On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss the 50 Best Bars in North America list for 2022. Securing a place on the coveted list can bring increased attention — and revenue — to a bar, but what are some challenges associated with the title? Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Joanna Sciarrino: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: From Seattle, Wash., I’m Zach Geballe
Adam Teeter: From Napa, Calif., I’m Adam Teeter, and this is the “VinePair Podcast.”
Z: Is it beautiful right now?
A: It’s really beautiful. It’s also starting to get really hot. Tomorrow’s going to be 100 degrees.
J: There’s a heat advisory happening across most of the country right now.
Z: Not here in Seattle; it’s 59 degrees and rainy. Thank you, June-uary.
A: It’s going to be a hot one here. There was already a fire. They put it out, but there was a fire. It got really close to a few wineries on the Silverado Trail last week or something. So, that’s already a thing that is fun. But in other news, what have you both been drinking?
J: I’ll go first. Evan and I recently had a friend visit from out of town, from London. We haven’t seen him in a bit, so we finally took the opportunity to go to Finback Brewery in Brooklyn, which we’ve been meaning to go to on Adam’s recommendation. And that was great. The beer there is obviously very great, but the green terrazzo countertop is amazing. I mean, I want that for my own home. It’s so f*cking cool. And the food as well. We got the entire menu of food except for the wings. They have amazing dumplings and salads and things like that. And then for beer, I had their newish Vienna lager, which was great, and their Finback IPA. So that was great. And then I had good canned Ranch Water.
A: From who?
J: From Juneshine, actually. It actually has tequila in it and both lemon and lime juice. And that was very, very good. So I was very impressed with that.
Z: Joanna, I need to know, though, what do you have against wings?
J: There were 12 menu items, and I was like, “OK, let’s just not mess with the wings right now.” I have nothing against wings. I do like wings. Next time, I’ll get the wings.
Z: So you’re going back just for the wings?
J: No beer. Just wings.
A: What about you, Zach?
Z: The most exciting thing I had over this last week was when Caitlin and I opened a bottle of Chinon from Bernard Baudry, one of the top producers in the region. Chinon is an appellation in the Loire Valley that’s known for Cabernet Franc. For me, it’s been this kind of style and appellation that I love. And then sometimes you get one and it’s not good. The reason for that is that, when made well or when you get the right degree of ripeness in the grapes, it has this beautiful mix of tart fruit, herbal, spicy note, but also it’s a lighter to medium-bodied wine. And sometimes you get that and they’re just a little too green and vegetal. I don’t mind a little bit of that in my wine. In fact, I kind of like it in a wine, like a Chinon. But this one was really beautiful, it was 2015. So it had a little bit of age to it, which we also enjoyed. The only other thing that I had recently, and again kind of on the topic of my cocktail creation adventures, was I made sushi at home as I’ve done a couple of times recently because it’s Solomon’s favorite food. And it turns out that if you make it at home, it’s cheaper than taking your almost-4-year-old son out to sushi and then watching him eat an adult portion of things. I’ve been slowly acquiring ingredients to kind of up my sushi game, such as it is. And I bought some yuzu ponzu a couple of days ago. And I was like, “Huh, I wonder if I can make a drink with this.” For those who don’t know, yuzu is an Asian citrus kind of similar to a lemon and then ponzu is basically a soy dressing. OK, well here’s a citrus note, here’s a savory note, obviously there’s a little umami from the soy and all that. I’ll be honest, I was making this while also trying to make sushi, so my recollection of the exact proportions is a little off. But I was like, “OK, we’re going to stick to the theme here.” So there’s the Roku Gin, which I had talked about in a previous episode. It was about an ounce and a half of gin, about a half an ounce of the yuzu ponzu, about a half an ounce of a blood orange liqueur, and then a half-ounce of fresh lemon. It was really good, really refreshing. Definitely not too soy sauce-y, which was my concern in using that ingredient, but I think it came out really nicely.
J: Yeah, half an ounce feels like it might be.
