It's time! We can officially reveal the winners and runners up of the final Drinks List of the Year Awards.
While Imbibe magazine and imbibe.com may be closing at the end of 2020, we wanted to make sure that all the wonderful bars which competed in our annual Drinks List of the Year competition got the recognition they deserve. So, we’ve spent the last few weeks judging, ruminating and creating some fun content around our winners.
This year’s competition was a bit different to ones gone by due to Covid-19. We had some new categories, some new judges and, as we couldn't hold our usual awards ceremony, we decided to present our winners with their awards in person (socially distanced and Covid-friendly), complete with a cameraman to capture their reactions.
Without further ado, then, here are the 2020 winners of our last ever Drinks List of the Year competition! Watch the video below and continue reading for runners up, a few special mentions and comments from all of our judges.
This year’s judging panel
Alongside Imbibe editor Robyn Black and deputy editor Millie Milliken, six guest judges helped whittle down the shortlists to the final eight winners, the runners up and the bars deserving a special mention:
Hannah Sharman-Cox, Drink.Up London and London Cocktail Week
Siobhan Payne, Drink.Up London and London Cocktail Week
Russell Burgess, Wet & Dry Events
Julian de Feral, international bar consultant
Camille Vidal, La Maison Wellness
Clinton Cawood, drinks writer
Overall Drinks List of the Year
Winner: Callooh Callay, London
Special mentions: Sibin, London; Baccarat Bar, London
The team at Callooh Callay took the top award this year with its Hello menu, taking the theme of ‘greetings’ and really going to town on it.
‘This menu is like a warm hug, one which is much needed in year like 2020,' said Imbibe editor and judge Robyn Black. 'Based around the concept of saying hello, the list cleverly uses different greetings, fun illustrations and cheery colours in a way that cannot help but raise a smile even in this most difficult of years. A list truly of its time and an absolute triumph.’
Judge Burgess could not agree more: ‘Quirky and playful, it’s also easy to read and has, as ever, a wide-ranging selection of cocktails, wines and food. To quote the descriptor of the ‘Hug’ cocktail - it’s ‘Warm, soothing and meaningful’!’
The judges were keen to give a shout out to both Sibin and Baccarat Bar too. Both these bars kept appearing again and again as the judges discussed the possible winner of this award. Sibin, for its refreshing approach to whisky, and Baccarat Bar for the sheer amount of work that went into the production of its coffee-table worthy menu. In the end though, Callooh Callay’s heart-warming list clinched it.
Post-lockdown Drinks List of the Year
Winner: Crossroads, London
Special mentions: The Black Swan, York; Hedonist, Leeds
This was the first of our new awards to mark the nuances of 2020 and winner Crossroads (which opened in 2020 of all years) has already shown industry prowess. Its opening signature cocktail list was the culmination of Bart and Monika Miedeksza’s time spent at home during lockdown.
‘This category was one of the most exciting to judge,’ said judge de Feral. ‘With limited resources and budget, Bart in fact relished the challenges that lockdown brought, tightening up his cocktail offering to minimise waste, employing techniques to make sure they are getting the very best from each ingredient, and utilising locally grown ingredients that are bought directly from the community. Despite being cocktail-led, beers and wines are not an afterthought, with Monika using her experience as a somm to develop relationships directly with wine makers, meaning they not only buy but also import wine from the source.’
The Black Swan in York took a similar approach to its beautiful blackboard list, growing, foraging and preserving ingredients from their farm, while de Feral also commends the ‘fun, light hearted and fresh look’ of Hedonist’s ‘well-balanced menu, even more so that it has been commissioned by artists from the hospitality sector and uses regular customers as inspiration for each cocktail.’
Most Innovative Format List of the Year
Winner: St James Bar, London
Runner up: Mother Mercy, London
Special mention: Wrestling Demons, nationwide
‘This menu ticked so many boxes,’ said judge Payne of the St James Bar’s Passport menu. ‘The design itself was incredibly innovative, with the passport design so authentic feeling and a bit of fun for the guests. The addition of the QR codes linking through to videos of the drinks being made just brought it to another level - such an interesting and exciting concept.’
Mother Mercy was a very close second with a concept Payne was especially fond of: ‘This menu brings so much fun to the table - the innovative gumball machine concept is sure to drive footfall and social media coverage to the venue - we loved the creativity!’
