by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The Top 10 Restaurant Chains in 2023

Check Out the Top 10 Restaurant Chains by Sales in 2023

by David Klemt

Pop art image of a giant money bag wrapped in golden chains looming over a city skyline

Well, I asked for an image of a giant money bag wrapped in golden chains, looming over a city skyline. Nailed it, AI.

Technomic data reveal the top-performing restaurant chains in the United States of America by sales volume in 2023, and number one won’t be a surprise.

For a bit of context and history, Technomic has been ranking the top chain restaurants in the US since 1978. And, according to reporting, the same chain has held the number-one spot every year.

Feel free to take a moment and make your guess as to which chain continues to lead all others each year.

Alright, if you guessed McDonald’s, congratulations.

Not only is McDonald’s the largest chain in the US by sales, the company outperformed the rest of the list by a significant margin. In 2023, McDonald’s generated more than $53 billion in sales via more than 13,450 units.

That’s nearly $20 billion more in sales than the chain that clinches the number-two spot. Going deeper, that’s more than double the sales of the number-three restaurant chain. In fact, McDonald’s generated just a $100 million dollars less than the sales of the second- and third-biggest chains combined.

Coming in at number two is Starbucks, achieving sales of $31.6 billion in the US from 16,466 units. Number three is Chik-fil-A, seeing $21.6 billion in sales through 2,964 stores.

The Top 10 Chain Restaurants in the US

Below, the full list of the ten top-performing restaurant chains in the US.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, quick- and limited-service restaurants account for the entirety of the top-ten list.

Notably, each of the ten chains saw sales growth last year, though that growth fluctuates from chain to chain. Some, like Chipotle, increased sales by more than 15 percent. For others, like Subway, growth was just over two percent.

Further, just two of the top-ten chains shuttered locations in 2023. Last year, Burger King reduced its US footprint by almost four percent. Likewise, Subway shrunk by two percent.

Judging by the sales numbers, closing stores last year may have proven to be a smart business decision for Burger King and Subway.

  1. Domino’s: $9 billion (up 3.1 percent)
  2. Chipotle: $9.9 billion (up 15.3 percent)
  3. Subway: $10 billion (up 2.1 percent)
  4. Burger King: $11 billion (up 6.6 percent)
  5. Dunkin’: $11.9 billion (up 5.7 percent)
  6. Wendy’s: $12.3 billion (up 5.1 percent)
  7. Taco Bell: $15 billion (up 8.2 percent)
  8. Chik-fil-A: $21.6 billion (up 14.7 percent)
  9. Starbucks: $31.6 billion (up 12.5 percent)
  10. McDonald’s: $53.1 billion (up nine percent)

Ending on one more interesting revelation, one chain moved up the list. Bear in mind, this is no small feat.

Domino’s, once number nine on the list, was passed by Chipotle in sales last year. We’ll see if anything changes when Technomic reveals next year’s rankings.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Reinvigorate Your Menu with Revivalist Gin

Reinvigorate Your Menu with Revivalist Garden Gin

by David Klemt


A bottle of Revivalist Garden Gin next to a cocktail, surrounded by flowers and lemon wedges

Earth Day may be over but we’re still celebrating Earth Month, so I want to put the intriguing Revivalist Garden Gin on your radar.

Created by Brendan Bartley, bar director and general manager at the acclaimed Baththub Gin in New York City, this gin brand is focused heavily on responsible and sustainable production methods.

Notably, Revivalist Garden Gin uses water recycling during the distillation process. According to the brand, this innovation saves around 30,000 gallons monthly.

Further sustainable practices include giving spent grains to farmers to feed their cattle and hogs, reducing waste.

However, the sourcing of the botanicals used to craft this super-premium gin deserve praise.

If the term “ethnobotany” is new to you, you’re not alone. Bartley and the Revivalist team are committed to using only ethically sourced national and international ingredients. Moreover, the ingredients are selected to craft an authentic flavor profile free of additives, artificial flavors, preservatives, or doses of sugar.