Z: It probably was somewhere between a quarter- and a half-ounce. Honestly, I kind of eyeballed it on that one. And I was making two of them, one for me and one for Caitlin. Maybe it was actually a half-ounce split between the two drinks, now I think about it. But you definitely got the note of it in there, you could tell. But it wasn’t too overpowering.
J: So adventurous. I love it.
A: Very cool.
Z: How about you, Adam?
A: So for me, I obviously had a lot of tequila last week. The most memorable cocktail was the winning cocktail from last week, which was a cocktail called Teal. It was the product of a bartender named Harrison Kinney, who is from Australia and is the creative director of a place called Cantina OK! in Sydney, which is an amazing bar. It also happens to be on the list of the Top 50 Bars in the World, which we’ll talk about in a second if you’ve read the show notes already. And it was this incredible cocktail that literally tasted like a fresh produce market in Mexico City.
A: He had kiwi in it. He had celery. The idea of Teal was that he only used fruits and vegetables that had a teal color to them. Lime juice, obviously fresh lime juice. And then the drink had this beautiful teal color and then he floated olive oil on top. It was just one of those cocktails that you have and you’re like, “I would drink 20 of these.” If you just kept giving me them, I would drink them. They were refreshing. And because it was all the fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, you were like, “This could be healthy, right? This could be good.” It was just a really incredible drink. So that was the most memorable cocktail I had. Then I took a little break from drinking. But right before I came out here to the Napa Valley, I had dinner in Manhattan with some friends and Pasquale Jones.
J: I haven’t been there in a minute.
A: I know, but that pizza is really good.
J: It’s so good.
A: And the somm team is amazing. Kevin, who was my somm, recommended this really amazing bottle of white Burgundy. I’m going to butcher it because I don’t speak French, come at me. It’s Les Héritiers du Comte Lafont. It was amazing, just a really beautiful wine and I have to say, somewhat affordable for a white Burgundy. Definitely more affordable than other places or other areas of Burgundy. But it was a really beautiful wine and everyone around the table was like, “Holy crap, this is good.” So those were the two really memorable things I drank before I came out here. So for today’s topic, I thought we would talk about the 50 Best Bars. Lists in general, but really with the focus on the 50 Best Bars. I have a lot of thoughts that I want to get into. But my one big thought is that it’s actually a killer for bars. That it actually destroys a bar when they wind up on the list. The second a bar winds up on the 50 Best list, that’s the day the bar dies. I have a lot of reasons for thinking this that we can get into. I want to be clear, I understand that it’s very good for the bar to get on this list initially. There’s lots of research that proves that revenues go up by 25 to 30 percent for most bars. It attracts a brand new host of clients to the bar. But I think it also does a lot more harm than good for a lot of these bars. Before we get into my reasoning for it, what do you both think of this list or lists in general like this?
J: I think they’re good and they’re bad, kind of for the reasons that you’ve pointed out. For good reasons, obviously, it gives a lot of visibility to bars around the world that people wouldn’t otherwise know about. I think, as a result, you have people using these lists as a resource for when they’re traveling. So then you have out-of-towners using those lists, and then your clientele changes pretty drastically, maybe not for the better. And then you may lose your local appeal. It’s certainly something I have felt with bars in NYC that have become very, very popular as a result of being on lists like this. But I think ultimately, as you said, Adam, this is good for them. This is good recognition that they might not otherwise have. So I feel like it’s kind of hard to say that it really is a curse for these bars. But I do think that especially if you place high on this or low, if you’re in the top 10 of this list in particular, then it’s tough because you can kind of only go down from there.
A: You’re getting to one of my key points.
J: Yeah, and that’s tough, too. Because as a bar, that’s a lot of pressure. There are certain expectations, then, for people who are visiting your bar from around the world or locally, whatever. You’re going to get a certain experience that got you onto that list in the first place. And maybe things have changed, and your business has changed as a result. Then you can’t really uphold those expectations.
