Innovation, ingredients, bar team and sustainability are all crucial aspects when it comes to appraising the best bars in the country. Vikram Achanta of 30BestBarsIndia talks about what it takes for bars and crews to be a step ahead than others in a thriving cocktail culture.
The 4th edition of 30BestBarsIndia announced winners at a ceremony held at Taj Cidade de Goa Heritage, a few days ago. Delhi’s Sidecar, owned by mixologist, author and entrepreneur Yangdup Lama ranked India’s #1 Bar for the second year in a row and also walked away with the Best Independent Bar Award and the Best Cocktail Menu Award (for Arq, which is a menu inspired by quintessential Indian ingredients).
30 Best Bars India has been marketed as India’s first national ranking, and awards platform curated to spotlight the growing bar culture of India and giving bars across India special recognition. Co-founded by Vikram Achanta, CEO of beverage education and experience training platform Tulleeho, the awards also celebrate bartending and bar crafts talent that’s shaping the industry.
Besides a ‘Top 30’ list which includes the names of bars across Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and other cities, the platform also gives out awards for Timeless Bar, Industry Icon, Best Bar Team, Best Work in Sustainability, People’s Choice Best Microbrewery or Taproom among other categories.
Amid a slowdown in the US beverage alcohol market and the rise of ‘sober curious’ patterns in the West, India’s consumer base for spirits has been steadily growing. According to IWSR 2022, India is now the number one market globally for whisky, rum and brandy; this year, 11 new bars made their way into the ‘Top 30’ list, a good indicator of the pace at which Indian bars are innovating, thanks to rising consumer incomes and steady market recovery.
Achanta revealed that the ‘30BestBarsIndia’ is decided on votes by a 200+ jury body. “As standards continue to increase in the industry and global eyes watch India’s beverage landscape evolve, bars need to continue pushing boundaries across cocktail programs, adopting new techniques, and enhancing bar talent to stay relevant,” he shared. We spoke to him to get a better perspective on how the rankings are decided. Excerpts:
What are the key aspects that determine the top 3-5 names in the top 30 list? Do previous rankings factor in, in any way?
The top bars are determined by a variety of factors, based on a vote by a 200+ member jury. These bars include strong beverage programs, innovative bar menus, design aesthetics, general ambience, and excellent quality of service. Each of our jury members casts two votes, one for a bar in their home region (North, South, East or West) and one for a bar outside their region - so bars that make our list, need also to have fans from outside their region to weigh in.
How crucial is innovation for you when you're judging bars or menus across the country? What are the aspects that demand steady innovation in this scenario?
We’re witnessing innovation by bars in our Top 30, that are increasing industry standards – both in India and globally. These bars are pushing boundaries with regard to cocktail programs, techniques, bar menus, bar design and even the use of ingredients. This is what’s keeping India’s beverage landscape as one to watch.
How is the People's Choice category determined?
Based on our jury vote, once we have our Top 50 bars determined and Top 20 Microbreweries / Taprooms, these bars are then up for voting by consumers at large via a form on our website. All bars are also encouraged to mobilize their fan base to vote for them.
You introduced a non-alcoholic cocktail menu category this year. Tell us why you thought it was significant.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Bar Menu was introduced to recognise the fact that many people who don’t drink alcohol or have cut down on their consumption, are also an integral part of the country’s ever-growing alco-bev market. While traditionally mocktails have been synthetic and extremely sweet, this category showcases the innovation and experimentation of mixologists – to craft out menus with as much effort as they would for mocktails, catering to consumers’ evolving preferences.
What are some of your favourite trends in the cocktail/mixology/bar scenario that have emerged in the last year?
The rise of cocktail culture in cities like Pune and Kolkata and the emergence of some superb cocktail bars in Bangalore. And the move towards concept-based cocktail menus, that change year on year. Some examples would be PCO’s Textile based Menu or Sidecar’s Arq.