Compellingly, the brand goes deeper. Ethnobotany’s practitioners seek cultural understanding when considering the relationship between humans and plants. So, rather than simply creating a flavor profile and then sourcing the ingredients in the most affordable and convenient way, the Revivalist team approaches the selection of each botanical with purpose.

On the palate, citrus comes from lemon verbena leaf, while an earthy counterpoint is introduced via ashwagandha. Rose hips and plum add floral and sweet notes, respectively, further balancing this enticing gin. In what may prove to be an unexpected twist for some drinkers, hemp adds a nutty note that guarantees Revivalist will stand out from its peers.

Below, six cocktails featuring this Earth-friendly, carefully considered gin. Cheers!

Revivalist Garden Gin Negroni Cocktail


  • 1.5 oz. Revivaist Garden Gin
  • 0.75 oz. Aperol
  • 0.75 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth
  • Grapefruit twist to garnish

Add Revivalist, Aperol, and sweet vermouth to a mixing glass, and stir. Pour into a rocks glass over ice, and garnish.

Revivalist Garden Gin Garden Punch cocktail

Garden Punch

  • 2 oz. Revivalist Garden Gin
  • 0.75 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz. Simple syrup
  • 1–2 oz. Chamomile tea
  • Lemon wheel to garnish
  • Mint sprig to garnish (optional)
  • Lavender sprig to garnish (optional)

Prepare a rocks glass by adding a large ice cube or sphere. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker with ice, and shake well. Strain into the prepared rocks glass, then garnish.

Revivalist Garden Gin Easy Beesy cocktail

Easy Beesy

  • 2 oz. Revivalist Garden Gin
  • 1.0 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz. Honey ginger syrup
  • 2 Small sprigs of rosemary to garnish (optional)
  • Lemon twist to garnish (optional)

Combine ice and the first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake hard for about 10 seconds, then double strain into a coupe. Garnish with rosemary sprigs or a lemon twist.

Revivalist Garden Gin Chester County Breakfast cocktail

Chester County Breakfast

  • 1.5 oz. Revivalist Garden Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 0.75 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bar spoon Strawberry jam
  • 1 bar spoon Simple syrup
  • Strawberry slice or raspberries to garnish

Add all ingredients except for garnish to a shaker. You may need to break up the jam with a quick stir with a bar spoon. Next, add ice to the shaker, and shake well. Double strain into a coupe, then garnish.

Revivalist Garden Gin Full Monty cocktail

The Full Monty

  • 1.25 oz. Revivalist Garden Gin
  • 0.75 oz. Triple sec
  • 0.75 oz. Aperol
  • 0.75 oz. Dry vermouth
  • Expressed orange peel to garnish

Fill a mixing glass three-quarters of the way with ice, then add all four liquid ingredients. Stir for one minute, then double strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with an expressed orange peel.

Revivalist Garden Gin Flower Bed cocktail

Flower Bed

  • 1 oz. Revivalist Garden Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. Elderflower syrup
  • 4 oz. Chilled Champagne
  • Lemon twist to garnish

Add the gin, lemon juice, syrup, and ice to a shaker, and shake hard. Next, double strain into a chilled Champagne flute. Finally, garnish and serve.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor KRG Hospitality received compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this post.

Images: Revivalist Garden Gin

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Surf Into Summer with These RTDs

Surf into Summer with These RTDs

by David Klemt

Surfside ready-to-drink canned vodka cocktails 2024 lineup

There’s big news coming out of Philadelphia’s Stateside Vodka, the team that crafts the Surfside line of popular vodka-lemonade and vodka-tea RTDs.

In preparation for summer, Surfside is making two huge strides to establish itself in the RTD space.

The brand, which describes itself as “Sunshine in a Can,” launched in 2022. Interestingly, and possibly surprisingly for some, Surfside RTDs don’t feature carbonation. Moreover, they boast just 100 calories, 2 grams of sugar, and are sessionable at just 4.5-percent ABV.