A: I really feel very strongly about that. One of the issues I have with these lists is that they’re lists. This isn’t like a Michelin star, right? Yes, I understand that you can lose a star. But every year you have the opportunity to keep that one, two, or three stars or gain a star. So you could be a three-star Michelin restaurant forever. The problem is, you’re the No. 1 bar on the list and you fall to the No. 10. Or you’re the No. 1 bar in the world and then a local or regional Top 50 list comes out and you fall to eight in your region.
J: The ranking is the issue.
A: Everyone starts saying, “Huh? So does the place suck now?” Because if you fall down, something must have changed, right? And what changed? Did they lose their original bartender? Did the quality of the drinks go down? It’s all these things people start to ask. And that’s what happens with rank lists. You’re not giving that bar an opportunity to still have “three shakers,” whatever you want to say. It’s always maintained three shakers because you’ve now lowered them in ranking, or you remove them from the list entirely for some bars. And these bars are still great, but you only have 50 spots. It’s really, really harmful to the bar. And I think it’s a huge issue that bartenders will talk to you about privately, that none of them want to say publicly. It’s just a huge problem with a list like this.
Z: I think another potential problem with these kinds of lists is looking through how they organize the list and how the results come to be. You do get into a bit of a real issue of, how exactly do you quantify a great bar? A thing that you see recurring throughout a lot of these bars is, understandably for something like this, they’re all very high-end cocktail bars. You’re not getting a cross-section of every kind of bar that you can find in America, or North America, I should say. And more than that, there is something about this sort of approach that I find not all that dissimilar may be from a Michelin star list, as you were talking about. They’re going to so clearly be geared towards one specific kind of experience. And Michelin has done a little bit to try and get away from a very formal style of service as their only real signpost for what denotes a great restaurant. But still, they’re really pretty beholden to a white tablecloth, formal service, etc. But at the same time, you look at the bars in the list and undoubtedly, there are a lot of great bars here. No one would dispute that. It’s not like it’s a bunch of garbage bars. But exceptions, it is kind of a list that really struggles. To me, it just seems like, OK, yes, here are some great bars. It’s missing things. It’s measuring a very specific kind of thing. And I’m not sure that we really need that thing measured very closely.
A: I agree with you. The other issue I have with these lists is, especially if we’re going to compare the idea of Michelin, Michelin says these are the cities. Michelin is coming to Austin or Michelin is finally coming to New York or whatever. And then they concentrate on that city. They never say, “Michelin is coming to the United States,” because that is very hard to do. And one of the things that these lists do is say, “These are the top 50 bars in the United States.” No, they’re f*cking not. Because there are a lot of great bars that got left off because they’re Horse Inn, which we named our Next Wave award winner last year. That is a f*cking great bar. And that should 100 percent be part of the conversation. But I understand it’s in Lancaster, Pa. It is a small town in Pennsylvania that I’m sure the members of the Top 50 committee do not go to. So it gets left off. There are great bars in Birmingham, Ala., and in other parts of the country, in Denver, in Boulder. Again, I understand you cannot visit. It’s like my issue with saying that the winner of the Super Bowl is the world champion. No, you’re not. You’re the champion of the NFL, which only exists in the United States. And the only reason you’re the world champion is that you think that no one else plays football. But they actually play football in Canada. So you’re not even really the world champion, right? It’s this idea that you’re covering everything and I understand why that helps you with the press and whatever. But you’re not the best bar in America because you actually weren’t judged against every other bar. That’s what I think Michelin gets right. They say, “Look, these are the multiple three-star restaurants in this one city that we decided to concentrate on for all the reasons we decided to concentrate on.” Number two, with these lists, for the most part, and I’m picking on Top 50 here, but I think all of them have this issue. Who the judges are is very big, and I do not think that’s valid. Again, I think you’re Michelin and it’s criticism and you have a long history of critics who don’t want to be known on all the papers, etc., and that they’re not visiting for real experiences. But once it’s a list and you’re claiming something out of all of them is the best, then you need to list who the judges are. And, I think you need to also demand that the judges show their receipts within the last year that they actually were at these places. Because one of the biggest issues you hear from bartenders is it often feels a lot like a majority of these judges voted for a place just because they’ve heard from friends that it’s cool. It’s where everyone’s going. It’s the buzzy place. And that’s what happens, right? It’s groupthink. OK, cool. Everyone’s talking about X bar. So we should just all say that X bar has got to be the spot. That this X bar is doing tons of pop-ups around the globe and people are talking about the bartenders and whatever. And they may or may not have ever had a drink there. My final issue with these lists is, OK, you name the bar No. 1. So then actually tell me why it’s No. 1. What does it have over every other bar on the list? What are they doing right? And none of these lists do that.
