Raising the bar in 2023
The women shaking up the World’s 50 Best Bars
The World’s 50 Best Bars academy chair for South America, Sorrel Moseley-Williams, shines a light on the cocktail scene’s top female players – from Barcelona to Bogotá
Behind the stick mixing and shaking, creating brilliant beverage brands and concepts, or working backstage managing logistics, an array of talented women made their mark in this year’s World’s 50 Best Bars list – as announced at a ceremony in Barcelona in October.
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The entrepreneur and designer behind MS Bar Trends, a brand specialised in the latest hospitality trends, Margarita Sader also co-owns a bar with her husband. In 2015, she and Giacomo Giannotti opened Paradiso, a hidden watering hole tucked behind a charcuterie storefront in Barcelona’s buzzy El Born barrio that, in October, topped the World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list for the first time. While the vivacious Venezuelan can sometimes be found enjoying a drink at Paradiso’s 30-metre marble bar, she is the bar’s creative director, putting her designer’s spin on menu concepts, naming drinks – On Fire is her favourite tipple from this autumn’s brand-new Evolution menu – fashioning the Eden-esque uniforms, and planning events.
San Francisco native Sarah Ruiz honed her skills in the US, building award-winning bars and restaurants: after moving to Ecuador, the bartender now applies that knowledge at Guayaquil’s Juliana. Passionate about beverage education, Ruiz is also a sommelier and certified sherry specialist, and in addition to being Juliana’s bar director, also runs La Colorada beverage consultancy. While eight months pregnant, she picked up the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award for the Diverso (Diversity) list in person in Barcelona. Of the drinks list, Ruiz says: “Although our suppliers are small scale, they really are the heart and soul of our menu. This platform will help us to highlight the unique Ecuadorian ingredients and traditions that we fear may become lost, but we can showcase through our cocktails.”
Tayēr + Elementary, London
Monica Berg has picked up a constellation of big awards in the past few years, including Spirited Awards and Tales of The Cocktail’s International Bartender of The Year, as well as the top spot on the Bar World 100 list for three consecutive years. One of the hospitality industry’s most authoritative and respected leaders, Berg co-owns City of London establishment Tayēr + Elementary with Alex Kratena, which once again ranked second in this year’s 50 Best Bars list: given that it opened in 2019, it is further testament to her expertise. The Norwegian also co-founded Muyu liqueurs, P(our), an industry non-profit and BackOfHouse.Info, a free online resource for small businesses to get anonymous feedback from their teams, and where employees can flag harmful behaviour.
Double Chicken Please, New York City
From Taiwan to NYC via first prize at the Bacardi Legacy China Cocktail Competition, Faye Chen chose a path different to the traditional academic one her Taiwanese parents expected of her. A waitress at the tender age of 15, Chen later moved into bars and nightclubs, starting various projects from the ground up. She and business partner, GN Chan, co-founded Double Chicken Please, the Lower East Side bar that ranks sixth and is 50 Best Bars’ highest new entry. Her advice to women coming through the ranks is to put wellbeing first. “Prioritise your physical, mental and emotional health. This industry is tough to live and grow in, and can be hard on your overall health. Balance your work and life, and maintain relationships with friends as much as you can.”
Alquímico, Cartagena de Indias
As Paola Oviedo studied modern languages, she believes communication to be the most powerful tool when it comes to learning about culture – and that is exactly what she conveys at Alquímico. After moving from Bogotá to Cartagena de Indias in 2016, a month after the three-storey bar opened, she has been fully involved in its evolution and today is operations and events manager: Alquímico ranked 10th, making it the best in South America for 2022. The bar has long cultivated ingredients from its Antioquia farm but during the pandemic, through necessity, she and the team moved there, inadvertently creating what would become the From The Bar To The Farm experience. “What is hospitality? Service is the greatest act of love,” she says.
Hanky Panky, Mexico City
“Winning the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award was a huge boost for me and the team – it was like a great big hug. Hospitality has long been part of Mexican culture – it’s what I’m most passionate about,” says Gina Barbachano, bartender and manager of Hanky Panky (the members-only establishment In La Juárez neighbourhood is named after the gin-based cocktail created by Ada Coleman, former head bartender at the Savoy Hotel). While she started her career in gastronomy at the Morelia en Boca food festival, Barbachano upped sticks to Mexico’s capital and landed various head bartender jobs. After competing – and ranking in the top 20 – of Speedrack Mexico, then representing her country at the Festival Cultural de México in Ibiza, in 2019 her path led her to Hanky Panky, which ranks 13th, and today leads the front of house as bar manager.