Currently, there are four variations for consumers to enjoy: Iced Tea + Vodka, Peach Tea + Vodka, Half & Half + Vodka and Lemonade + Vodka.

However, that’s about to change…

Spectacular Growth

Since the brand’s launch, Surfside has racked up accolades and achievements. For example, Market Watch bestowed its “2023 Hot Brand Award” upon the RTD lineup last year.

Of particular note is the brand’s sales growth. With distribution in a mere 17 states, Surfside hit the 1.3-million-case mark by the end of last year. That achievement speaks to one of the brand’s announcements directly: Starting this summer, Surfside will be available in 48 US states.

And the second announcement? A lineup expansion in addition to the distribution expansion. Five new flavors will join the lineup: Green Tea + Vodka, Raspberry Tea + Vodka, Raspberry Lemonade + Vodka, Strawberry Lemonade + Vodka, and Black Cherry + Lemonade.

Driving visibility and brand awareness are partnerships with Minor and Major League Baseball. In fact, the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Guardians, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are on board with Surfside.

Taken the together, these announcements show that Surfside is poised to be the RTD of the summer. That means operators and their teams need to keep an ear out for guests asking if their bar or restaurant carries Surfside. Given the brand’s growth, it’s likely that consumers across the US will try it, like it, and expect to find it on-premise.

Or, put more simply: Guests are going to expect to be able to order Surfside when they’re out at bars, restaurants, dayclubs, and nightclubs.

Will this be the brand to challenge White Claw and Truly for RTD dominance? Only time will tell, but 2024 may just prove to be the Summer of Surfside.

You’ll find the official press release below. Cheers!


Premium Canned Cocktail Brand Announces New Fruit-Forward Flavors and Availability in 48 States for Summer as Sales Continue to Skyrocket

PHILADELPHIA, PA (April 24, 2024) – Surfside, the spirits-based iced tea and lemonade ready-to-drink category leader, proudly announces national expansion and the launch of five new flavors just in time for summer: Raspberry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade, Raspberry Iced Tea and Green Tea. These fruit-forward flavor innovations along with a new Lemonade Variety 8-Pack are a highly anticipated next step for the independently-owned brand to further fuel its meteoric rise in popularity.

Founded by Philadelphia natives and brothers Matt and Bryan Quigley, and Clement and Zach Pappas, Surfside achieved 1.3 million cases sold in 2023, growing +563% versus a year ago. Remarkably, the brand achieved that volume despite only being distributed in seven states at the beginning of 2023. Surfside was also the highest velocity selling spirits-based RTD per retail outlet in 2023,* averaging at about 2.5 cases sold per minute.

Over the course of 2023 and 2024, Surfside has expanded distribution nationwide to 48 states. With the national expansion, Surfside is also reimagining the baseball experience as the official RTD Vodka Iced Tea and Vodka Lemonade of Minor League Baseball. This partnership is a natural evolution since becoming the #1 selling spirits-brand at Citizens Bank Park in 2023 with the Philadelphia Phillies.** Additional MLB partnerships kick off this season with the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Guardians and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for us as our mission from day one has been to build Surfside into a true national brand,” said Surfside CEO Clement Pappas. “The addition of the three new lemonade flavors, two new iced teas and the Lemonade Variety 8-pack were highly requested by our fans and is our way of showing love and appreciation for those who have helped us get here. We look forward to taking Surfside across the country and introducing to more new fans this upcoming summer season.”

In addition to the new flavors, the Surfside portfolio includes the classic Iced Tea, Peach Tea, Half and Half and Lemonade. Surfside is made with premium vodka, real tea, and has only 100 calories, 2g of sugar and 0 bubbles. “We take enormous pride in crafting the best-tasting ready-to-drink products in the industry. All of our Surfside Iced Tea and Lemonade flavors have been developed in-house with our team, from the formulation to the branding and packaging,” adds Surfside President Matt Quigley. “Everything fun about the summer is even better with a Surfside in hand.”