J: Especially when it’s like a bar that’s been around for a while.
A: For a long time.
J: And it’s suddenly No. 1.
A: Right? That’s No. 1. And it happens to be No. 1 because it was in a location of, arguably, the bar that started the craft cocktail movement. It comes from that line of royalty of cocktail bars. My issue with the Top 50 list this year for the United States is that there are a lot of other people who came out of Sasha’s world who have great bars and none of their bars are on the list.
A: How come it’s this one bar? Don’t get me wrong, Attaboy is a great bar. It is a great bar. But again, and I don’t mean to take anything away from them here, I just want to know why it’s No. 1. Why is Limantour No. 3? I want justification. I want to be told, “This is what we did to say this is why.”
J: At this moment in time.
A: I think it’s fair to the other bars to know so that then they could say, “Cool, if we really want to be No. 1 next year, this is what we think we might need to improve.” Here’s how we strive for this. And for the No. 1 bar, “OK, sh*t. We better not slip up. We better not lose all these things that are making us No. 1, or we’re going to fall.” Because that also really sucks and it really hurts the bar in the long run. It seems like very recently the Top 50 became very important very quickly in the bar world. And now it’s the dominating ranking that everyone wants to win. I just don’t think it’s good for the culture of bars in the long run.
Z: Do you want to know why I think this is, Adam?
Z: Look at this year’s list as an example of it. Look at two of the bars on here now, granted, they’re in the 30s, so it’s not like they were at the very top of the list. But Death & Co. has two satellite locations on this list. If you’re an operator, you’ve got to be thinking about franchises. I don’t know if that’s quite the right word, but you’ve got to be thinking about expanding. Because one of the challenges in the bar industry is there’s just a maximum amount of revenue you can generate in one location. You can do what some people do, which is operate multiple bars in the same city. And that’s one way to go about doing it. Or you can look to say, “Hey, look, we were the No. 1 bar in North America and we want to open a location in a place that’s not on this list.” There are lots of great bar cocktail cities that are not represented anywhere on this list. We want to open a bar in Austin. We want to open a bar in Seattle. Pick a place. But the point is that I think that the reason that it’s gotten a lot of traction and has a cachet in the industry is that it’s an incredibly easy thing to point to and say, “We were the No. 3 best bar in North America.” The average person is going to like, “Holy sh*t, that bar must be incredible. I want to go there,” or “Holy sh*t. I want to invest $1,000,000 in opening a new location with these people.” There’s just a lot of cachet that comes with anything that’s got that degree of accomplishment attached to it. The point you made before, Adam, about the opacity of the judging is a good one. You guys can go look at the list or at the website for 50 Best and take a look at the voting parameters and understand them. They’re pretty vague in general. I think you’re probably right that there’s some amount of like, “Oh, I heard this bar was great.” Again, how do you even know a bar, unless you’re going in there regularly and ordering a lot of different drinks? You go in and have two drinks there and they’re both really good? OK, cool. But that doesn’t inherently mean that the bar is great. It just means you maybe got lucky. What happens if you go out on a Tuesday night and it’s slow and you get a bartender who has lots of time to take on the drink and then you go in a month later after it’s been on this list and it’s a two-hour wait on a Saturday night and everyone is packed in. The bar back made no change. Bar backs, I was one. With anything like this, this has always been the issue to some extent with rankings, criticism, etc., of this category. Each thing is made individually and therefore is much more variable than a movie or a book or something that is always going to be the same. I do think that that is a piece of this where it pretends to a level of accuracy and consistency that is impossible in this industry.