The Connaught Bar, London
Fortunately swapping a career in human sciences for hospitality, Sardinia-born Maura Milia started out as a cocktail waitress at London’s The Connaught Bar, at the eponymous hotel, and in five years, worked her way to the top to become bar manager, guiding a team of 16. Under her leadership, the Mayfair cocktail bar has twice topped the World’s 50 Best Bars rankings, in 2020 and 2021; this year it ranked eighth. Over the years, Milia has been awarded a cluster of accolades, including Front of House Star of the Year at the Class Bar Awards in 2018, the first woman who works at The Connaught to receive it, as well as Bar Manager of the Year in the same awards this year.
Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
An entrepreneur and passionate advocate for hospitality, bar owner Aline Vargas is one half of the team behind Argentina’s most renowned watering hole, the hidden Florería Atlántico, which notches up its tenth anniversary in 2023. The Atlántico brand’s success led her and bartender partner Tato Giovannoni to launch Argentina’s first premium gin, Príncipe de los Apóstoles, which is exported to 27 countries, as well as follow-up bars in Rio de Janeiro and London. Brazilian Vargas has long taken a sustainable approach to her work: in August she co-hosted the third edition of Festival Atlánico, a gathering that brought together 150 bartenders to share their sustainability know-how. This year, Florería Atlántico ranked 18 in the World’s 50 Best Bars.
Inés de los Santos
Cochinchina, Buenos Aires
TV presenter, author, entrepreneur, mother of one, and bar owner – Argentine drinks consultant Inés de los Santos is one of South America’s – and now the world’s – most influential bartenders. While she has long collaborated on joint hospitality ventures during her 25-year career, during the pandemic she unveiled Cochinchina bar and restaurant, a buzzing Franco-Vietnamese spot that has become the place to be seen in Buenos Aires; a year after opening, it ranked 42. In 2022, she moved Bardo, her international pop-up, to a fixed abode at Bocha open-air food hall at the Argentine Polo Grounds, and also opened a second, upstairs bar at Cochinchina to create an opulent cocktail-paired dining experience.
Laura Hernández Espinosa
La sala de Laura, Bogotá
While the Colombian sommelier has long been recognised for her wine knowledge, Laura Hernández Espinosa added another string to her already impressive bow when she opened La sala de Laura in 2021. Part of the Leo Restaurante stable, the legendary establishment she co-owns with award-winning chef Leo Espinosa, her eponymous bar already ranks 70th. Territorio is the backbone to La sala de Laura, a highly original concept that pays a liquid tribute to Colombia’s diverse biomes by distilling ingredients sourced from small Indigenous communities to unleash the unique aromas and flavours of Bosque de Niebla (Cloud Forest) and Páramo (Swamp) to the glass.
Dozens of women lead ground-breaking bars around the world, although they remain a minority, and working to put them in the spotlight is still essential. Other names and projects to look out for include French bartender Juliette Larrouy. She co-led Barcelona’s Two Schmucks (7th) until very recently, and we’re keen to see what she does next. The all-women team at Mexico City’s Brujas – conceived by Hanky Panky’s hospitality team – has also been casting its spell: the bar broke into the top 100 this year to rank 64th.
What’s so good about this?
Women bartenders have had their unfair share of treatment and challenges for daring to enter a male-dominated industry. Contrary to popular belief, 58% of modern bartenders are women. These ten women’s accomplishments – including the award for the best cocktail menu, highest new entry and operations manager of South America’s best bar – were awarded at the 50 Best Bars ceremony in Barcelona in October 2022. This list was published thanks to Fine Dining Lovers by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.
Meet the writer
A freelance journalist based in Buenos Aires, Sorrel Moseley-Williams pairs well in many situations as she’s also a sommelier. Decanter of good words, creator of Sorol Wines, Dill & Tonic G&T and top chef fluffer, you might spot Sorrel sampling vintages by tiny wine producers in the Andes (or indeed her own two Cabernet Franc 2021), fishing for paiche in the Bolivian Amazon or on the pages of Monocle, Decanter and Condé Nast Traveller – and reporting for TOPIA from the wildest parts of South America. She’s also the Academy Chair of 50 Best Bars, South America. Follow @sorrelita.