The new flavors joining the existing portfolio include the following varieties:

  • Surfside Raspberry Lemonade + Vodka (4.5% ABV): A quintessentially summer combination of natural raspberry flavors and lemonade.
  • Surfside Strawberry Lemonade + Vodka (4.5% ABV): A summer staple for enjoyment at any time, Strawberry Lemonade + Vodka brings the good vibes.
  • Surfside Black Cherry Lemonade + Vodka (4.5% ABV): Natural black cherry flavor and Lemonade, the Surfside way.
  • Surfside Raspberry Tea + Vodka (4.5% ABV): A fruit-forward flavor of the Iced Tea + Vodka that put Surfside on the map.
  • Surfside Green Tea + Vodka (4.5% ABV): Made with premium vodka and real green tea with notes of honey and ginseng, this summer sipper will keep you cool all season.

Fans existing and new can continue to enjoy the original portfolio varieties:

  • Surfside Iced Tea + Vodka (4.5% ABV): Crafted with premium vodka and real black tea, for high-quality taste and enjoyment.
  • Surfside Peach Iced Tea + Vodka (4.5% ABV): The first flavored tea from the brand giving the same taste we know and love with a big ol’ punch of peach.
  • Surfside Half & Half + Vodka (4.5% ABV): A refreshing twist on the classic, half iced tea and half lemonade.
  • Surfside Lemonade + Vodka (4.5% ABV): A delicious summer staple made with natural lemon flavors and premium vodka.

The complete Surfside portfolio is available direct-to-consumer in Pennsylvania and in-stores across the United States. Surfside is line priced with an SRP $9.99 for a 4-pack of cans and an SRP of $19.99 for the Variety 8-pack (available in Starter Pack and Lemonade Pack). With Surfside’s national expansion also comes a new website and Instagram handle: visit for more information and follow along on Instagram @drinksurfside.

*Source: Circana MULO+C L26W ending 11.12.23

**Source: Aramark data, 2023

About Surfside

Surfside is a line of premium iced tea + vodka and lemonade + vodka canned cocktails recognized for its delicious full flavor taste and sunset stripes on the can for good vibes ahead. Founded by two sets of Philadephia-native brothers, Matt and Bryan Quigley and Clement and Zach Pappas, this group of entrepreneurs is also the brains behind the award-winning, independently owned Stateside Vodka (Beverage Testing Institute Gold Medal 2024). Since launching in 2022, Surfside grew from a beloved Philly cocktail to a ready-to-drink brand achieving triple-digit growth within two years, rocketing the category forward nationwide. It has received beverage industry recognition as a 2023 “Hot Brand” in Shanken’s IMPACT Magazine and a 2022 “Rising Star Award ” in Brewbound.

At 4.5% ABV, Surfside is made with premium vodka and real tea with just 2g of sugar, 100 calories and 0 bubbles. Varieties of this “Sunshine in a Can” include Iced Tea + Vodka, Peach Tea + Vodka, Half & Half + Vodka and Lemonade + Vodka. In Summer 2024, the brand will expand to include Raspberry Tea + Vodka, Raspberry Lemonade + Vodka, Strawberry Lemonade + Vodka, Black Cherry Lemonade + Vodka and Green Tea + Vodka. Available in 4-packs (SRP: $10.99) and an 8-can variety pack (SRP: $19.99), Surfside is perfect for a boat day, concert, baseball game or a relaxing day on the beach. To learn more, visit and follow along on Instagram @drinksurfside.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor KRG Hospitality received compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this post.

Image: Cole Quiqley

Bar Nightclub Pub Brewery Menu Development Drinks Food

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

North America’s 50 Best Bars: 2024

Cheers to the 50 Best Bars in North America in 2024

by David Klemt

AI-generated image of a cocktail with an ice cube branded with the number 50, resting on a white coaster that reads "North America"

I’d drink that, and probably steal that coaster.