J: Yeah. I was also going to add that these lists are inevitably going to feel too subjective, especially for the picks in your own city. We talk about this with the New York bars, like, why did this place get this number? Why isn’t this on the list? Why wasn’t this higher? Oh, this place is overrated. It should be lower. And I think that that’s always going to happen. It obviously comes back to this methodology in how they approach putting this list together, instead of just having people by region going to these places and making nominees for a specific city across the country and in North America. We’re not sure exactly how it gets done.
Z: I want to ask an editorial question to you, Joanna. And you, too, Adam, if you have thoughts on this. At VinePair, you’ve been rolling out this list of drinking guides to individual cities or parts of cities in the case of something like New York or Los Angeles. I wrote the Seattle one, which I think is pretty good. When I was talking to you and Oset about putting the guide together, we very specifically talked about, OK, it’s not going to just be the fanciest, trendiest cocktail bars in Seattle. That might be a certain utility to that, but it doesn’t really meet what you envisioned for the piece. Obviously, it wasn’t meant to be a ranking. It wasn’t, “Here are the nine best places to drink in Seattle,” it was just nine great places. If you could talk about why it was important for these drinking guides to be more than and not, “Here are what we think are the nine or however many best bars or places to drink in this location.”
J: Yeah. I think it comes back to exactly what we’re talking about here. There’s no way to be comprehensive about this. For the scope of this project and the resources that we have, it feels impossible to do that. And also it’s just not what we’re about as a brand as well. We’re not creating a 50 Best list ourselves. Drinking, again, is subjective. And these are recommendations from VinePair and our experts in specific cities like yourself, Zach. It also goes back to the fact that maybe the nine fanciest cocktail bars aren’t actually the best in the city. Maybe they’re the newest. But I think it does take a discerning palate and somebody’s point of view and perspective to decide. That’s what we wanted these lists to be. They’re our recommendations for the places to go for whatever reason, but not just the newest, most expensive cocktail bars, beer bars, or wine bars in a specific city.
A: The point of these lists, too, is that they’re going to be updated regularly. Because it’s supposed to be capturing this current moment. We’ll reach out to you in six months or nine months, “Hey, Zach, we need you to update the Seattle list.” Because you know what? The fun places to drink in Seattle right now change. It constantly changes. Will there be some fancy cocktail bars on this list? Yeah, because if you’re in the mood, we’ll say this is the place for the fancy cocktail. But then here’s the place that makes a great cocktail that also has an amazing burger and it’s just a fun time. No one’s talking below normal voice levels. We’re not in hushed tones here. I think all of those things have a place. The only thing we really do at VinePair that’s at all some sort of award is the Next Wave awards. We name one bar, and it’s based on the bars we’ve been to and that we talked to. This is the best bar for us right now this year, the bar that we think has achieved so much stuff in this country. But that bar is never going to win that award ever again. So they can always say, “We earned a Next Wave award for best cocktail bar 2022.” And we’re going to go to those bars and ask them, “Hey, who would you nominate for 2023?” Because bartenders go out and drink, too. That also is so different because it allows the bar to never have to lose that accolade. They won that accolade, and they get to hold on to that accolade and they get to now join a group of people, a family of people, that will win that accolade in the future. But they never have to have it taken away from them. I think the problem with the list is once a bar starts falling, the accolade is basically being taken away. The second a No. 1 bar falls to 8 or 10 or 12 or whatever it is, people talk. Maybe it’s not everybody, but you definitely hear murmurs in the industry. Oh, something must be going on. “I wonder if they’re off their game a little bit, blah, blah, blah.” And again, that is what is always going to happen when you do ranked lists like this. It’s just the nature of the situation. That’s why we have tried to avoid it. Even in these guides that you’ve written, we’re not ranking, we’re just saying these are nine places or whatever. Because that’s really that can be very problematic.
