving down from 25 to 37, another bar that David is also part of together with co-owners Miguel and Martin Ledesma, Oto (Poblacion), made it to the 47th list. The newest entry on the list is Shangri-La the Fort’s Back Room which made its way to the 50th list.

The Curator’s David Ong and Jericson Co
Oto made it to 47th list
The Curator takes 37th on the list

Curator’s David Ong is apologetic for sliding down the rankings and promises that the team behind The Curator will strive and work harder for the coming years. “The Curator has been around for five years, Oto for two years, no doubt, the Manila Cocktail Scene is a growing one – we’ve seen it change throughout the years and it’s an exciting time to be in the industry, ” shares David. “When we were starting, the goal was to get Manila on the map. I think that we have been trying very hard to do so. However, we can’t do it alone. With three bars on the list and a few notable ones that have or will open, I’m certain that we’re only going to do better.”

Shangri-La the Fort’s The Back Room comes in at the 50th

The pressure also falls to Shangri-La’s Back Room who recently lost its head mixologist Ulysse Jouanneaud to open his own rum bar in Poblacion, Buccaneers. “Ulysse was a big part of what we did at Back Room, and we will continue to do it with two of the new guys coming in from Shangri-La Colombo and Beijing,” shares Poch Ancheta, Back Room head bartender. “The bar will be the same Back Room but with different people on the helm. We will try to find more exciting ways to tell the story about our drinks. I myself, is pretty used to the pressure,” shares Poch, “I was part of The Curator team when we made it to the list during the first two years, this one would be my second time to be part of a bar lister, and we know how it feels to have a target on your back. We never think about Back Room as a goal to reach the list. I always tell our team to aim higher, if you aim for the sun, even if you miss, you’ll just fall to the moon or land among the stars,” he states.

Poch Ancheta, Back Room head bartender

According to Mark Sansom, Content Editor for Asia’s 50 Best Bars, there are no hard and fast rules to how a bar can get on the list, but a bar with a great story to tell and that is able to communicate this story effectively through their drinks, and the bar experience will be able to hook and mesmerize guests. “The bar and its staff should also possess a flair for service, such as through a bartender who can identify what a customer is seeking just through small talk and delivering an experience that’s so flawless that the customer isn’t able to simply pinpoint how the bartender got it down pat,” Mark states.

The Philippine bar industry is still developing. There are a lot of bars now compared to the past three years back, but there have only been four bars that made it on the list since it started, and one even managed to slip last year. The team behind Curator has been instrumental in bringing in great talents in the local bar scene and has set the bar in how to make it in Asia’s top list. According to David, it starts with the intention of opening a bar in the first place. “If it’s simply to get on the list from the get-go, then it’s already flawed,” he shares. “No amount of money or being “Instagram-able” will guarantee success. For new bars, we must do something different and bring something new to the table. For bars that are aging, we need to innovate as the times change very quickly. However, the most important thing is relationships. We must work together and focus on what we’re good at—Filipino Hospitality,” he ends.

Photos by Star Sabroso

A publishing industry veteran who is the former creative director of PeopleAsia magazine and former lifestyle editor of The Standard newspaper. She was introduced to the wonderful world of spirits during her stint as executive creative director of digital agency DigitalFCB, where she led a team that created campaigns for some of the biggest liquor brands in the country. A lover of scotch and a curious spirit who is obsessed with the colorful world of mixology, she directs DrinkManila’s overall editorial content.

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