Love it or hate it (and plenty of people do hate it), the World’s 50 Best organization is back again to announce North America’s 50 Best Bars of 2023. This year’s winner, announced on May 4, is New York’s Double Chicken Please. The bar takes the number one spot from Attaboy, another New York bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The North American Best Bars list, which was introduced last year, is an offshoot of the often-criticized but still-revered World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and the accompanying Best Bars list.
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Double Chicken started in 2017 as a nationally roving pop-up bar run out of the back of a yellow Volkswagen minibus purchased on Craigslist. After thousands of miles, founders GN Chan and Faye Chen settled into a permanent location in Manhattan in 2020. The bar is divided into two spaces. In the front room, bright, four ingredient cocktails are served on-tap, and in the back, things get more complex; Ingredients like roasted barley, parmesan, and burnt toast are incorporated into inventive drinks.
The bar awards are voted on by a group of 260 anonymous regional voters, who are selected by one of eight regional chairpersons representing different parts of the continent. According to the 50 Best organization, voters are made up half of bar owners and bartenders, a quarter “drinks writers and educators,” and a final quarter “well-traveled cocktail experts.”
Who might a well-traveled cocktail expert be? What criteria is in place in order to deem someone well-traveled, or a cocktail expert? Your guess is as good as mine, but if past awards are any indication, voting is heavily influenced by where voters are offered press trips, and which destinations have cushy tourism budgets. Whereas awards like Michelin stars are judged by thousands of inspectors who pay for their meals to ensure they get the same treatment as any other diner, voters weighing in on the World’s 50 Best lists have no such requirements. Voters are asked to make their selections based on where they’ve had their best meals (or drinks) in the last 18 months, and critics of the list argue that it’s likely many of their selections are influenced by the venues and destinations that offer them free or discounted travel and meals.
This year’s 50 Best Bars list is dominated by American bars. One bar in the Caribbean made the list, and Central America was not even granted consideration. When it comes to representation, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has a history of largely ignoring restaurants in places like India or the continent of Africa—except for South Africa. The awards didn’t include a category for the Middle East and North Africa until last year, and have been criticized year after year for a category dedicated to the best female chef, in a move that some see as only further widening gender disparity in the restaurant industry.
Despite its shortcomings, inclusion on this list is considered a great honor for any bar, and aside from bragging rights, a spot on the list can lead to a serious uptick in business. Double Chicken Please is one of twelve New York City bars which made the top 50—last year’s winner, Attaboy, dropped to number 13. Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy remained in second place, while Katana Kitten, Licorería Limantour, and Jewel of the South round out the top five spots.
Here are all 50 bars:
Double Chicken Please, New York CityHandshake Speakeasy, Mexico CityKatana Kitten, New York CityLicorería Limantour, Mexico CityJewel of the South, New OrleansDante, New York CityOverstory, New York CityKumiko, ChicagoCafé La Trova, MiamiThunderbolt, Los Angeles Zapote Bar, Playa del CarmenCivil Liberties, TorontoAttaboy, New York CityEmployees Only, New York CityBar Pompette, TorontoBaltra Bar, Mexico CityRayo, Mexico CityMace, New York CItyBotanist Bar, VancouverHanky Panky, Mexico CityEl Gallo Altanero, Guadalajara Sabina Sabe, OaxacaArca, TulumLa Factoría, San JuanCafé de Nadie, Mexico CityKaito del Valle, Mexico CityHerbs & Rye, Las VegasPacific Cocktail Haven, San FranciscoMartiny’s, New York CityDeath & Co (Los Angeles), Los AngelesSelva, OaxacaAtwater Cocktail Club, MontrealService Bar, Washington D.C.Sweet Liberty, MiamiCloakroom, MontrealCure, New OrleansMother, TorontoMilk Room, ChicagoMaison Premiere, New York CityAruba Day Drink, TijuanaBar Leather Apron, HonoluluYacht Club, DenverBar Mordercai, TorontoThe Dead Rabbit, New York CityAllegory, Washington D.C.Clover Club, New York CityBrujas, Mexico CityPlatform 18, PhoenixYoungblood, San DiegoMilady’s, New York City