Z: Well, and it’s also not how people experience going out to drink. They don’t start with the best bar and then go to the second-best bar, or start at the 50th and work their way up to the first. I want to ask you guys one more question about this. It was prompted by what Joanna said a while ago about how placing high on one of these lists might change the clientele at one of these bars. I was actually wondering if, maybe not for any of us, just given our own experience of what we do, but I wonder if there’s a way in which ranking this high almost might keep some people away. Either for fear of crowds or just feeling intimidated. I wonder if you’re like, “Oh, wow, I saw that Attaboy was the No. 1 bar in North America, am I going to feel dumb if I go in there and say, I want a Cosmopolitan or something?” I just wonder if it’s a weird thing where you’re getting a certain kind of new client or new drinker who wants to say they’ve been to the best bar in North America and check that off the list and post it on Instagram or whatever. And at the same time, you’re keeping people away who are feeling like this bar must be super pretentious if they’re the No. 1 or the No. 4, or the No. 11 bar.
J: For me, I think it’s more, can you get into the place?
J: Because I think sometimes after bars are on this list, they become very popular. And then you can’t get in or you can’t get in in a way that you would like to if you’re just going out for a drink on a Thursday night. It’s slammed and there’s a line and I think that that sucks.
A: It’s the case for some bars. I’ve heard of bars that have had to hire bouncers that never had them before who have to manage a list at the door on certain nights. They never had to before. I think it does attract a different kind of clientele, someone who just wants to say they were there, take their picture, and leave. Bartenders I talked to at some of the bars that make the Top 50, especially in the top 10, said that all of a sudden there are a lot of influencers that show up who had never been before. But now you see everyone shooting TikTok and Instagram videos and reels or whatever just to say they were there. They’re ordering one or two drinks. The other thing that these lists do that a lot of my friends in the bar industry will tell me is it freezes these bars in time. If you win with a certain cocktail program, people go expecting to have that cocktail program. A lot of bars become very safe. They stop pushing boundaries, they stop changing the drinks, etc., because someone’s like, “Well, I read that this clarified Milk Punch cocktail is as close as I’m ever going to get to drinking holy water. And so I need to have this.” So there’s this resistance to taking it off the menu. Even if your staff is tired of making it and you want to do something else, that’s why butts are in seats. And revenues do go up. It’s very, very, very clear. This one guy I was talking to you about 50 Best was telling me about a bar in Cyprus that made the list and that all of a sudden he had 30 people out the door all the time. And he was like, “Dude, I’m a tiny little bar on an island. How the hell do I all of a sudden have this line?” That’s because of the list because people are like, “Well, now I have to go here, this has to be added to my agenda of things to do. I have my Michelin star places, and I have these things.” And it can become almost like putting a bar owner in handcuffs. Again, people who are in the top 10 are never going to tell you that. People who want to only reach the top 10 are never going to tell you that publicly. But a lot of them will tell you that privately because that’s what happens.
J: So in that way, do you think that for bars that are on the list at one point and then off the list, is that better for them?
A: A lot of them say it’s a huge relief.
A: Yeah. Or you’ll have ones who will say if they make it on the list, especially if they’re in the 20 or 30 range, oh, it’s an honor, but we don’t take this seriously. We’re honored, but we’re just a cool, humble bar and we’re doing what we’re doing. And actually, I saw a few bars do that when the North American Top 50 list came out.
J: It’s a little bruised ego kind of thing.
A: Yeah. It’s always great to be included in lists like this. But at the end of the day, we’re just trying to be the best bar we can be. We don’t care about lists. We care, but we don’t care. Then I think some bartenders are like, “Man, I’m so happy to not be on this and I don’t want to be on it.”
