Drinks News

Three Sydney venues crack The World's 50 Best Bars list for 2020

Including one standing-room only bar in the CBD making its début appearance at the international awards.

By Yvonne C Lam
Sydney's Cantina OK!, pictured before COVID-19 regulations.
Sydney venues have scored a hat-trick in The World's 50 Best Bars list, with three inner-city bars cracking the international top-50 rankings.
Maybe Sammy, located in The Rocks precinct, has shot up the list to number 11, moving up significantly from its 43rd spot on the 2019 list.
"We are stoked. We were hoping to improve on last year, but didn't expect to be that far down the track," says co-owner Vince Lombardo. "There's so many great bars on the list, and to be ranked near them is an achievement in itself."
It caps off a stellar year for the swish cocktail bar and its bubble-gun-toting staff after scooping the Michter's Art of Hospitality Award by The World's 50 Best Bars judging panel.
"Even when it's a rainy Wednesday night and there are only 10 people in the bar, our attitude doesn't change," says Lombardo. "Our bartenders think: let's ensure the 10 people here have the best time of their lives."
The team at Maybe Sammy, including co-owner Vince Lombardo (pictured far right). Photo: Supplied
Cubbyhole bar Bulletin Place makes a welcome reappearance on the list at number 39 (it last appeared in the top-50 rankings in 2016), while standing room-only mezcal bar Cantina OK! makes its list début at number 28.
"We're lovers of hospitality, so this is like getting drafted to your favourite sports team," says Cantina OK! co-owner Alex Dowd.
He was given notice the CBD bar would rank in the top-50, so at 2am this morning staff gathered at the venue to watch the live-streamed ceremony from London, on a computer perched on a bar trolley. "The list was counting down, and were getting to the 40s and 30s, and wound up in the 20s – we were super shocked."
Bartender Ho Song with patrons at Sydney's Cantina OK! Photo: Nikki To
Considering the year that's been for the hospitality industry, the international recognition is bittersweet. "The whole experience [at Cantina OK!] is designed with the guest in mind, from the minute you see it, touch it, photograph it, feel it … Sometimes hospitality, particularly cocktail bars, can run the risk of being a bit self-indulgent. We're really flattening the ego of that," says Dowd.
But under COVID regulations, Cantina OK! can accommodate just four patrons at a time. They've since offered takeaway cocktails, with customers allowed to drink in the bar's surrounding alleyways under relaxed alcohol licensing restrictions. Dowd says not all venues are lucky enough to recalibrate their business model so quickly or easily. "A lot of businesses are struggling, and a lot of operators are closing through no fault of their own."
Under COVID regulations, Sydney's Cantina OK! can accommodate just four patrons at a time. Photo: Nikki To
Then, there's the double-edged sword of international awards, where venues are seemingly defined by their spot on the list, and carry the burden to maintain, or exceed, their previous year's ranking.
But Dowd is looking to the positives. "It's an amazing thing, there's no doubt that. We're chuffed, and it just hopefully opens up avenues to do more interesting things."
They celebrated last night's announcement with lobster, lager and Korean barbecue until the wee hours of the morning, with a bonus champagne-spray with Maybe Sammy staff. But they're back to the grind today. "It's great recognition … but the hard work starts now."

The World’s 50 Best Bars: the full list

  1. Connaught Bar, London, UK
  2. Dante, New York, USA
  3. The Clumsies, Athens, Greece
  4. Atlas, Singapore
  5. Tayēr + Elementary, London, UK
  6. Kwānt, London, UK
  7. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  8. Koa, Hong Kong
  9. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
  10. The SG Club, Tokyo, Japan
  11. Maybe Sammy, Sydney, Australia
  12. Attaboy, New York, USA
  13. Nomad Bar, New York, USA
  14. Manhattan, Singapore
  15. The Old Man, Hong Kong
  16. Katana Kitten, New York, USA
  17. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City, Mexico
  18. Native, Singapore
  19. Paradiso, Barcelona, Spain
  20. American Bar, London, UK
  21. Carnaval, Lima, Peru
  22. Salmón Gurú, Madrid, Spain
  23. Zuma, Dubai, UAE
  24. Little Red Door, Paris, France
  25. 1930, Milan, Italy
  26. Two Schmucks, Barcelona, Spain
  27. El Copitas, St Petersburg, Russia
  28. Cantina OK!, Sydney, Australia
  29. Lyaness, London, UK
  30. Himkok, Oslo, Norway
  31. Baba au Rum, Athens, Greece
  32. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  33. Swift, London, UK
  34. Three Sheets, London, UK
  35. The Bamboo Bar, Bangkok, Thailand
  36. Tjoget, Stockholm, Sweden
  37. Buck & Breck, Berlin, Germany
  38. Employees Only, New York, USA
  39. Bulletin Place, Sydney, Australia
  40. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo, Japan
  41. Artesian, London, UK
  42. Sober Company, Shanghai, China
  43. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei, Taiwan
  44. Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  45. Drink Kong, Rome, Italy
  46. Room by Le Kief, Taipei, Taiwan
  47. Alquímico, Cartagena, Colombia
  48. High Five, Tokyo, Japan
  49. Charles H, Seoul, South Korea
  50. Presidente, Buenos Aires, Argentina