Cheers to the 2024 class of North America’s 50 Best Bars, freshly crowned after an evening of celebration, recognition, community, and hospitality.

Launched in 2022, this year marks the third edition of the World’s 50 Best Bars list that recognizes standout North American concepts and the teams behind their success.

For the 2024 ceremony, North America’s 50 Best Bars returned to the city of San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Actor Diego Alfaro, known for The Ultimate Mixologist and The Law of the Jungle, took on host duties.

This year’s Campari One to Watch Award went to Toronto’s Simple Things. As a refresher, the One to Watch is a bar that voters believe has an excellent shot at breaking into the 50 Best Bars list.

The acclaimed Jewel of the South took the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award home to New Orleans. Jewel of the South also grabbed spot number six on this year’s list, along with being named the Best Bar in the South in the US. Chicago’s Meadowlark earned the 2024 Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award. The bar is a new entry to the list and also clinched spot 32. A new award, the Bareksten Best Bar Design Award was presented to Avondale Bowl from Chicago.

Cheers to Claudia Cabrera, this year’s winner of the Roku Industry Icon Award. Voted by her peers, Kate Boushel earned the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award.

For all of you out there who have a strong sense of civic pride, New York boasts 12 entries on this year’s list, Mexico City claims nine, and Toronto is home to three. Host city San Miguel de Allende lays claim to the bar at number 27 on the list.

North America’s 50 Best Bars, 2024

  1. Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  2. The Keefer Bar (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  3. Best Intentions (Chicago, Illinois, US)
  4. Cure (New Orleans, Louisiana, US)
  5. Mírate (Los Angeles, California, US)
  6. Brujas (Mexico City, Mexico)
  7. M’lady’s (New York, New York, US)
  8. Angel’s Share (New York, New York, US)
  9. Hanky Panky (Mexico City, Mexico)
  10. Maison Premiere (New York, New York, US)
  11. Bar Mordecai (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  12. Cloakroom (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  13. Pacific Cocktail Haven (San Francisco, California, US)
  14. Arca (Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico)
  15. Century Grand (Phoenix, Arizona, US)
  16. Library by the Sea (Grand Cayman, Greater Antilles, Caribbean)(London Essence Best New Opening Award)
  17. Selva (Oaxaca, Mexico)
  18. The Dead Rabbit (New York, New York, US)
  19. Meadowlark (Chicago, Illinois, US)
  20. Attaboy (New York, New York, US)
  21. True Laurel (San Francisco, California, US)(Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award)
  22. Bar Pompette (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  23. Kaito del Valle (Mexico City, Mexico)
  24. Bekeb (San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico)
  25. Baltra Bar (Mexico City, Mexico)
  26. Herbs & Rye (Las Vegas, Nevada, US)
  27. Botanist Bar (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  28. Allegory (Washington DC, US)
  29. Service Bar (Washington DC, US)
  30. Civil Liberties (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)(The Best Bar in Canada sponsored by Naked Malt)
  31. Dante (New York, New York, US)
  32. Kumiko (Chicago, Illinois, US)(The Best Bar in Midwest USA sponsored by Torres Brandy)
  33. La Factoría (San Juan, Puerto Rico, US)(The Best Bar in the Caribbean sponsored by Amaro Lucano)
  34. Café de Nadie (Mexico City, Mexico)
  35. Aruba Day Drink (Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico)
  36. Employees Only (New York, New York, US)
  37. El Gallo Altanero (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico)
  38. Café la Trova (Miami, Florida, US)
  39. Katana Kitten (New York, New York, US)
  40. Zapote Bar (Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico)

The Top Ten

  1. Tlecān (Mexico City, Mexico)
  2. Licorería Limantour (Mexico City, Mexico)
  3. Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, California, US)(The Best Bar in West USA sponsored by Rémy Martin)
  4. Double Chicken Please (New York, New York, US)
  5. Jewel of the South (New Orleans, Louisiana, US)(The Best Bar in South USA sponsored by Tia Maria)
  6. Rayo (Mexico City, Mexico)
  7. Martiny’s (New York, New York, US)(Highest Climber Award sponsored by Nikka Whisky, from number 29 to 4)
  8. Overstory (New York, New York, US)
  9. Superbueno (New York, New York, US)(Highest New Entry, The Best Bar in Northeast USA sponsored by Disaronno)
  10. Handshake Speakeasy (Mexico City, Mexico)(The Best Bar in Mexico, The Best Bar in North America sponsored by Perrier)

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform.