And a shout out to Wrestling Demons, which takes cocktails inspired by mental health issues from bars to market, incorporating virtual experiences and artwork. It really gives the burgeoning delivery market a innovative spin.
Delivery or Takeaway List of the Year
Winner: Cocktail Trading Co, London
Runner up: Little Mercies, London
Special mention: Behind this Wall, London
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we got a huge amount of entries for this category as many bars and pubs have turned to delivery and/or takeaway while venues have been shut this year. And top of the pile was Cocktail Trading Co (CTC).
‘I’m delighted for the CTC team to win this award,’ said Sharman-Cox. ‘The attention to detail and at-home experimentation set these guys apart. Their understanding of the situation we found ourselves in this summer, and their commitment to affordability, whilst not compromising on taste or flavour, combined with their usual sense of humour in their menu, was well placed.’
Little Mercies was our runner up with simple but effective branding on its delivery packages, while Sharman-Cox also pointed to Behind this Wall, which produced its own hard seltzer range. ‘Kudos must go to both these bars - which pivoted extremely quickly - creating drinks that are well imagined, well priced and well executed.’
Specialist List of the Year
Winner: Sibin at Great Scotland Yard Hotel, London
It took little time to decide who should take home the trophy for this award. Sibin at Great Scotland Yard Hotel has taken whisky and created a fresh, innovative and trailblazing list, the like of which our judges hadn’t seen before.
‘Now this is how you put together a whisky list,’ commented judge Cawood. ‘Sibin's menu is full of interesting and thoughtful touches, and equally well-suited to both novices and whisky fans alike. The cocktail and whisky flights are a stroke of genius, and the all-whisky cocktail offering is just right. When you get to the main event - the whiskies themselves - transparent pricing, simple tasting cues and clear layout all make the list a joy to use.’
Themed List of the Year
Winner: Baccarat Bar, London
Runner up: Callooh Callay, London
Special mention: Lab 22, Cardiff
This was a close call between the top two contenders, but Baccarat Bar at Harrods took the title with its Refraction and Emotion menu. The judges who had seen the hard copy of this tome didn’t need to do too much work to convince the rest of the panel that it had gone all out to create a thing of serious beauty - even through a computer screen.
‘This menu simply oozes class and sophistication,’ said Burgess. ‘Surely one for coffee table book enthusiasts.’
Our runner up Callooh Callay’s Hello menu was a close contender, as was Lab 22’s Theories + Frontiers menu (winner of the 2019 award). Both should be commended on their commitment to their individual themes and beautiful presentation.
Hotel List of the Year
Winner: Blue Bar at The Berkeley, London
Runner up: Sibin at Great London Yard Hotel, London
The winner of last year’s overall list award, Blue Bar, took the Hotel List of the Year trophy home this year with its second iteration of 2019’s menu. Its Meta Menu 2.0 blended beautiful presentation with technology, and takes the approach of drinks styles as its starting point. We loved the look of this menu both on paper and on screen and its commitment to no and low abv drinks is especially accomplished.
‘I absolutely love the Blue Bar at The Berkeley,’ commented judge Vidal. ‘It’s a beautiful bar, with a stunning menu with options for all from no to low to higher abv.’
Sibin was our runner up here, with its whisky bar menu which is notably forward thinking when it comes to offering a single-category offering in a hotel.
Group List of the Year
Winner: Bao London, London
Runner up: New World Trading Company
This award is always a tricky one to judge, but Bao made it easy for the judges this year with a cohesive offering across all of its outlets.
‘Its beautiful illustrations and presentation, and its amazing way of creating a strong brand through all of its menu assets is what set it apart,’ said judge Milliken. ‘Simple, but effective, you know these menus belong to Bao a mile (or indeed two metres) away. We loved them.’
Our judges also took their hats off to the New World Trading Company whose menus are a gargantuan project with so many sites to take into account when devising drink curation, menu design and taking its varied customer demographic into account. Bravo.
Unlike last year, where regional bars took most of the bounty home, it seems that this year was the turn of the capital to have its time in the sun. Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you to everyone who entered. The judges were warmed by the efforts and work that have gone into these many wonderful menus. You should all be very proud.