A Recent History of Paris in the World’s 50 Best Bars List

photo credit: Little Red Door

Quicktake: This year’s Paris cocktail bars Little Red Door, Candelaria and Le Syndicat made the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Ten Paris bars have made the list over the past decade.

For the second year in a row, Little Red Door, Candelaria and Le Syndicat have scored spots on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. And, for Little Red Door and Candelaria, it’s their 5th and 7th times, respectively.  So what keeps these bars on top of the lists?

In 2018, Candelaria hit the World’s 50 Best Bars for the 7th consecutive year
photo credit: Candelaria

As forerunner on the Paris cocktail scene, Candelaria has long been a favorite as it introduced French drinkers to a new way to consume agave spirits. But they don’t just stick with the status quo. They continue to focus on creative team building and staff education.  Additionally, they are ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable bar practices, which is not just on trend, but simply smart.

Little Red Door hits the 2018 World’s Best Bars list thanks to their tight team
photo credit: LRD Paris

Over the years, Little Red Door has really developed into the full package. As many of the city’s cocktail bars are getting a bit snobbier (not a surprising thing as the cocktail community grows and becomes more fractured), LRD makes every single person coming through the door feel welcome. Combine that with excellent drinks and sexy decor and you’ve got the holy trinity of tipples.

Le Syndicat mixes old and new in both locations and liquids to score a spot on this year’s World’s Best Bars list

Though younger and newer, le Syndicat set itself apart by successfully combining the old and new. The location is in a gentrifying area with a gritty hidden entrance and the decor is a fresh departure from so much of what we see in Paris. But when it comes to the liquids, the focus is on France, often with deeply rooted drinks like Cognac and Armagnac given a fresh take in their cocktail creations that francofy classics.  

Bar le Forvm now in a new location, hit the Worlds Fifty Best Bars list in their original space

Over the past ten years, it’s also interesting to see what other bars have made the cut. A  total of ten Paris bars have featured on the World’s 50 Best Bar list: This year’s three plus Buddha Bar, Harry’s Bar, Hemingway Bar, Plaza Athenee Bar, Bar le Forvm (in its previous location), Le Coq (now closed) and Sherry Butt. And let’s not to forget those outside of Paris with Montpellier’s Papa Doble making the cut once.

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Buddha Bar x x x
Harry’s Bar x x x
Hemingway Bar x
Candelaria x x x x x x x
Bar du Plaza Athénée x
Le Forvm x
Little Red Door x x x x x
Le Coq x
Sherry Butt x
Le Syndicat x x

Looking at this chart tells a story of the the city’s recent cocktail development.  Initially, it was the old standbys that came up (Harry’s, Hemingway, Buddha Bar) as it was just the very baby-days of the Paris cocktail revival.  In 2013, things exploded with a record 5 bars on the list – this isn’t surprising considering 2012 is when Paris really hit a stride and craft cocktails were becoming more mainstream and cocktail bars were regularly featured in the general press. Following that, things quieted down a bit, presumably as second cities around the world began developing their own drinks personalities and proving more choice and competition as well as possible expansions or shifts in the voting jury makeup to cover more ground world-wide. Interestingly, although Experimental Cocktail Club began the craft cocktail trend in the capital, they never made the list for their flagship Paris bar – although ECC New York did make the list one year.

CopperBay cocktails (above) + a friendly atmosphere and fresh finger foods helped them hit the top 100 last year.
photo source: CopperBay

In 2015 they started releasing the names of the bars that hit 51 to 100. This year it was Dirty Dick and Danico. Other Paris bars to have made the top 100 include: le Mary Celeste, Glass, Mabel, Le Syndicat, Dirty Dick, Sherry Butt, Andy Wahloo, and Copper Bay. Le Perfum of Montpellier also made the cut once.

Cocktails, snacks and beautiful menu design at Dandelyan, which took No. 1 at the 2018 World’s Best Bars awards

For those wondering which bar took the No. 1 spot, it’s not in Paris, but in London: Dandelyan. And if you want to check it out, you best hurry as it’s set to close soon. As Dandelyan founder, Ryan Chetiyawardana told the Independent: “It would be a disservice to these amazing people, and to what we have created together to continue when we think the landscape, and the conversation, has shifted. There’s so much I think we can do, and so much we want to challenge, discuss and create in this industry that, like with White Lyan, it makes sense to burn it down, start afresh, and rise again as something brighter, shinier and more fitting of where we’re now at”.

And Ryan’s words really resonate for me not just in terms of Paris cocktail bars, but all cocktail bars.  This leaves me wondering, as the scene morphs and grows, what does make a bar the very best? The more time I spend exploring the global cocktail scene, the more my own criteria shift slightly to meet the changing face and demands of cocktail culture.

What about you? What’s your criteria for what makes a world’s best bar? And which bars in your city would you like to see make next year’s list?

About Forest Collins 320 Articles
Cocktail Expert Forest Collins is the creator of 52martinis, an online guide to the best cocktail bars in Paris and other small batch spirits news from France. We've also recently launched an app so you can keep all that bar info in your pocket!

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