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

TOTCF Reveals Regional Top 10 Honorees

TOTCF Reveals Regional Top 10 Honorees

by David Klemt

AI-generated image of the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award on top of a bar, next to a cocktail

This is what Shutterstock’s AI think a Spirited Award looks like. At least the spelling is accurate.

Please join us in raising a glass of your favorite beveragefull-, low-, or no-ABVto the 18th annual Spirited Awards Regional Top 10 Honorees.

Overall, New York City lays claim to the most honorees with a staggering 27. In second place among the American cities is Chicago, with 17 honorees. New Orleans comes in at third with 13 honorees dotted throughout the city.

That brings us to Canada. There’s a tie between Montréal, Québec, and Toronto, Ontario, for first place. Each city boasts 15 Regional Top 10 Honorees. Vancouver follows with 11 honorees. Appearing in two categories is Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s Dear Friend Bar. There are also two honorees in Québec City, Québec.

As you can see, a handful of cities throughout North America are doing very well in terms of the bar scene. Internationally, London is home to 17 honorees, Singapore claims 15, and Mexico City boasts 12 honorees.

You’ll find the entire list of honorees below, starting with America. What can I say? I just have to be different. Cheers!

American Honorees

Best US Bar Team presented by William Grant & Sons

Best US Bar Team: US Central

  • Anna’s (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Best Intentions (Chicago, Illinois)
  • DrinkWell (Austin, Texas)
  • Grey Ghost (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Jewel of the South (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Meteor (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • Nickel City (Austin, Texas)
  • Sportsman’s Club (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Three Dots and a Dash (Chicago, Illinois)

Best US Bar Team: US East

  • Allegory DC (Washington, DC)
  • Bar Belly (New York, New York)
  • Bar Goto (New York, New York)
  • Martiny’s (New York, New York)
  • Milady’s (New York, New York)
  • Mister Paradise (New York, New York)
  • Old Glory (Nashville, Tennessee)
  • Overstory (New York, New York)
  • Proof (Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Service Bar (Washington, DC)

Best US Bar Team: US West

  • Accomplice Bar (Los Angeles, California)
  • Century Grand (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Employees Only Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
  • Highball Cocktail Bar (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Navy Strength (Seattle, Washington)
  • Pacific Cocktail Haven (San Francisco, California)
  • Strong Water Anaheim (Anaheim, California)
  • Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, California)
  • True Laurel (San Francisco, California)
  • Yacht Club (Denver, Colorado)

Best US Cocktail Bar presented by Del Maguey Mezcal

Best US Cocktail Bar: US Central*

  • Adiõs Bar (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • Bar Tonique (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Best Intentions (Chicago, Illinois)
  • DrinkWell (Austin, Texas)
  • Here Nor There (Austin, Texas)
  • Julep (Houston, Texas)
  • Kiesling (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Meadowlark (Chicago, Illinois)
  • MONEYGUN (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Sparrow (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Standby (Detroit, Michigan)

Best US Cocktail Bar: US East

  • Bar Belly (New York, New York)
  • Bar Goto (New York, New York)
  • barmini by José Andrés (Washington, DC)
  • Dear Irving Gramercy (New York, New York)
  • Double Chicken Please (New York, New York)
  • Martiny’s (New York, New York)
  • Milady’s (New York, New York)
  • Mister Paradise (New York, New York)
  • Overstory (New York, New York)
  • Service Bar (Washington, DC)

