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Asia’s best bars for 2023 announced

<i>50 Best/William Reed</i><br/>Jay Khan of award-winning Coa.
50 Best/William Reed
Jay Khan of award-winning Coa.

By Lilit Marcus, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — Asia comprises about 30% of the world’s land mass. But there seems to be one consensus about which spot is the best for drinking on this massive continent: Hong Kong’s Coa, which was crowned the Best Bar in Asia for a record third year in a row.

The bar, which focuses on mezcal and agave spirits, is helmed by Jay Khan.

The top 50 winners were announced at a joyous, celebratory event at Hong Kong’s Rosewood Hotel on July 18.

In all, seven Hong Kong bars landed in the top 50, including sustainability-centric Penicillin (at number 26) and The Old Man, whose name and concept were inspired by Ernest Hemingway (47th place).

Another Hong Konger, American-born Beckaly Franks, was hailed as the “bartender’s bartender,” winning recognition for her bar The Pontiac. The bar, which Franks says was named for the Native American Chief Pontiac, has an all-female team and is vocally LGBT-friendly.

The winningest city in Asia was Singapore, which had a whopping 11 bars in the top 50.

In addition to ranking the top 50, the 50 Best organization – which also rates restaurants and, soon, hotels – acknowledged “best in destination” prizes for bars that were the highest rated from their country, city or region.

Bar Trigona, inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, landed in 36th place and was in the highest spot for any bar in Malaysia.

Rohan Matmary, Trigona’s head bartender and bar manager, was there in person to celebrate. It was his first-ever visit to Hong Kong.

“It’s amazing to represent Malaysia,” he told CNN Travel. Noting that much of the country is Muslim and doesn’t drink alcohol, Matmary explained that “the (bar) scene is small, but it’s growing as fast as it can.”

The local Hong Kong crowd began chanting “Coa! Coa!” even before the number one bar was officially announced.

Representatives from the top 50 venues were on hand, sporting red scarves that made them easy to spot in the hubbub, and through the process of elimination it became clear who was going to win once Singapore’s Jigger & Pony was announced in second place.

Still, Khan, who has just opened The Savory Project in Hong Kong with partner Ajit Gurung, insists he isn’t going to let Coa’s accolades go to his head.

“We’re going to keep everything the same and see what happens,” he said at a press conference following the ceremony. “One day we’re not going to be crowned number one, and that’s okay.”

The list is based on the votes of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy, which is made up of members of the bar industry, media and mixology experts in the region.

Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023

1. COA (Hong Kong)

2. Jigger & Pony (Singapore)

3. BKK Social Club (Bangkok)

4. Bar Benfiddich (Tokyo)

5. Zest (Seoul)

6. Tropic City (Bangkok)

7. Nutmeg and Clove (Singapore)

8. Argo (Hong Kong)

9. Darkside (Hong Kong)

10. Sago House (Singapore)

11. Indulge Experimental Bistro (Taipei)

12. Vesper (Bangkok)

13. Cham Bar (Seoul)

14. The SG Club (Tokyo)

15. Analogue Initiative (Singapore)

16. Republic (Singapore)

17. The Aubrey (Hong Kong)

18. Sidecar (New Delhi)

19. The Cocktail Club (Jakarta)

20. Virtù (Tokyo)

21. Manhattan (Singapore)

22. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar (Bangkok)

23. Lamp Bar (Nara)

24. 28 HongKong Street (Singapore)

25. Le Chamber (Seoul)

26. Penicillin (Hong Kong)

27. Atlas (Singapore)

28. Alice (Seoul)

29. Pantja (Jakarta)

30. Employees Only (Singapore)

31. Quinary (Hong Kong)

32. Stay Gold Flamingo (Singapore)

33. Mostly Harmless (Hong Kong)

34. The Curator (Manila)

35. The Bombay Canteen (Mumbai)

36. Bar Trigona (Kuala Lumpur)

37. Southside Parlor (Seoul)

38. Copitas (Bengaluru)

39. Hope & Sesame (Guangzhou)

40. Smoke & Bitters (Hiriketiya)

41. Vender (Taichung)

42. Native (Singapore)

43. The Public House (Taipei)

44. Bee’s Knees (Kyoto)

45. High Five (Tokyo)

46. Soko (Seoul)

47. The Old Man (Hong Kong)

48. The Living Room (Mumbai)

49. The Bellwood (Tokyo)

50. Penrose (Kuala Lumpur)

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