Z: Coming back to the Michelin comparison, there historically has always been things you have to do to get three stars. There are plenty of incredibly talented, accomplished chefs and restaurateurs who don’t want to do all those things to get three stars. They don’t want to have the kind of wine program you have to have. They don’t want to have the very intensive service that you have to have, etc. I could totally believe that there are some excellent bartenders and operators who are like, “You know what? If I’m on the list, I’m on the list. If I’m 41, I’m 41. And if I’m not on the list, I don’t really care because we’re doing the bar the way I want to do it. And I’m not going to necessarily invest in one way or another in all the bells and whistles you might have to have, potentially, to rank high on one of these lists.” And again, we talked about how unclear the criteria are. And in some ways, again, I think Michelin is good and bad in that it’s a little bit more formulaic or at least a little easier to understand. I think there are other things that fall into that category as well in the beverage alcohol/restaurant world that have a pretty clear formula behind them to achieve a certain level of recognition. But I do agree and I do believe that there are plenty who find the pressure or the things that would come along with it unappealing.
A: Yep, I completely agree. Zach, you bring up a really good point here. One of the things that I think Michelin is good about is you do know what those criteria are. I really don’t think I could tell you, even from looking at this list, what the criteria are besides, oh, they’re going to the places that are really hot right now, culturally. Out of the top three bars in the Top 50, two of them are in Mexico City. Mexico City is a very hot culinary location right now. There are a lot of amazing bars there. But besides that, I don’t know why it’s those bars over other things. And that’s why we go back to the point of, I want to be told. Explain to me why this bar is at this ranking. That’s at least one way to somewhat start to fix a list like this. I don’t think it’s a perfect thing. Maybe at VinePair, we should just do gold, silver, or bronze cocktail shakers, or something. I don’t know. Maybe we should start this. That’s too much.
Z: Joanna just had a heart attack.
A: Joanna, by the time I get back from Napa, let’s have an editorial plan. You have to remember that Michelin did this because it’s a tire company that wanted to be able to provide a tool to its customers to show them where they could go when they drove. Here are the best places to eat. Maybe Amex wants to do this or something, where we’re not going to rank, we’re just going to rate these bars. And you kind of know what the rating system is and you get to keep it. I think the ranked list like this is just stupid. It’s not fair to the bars. And I think it’s too opaque, and I think it is ultimately a death sentence.
J: Do we think there’s any positivity in this, bringing attention to a bar from a place that would never be on a list like this? Like Halifax, for example, Bar Kismet is No. 49.
A: Here’s the problem. No one looks at bar 49.
Z: If you’re in Halifax, you’re going to that bar.
Z: It’s the Cyprus thing like you described.
Z: Whether that’s good or bad for them, who knows? That’s kind of cool. But you also sometimes get the sense that those kinds of things are included because it’s like, “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to have a bar from Nova Scotia on our list?” I mean, sure, why not? But the meat of the list is basically seven cities. We know what’s really going on.
A: Yes, it would be great if you looked at the entire country, but it’s just impossible to do that. You’re basically saying to some people, and we’ve had these conversations on the podcast before, that bartenders who are really talented don’t want to live in a lot of these cities anymore because they’re incredibly expensive. They want to go somewhere else, and they’re opening incredible bars somewhere else. Those bars aren’t getting looked at. And that is a problem if you’re then going to say this is representative of all of North America or of the entire world. So say this is a Top 50 list made up of these 10 cities. If you’re not in these 10 cities, we don’t look at you. Fine, then people know, too, that if they want to be on the Top 50 Bars list they have to live in certain cities. Look, I’m sure most bartenders are going to be like, “Adam, we know that already.” Then at least it gives the list a little bit more integrity than I feel like it has now.
Z: Yeah, I would agree there.
A: All right. Well, this has been an interesting conversation. I would love to hear what our listeners think, too. Do you use the lists, do you not? Do you think even Michelin is bullsh*t? I don’t know. Maybe you do. Hit us up at [email protected]. We love to hear everyone’s thoughts. The emails we’ve been getting recently have been really awesome. Joanna and Zach, I’ll talk to you on Friday.
J: Talk to you Friday.
Z: Sounds great.
Thanks so much for listening to the “VinePair Podcast.” If you love this show as much as we love making it, please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits. VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and Seattle, Washington, by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all of this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team, who are instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.