Best US Cocktail Bar: US West

  • Baby Gee (Long Beach, California)
  • Capri Club (Los Angeles, California)
  • Foreign National (Seattle, Washington)
  • Happy Accidents (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • Highball Cocktail Bar (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • The Doctor’s Office (Seattle, Washington)
  • Thunderbolt (Los Angeles, California)
  • Trick Dog (San Francisco, California)
  • True Laurel (San Francisco, California)
  • Yacht Club (Denver, Colorado)

Best US Hotel Bar presented by Grey Goose

Best US Hotel Bar: US Central

  • Catbird at Thompson Dallas Hotel (Dallas, Texas)
  • Chandelier Bar at Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Dovetail Bar at The Schaeffer Hotel (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Lazy Bird at The Hoxton (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Midnight Rambler at The Joule (Dallas, Texas)
  • Milk Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Otoko x Watertrade at South Congress Hotel (Austin, Texas)
  • The Elysian Bar at Hotel Peter and Paul (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • The Sazerac Bar at The Roosevelt New Orleans (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Vol. 39 at The Kimpton Gray Hotel (Chicago, Illinois)

Best US Hotel Bar: US East

  • 27 Restaurant at Freehand Miami (Miami Beach, Florida)
  • Allegory DC (Washington, DC)
  • Champagne Bar at Four Seasons at The Surf Club (Miami, Florida)
  • Dear Irving on Hudson at Aliz Hotel (New York, New York)
  • Frannie & The Fox at Emeline (Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Lobby Bar at The Hotel Chelsea (New York, New York)
  • MATADOR BAR at The Miami Beach EDITION (Miami Beach, Florida)
  • Nubeluz at The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad (New York, New York)
  • Raines Law Room at The William (New York, New York)
  • White Limozeen at The Graduate Nashville (Nashville, Tennessee)

Best US Hotel Bar: US West

  • Ardor at The West Hollywood EDITION (West Hollywood, California)
  • Little Rituals at the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Mountaineering Club at Graduate Seattle Hotel (Seattle, Washington)
  • Pacific Standard at KEX Portland (Portland, Oregon)
  • Pint + Jigger at the Ala Moana Hotel (Honolulu, Hawaii)
  • Rise Over Run at the LINE Hotel (San Francisco, California)
  • Rudolph’s Bar & Tea at Freehand LA (Los Angeles, California)
  • The Manor Bar at  Rosewood Miramar Beach (Montecito, California)
  • The Maybourne Bar at The Maybourne Hotel Beverly Hills (Beverly Hills, California)
  • The Ski Lodge at Superfrico at The Cosmopolitan (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Best US Restaurant Bar presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

Best US Restaurant Bar: US Central*

  • Bar Pigalle (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Brennan’s Restaurant (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Coquette (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Daisies (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Espiritu Mezcaleria (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Grey Ghost (Detroit, Michigan)
  • Kumiko (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Maple & Ash (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Rose Mary (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Spoon and Stable (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • The Loyalist (Chicago, Illinois)

Best US Restaurant Bar: US East

  • Amazonia (Washington DC)
  • Blossom Bar (Brookline, Massachusetts)
  • Bresca (Washington, DC)
  • Cosme (New York, New York)
  • COTE Korean Steakhouse (New York, New York)
  • Crown Shy (New York, New York)
  • Gramercy Tavern (New York, New York)
  • Jaguar Sun (Miami, Florida)
  • Macchialina (Miami, Florida)
  • The Grey (Savannah, Georgia)

Best US Restaurant Bar: US West

  • Accomplice Bar (Los Angeles, California)
  • Bar Cecil (Palm Springs, California)
  • Cleaver — Butchered Meats, Seafood & Classic Cocktails (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • L’Oursin (Seattle, Washington)
  • Lolo (San Francisco, California
  • Palomar (Portland, Oregon)
  • République (Los Angeles, California)
  • Strong Water Anaheim (Anaheim, California)
  • Valentine (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Viridian (Oakland, California)

