Each autumn, two of the most important awards in the cocktail world are presented: World’s 50 Best Bars and Top 500 Bars. Both are important, but completely different from each other. I reached out to Anthony Poncier, founder of Top 500 Bars about how his election is set up and how it came to existence. Main misconception that I want to dispel right away: it’s not about “the best bar in the world”.
The top spot in the 2023 edition of Top 500 Bars was snatched up by Sydney-based bar Maybe Sammy. But there was a nice Dutch succes to be celebrated: Flying Dutchmen Cocktails, founded by the famous duo Tess Posthumus and Timo Janse, found itself ranked 63rd, which is quite an achievement. Next to them, four other bars made it to this list: SuperLyan at #100, Door 74 at #243, Tales & Spirits at #331 and Pulitzers’s Bar at #392.
Why the differentiation between “Best” and “Most Influential”?
We used the word most influential bars for Top 500 Bars because from my background influence can be measured. It’s about what people say about you. Best is more « subjective » as your best won’t maybe be my best, but more easy to understand for people for sure as a ranking makes think best.
How did the idea of your Top 500 begin? Do you have a background in the hospitality industry, of more in data/IT?
It comes from a request from the community of bartending. More than 10 years ago I co-created Le Cocktail Connoisseur, a social media eco-system dedicated to support bartenders and cocktail bars. We have visited several hundred bars around the globe, interviewed over 300 bartenders and drank far too many cocktails along the way 😉 During the interview as I was/am jury for brands, international ranking…there were always the same questions from the bartenders. Why always the same bars when there are tons of bars and it seems that it’s more about who you know more than what you do. So Top 500 Bars is the answer to that, more bars, 500 like fortune 500 for instance, and a different way to manage a ranking. As I already answered regarding the hospitality part, for the other part, before Top 500 Bars I was a consultant in digital transformation and the Head of the EMEA region for Social & Digital, in the 3rd biggest global marketing/communication company.
Can you explain a bit about how and where you collect your data and which type of data have more influence in the final results (or is that classified?)
It’s not classified. It’s quickly explained on an FAQ on our instagram profile and when I am invited to do a masterclass for international events, I explain that more in details as I have more time.
Could you perhaps give some examples of data that is collected for the ranking? Is that facebook events, posts on social media, does user-generated weigh different than content posted by the outlet etc.
In a nutshell we gather thousands of data in over 20 languages with search engines, then factoring this wisdom of crowds to form a list of the Top 500 Bars in the world. All this data is processed by an algorithm (this means an impartial filter for classifying and a far wider range of bars around the globe: this year 122 cities in 53 countries) to produce a ranking using experts, journalists and influencers contents, industry’s rankings (local, regional and international), customer platforms, social media and search engines. But we don’t take into account the publications by the bars themselves on their own media, it would be too easy, even if we measure the engagement rate on their instagram account for instance.
There is obviously a difference in the ranking between you and W50B. In your own words, what sets Top500 apart to come to this ranking in regard to W50B?
I think each ranking is different and important for the hospitality industry. The more we are, the better it is: I wish the best to the newcomer The Pinnacle Guide. So as I said, we measure the influence of the bars from the opinions of customers, experts, industry… we try to get all the possible points of view. That’s why our based line is : Because every opinion counts.
Do you also work with a voting committee like W50B?
No, we don’t.
Is there any influence of anyone’s opinion in the Top 500 Bars in comparison to the algorithm?
Let me be clearer, the algorithm has no opinion. The data are the opinions of dozens of thousand of people, so it’s like a committee of thousands of people (an article from a journalist, a post from an influenceur, a vote from a customer on a platform, an award likeTop cocktails…). Then the algorithm gets all these data and weight them. For instance a publication on a cocktail expert platform “worth more” than another one on a blog dedicated to shoes (but for ones they talk about their local bar they love, so take it as well into account). So it’s only the people opinions that we measure (that’s the role of the algorithm), nothing else.
De you have any final thoughts that you would like to add?
Just two more things. First, for every system there are pro and cons and nothing is perfect. Since the beginning of Top 500 Bars, we upgrade our system regarding our own observations and the feedback that we get, to try to make it sharper and better.
Secondly, the mobile app is there to help everyone to find the closest bar from where they are. Actually, originally on the website, the split per city was a request from bartenders to help them to find bars without scrolling through all 500 bars ranking, when they are travelling. From that we developed an app for Top 500 Bars to be even more efficient to get the geolocation of the bars around you on map. We are grounded in our community and since Le Cocktail Connoisseur, a non profit project, we try our best to support the hospitality community.