Best New US Cocktail Bar presented by Diageo Bar Academy

Best New US Cocktail Bar: US Central

  • Cobra (Columbus, Ohio)
  • daydreamer (Austin, Texas)
  • Equipment Room (Austin, Texas)
  • Good Night John Boy (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Jolie (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Lemon (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Murray’s Tavern (Austin, Texas)
  • Saint Valentine (Dallas, Texas)
  • The Eastman (Rochester, Michigan)
  • Wild Child (Kansas City, Missouri)

Best New US Cocktail Bar: US East

  • Bartley Dunne’s (New York, New York)
  • Curean (Greenville, South Carolina)
  • Equal Measure (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Jac’s On Bond (New York, New York)
  • Medium Cool (Miami Beach, Florida)
  • Papi Portland (Portland, Maine)
  • Paradise Lost (New York, New York)
  • Pretty Decent (Louisville, Kentucky)
  • Superbueno (New York, New York)
  • The Portrait Bar at The Fifth Avenue Hotel (New York, New York)

Best New US Cocktail Bar: US West

  • Aphotic (San Francisco, California)
  • Bar Next Door (Los Angeles, California)
  • Cavaña at LUMA Hotel (San Francisco, California)
  • Dark Room (Seattle, Washington)
  • Dirty Pretty (Portland, Oregon)
  • Donna’s (Los Angeles, California)
  • FYPM (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Hey Kiddo (Denver, Colorado)
  • Ok Yeah (Denver, Colorado)
  • STOA (San Francisco, California)

International Honorees

Best International Bar Team presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

Best International Bar Team: Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • ARGO at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (Hong Kong, China)
  • ATLAS (Singapore)
  • Caretaker’s Cottage (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • Dean & Nancy on 22 at the A by Adina Hotel (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Double Deuce Lounge (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Hope & Sesame Guangzhou (Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China)
  • Jigger & Pony at the Amara Hotel (Singapore)
  • Native (Singapore)
  • Night Hawk (Singapore)
  • Nutmeg & Clove (Singapore)

Best International Bar Team: Canada*

  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Botanist at Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Civil Liberties (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Cry Baby Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Dear Friend Bar (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Laowai (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Library Bar at Fairmont Royal York (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Published on Main (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • The Cloakroom Bar (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • The Coldroom (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • The Keefer Bar (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

Best International Bar Team: Europe

  • 1930 Cocktail Bar (Milan, Italy)
  • Bar 1661 (Dublin, Ireland)
  • Cinquanta Spirito Italiano (Pagani, Italy)
  • Mirror Cocktail Bar at Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel (Bratislava, Slovakia)
  • Panda & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
  • Paradiso (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Satan’s Whiskers (London, England, UK)
  • Tayēr + Elementary (London, England, UK)
  • The Cambridge Public House (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • The Clumsies (Athens, Greece)

Best International Bar Team: Latin America & Caribbean (LATAM&C)

  • Café de Nadie (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • CoChinChina (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • El Gallo Altanero (Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico)
  • Handshake Speakeasy (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Hanky Panky (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • La Factoría (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
  • La Uat (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Rayo Cocktail Bar (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Tres Monos (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Zapote Bar at Rosewood Mayakoba (Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico)

Best International Bar Team: Middle East & Africa (MEA)

  • COYA Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • fable (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • Front/Back Accra (Accra, Ghana)
  • Lost + Found Drinkery (Nicosia, Cyprus)
  • LPM Restaurant & Bar Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Mimi Kakushi (Dubai, UAE)
  • Salmon Guru Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Sin + Tax (Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa)
  • The Drinkery (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • Zuma Dubai (Dubai, UAE)

Best International Cocktail Bar presented by Patrón Tequila

Best International Cocktail Bar: Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • Above Board (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • BYRDI (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • Caretaker’s Cottage (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • COA (Hong Kong, China)
  • Hope & Sesame Guangzhou (Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China)
  • Maybe Sammy (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Nutmeg & Clove (Singapore)
  • The Bellwood (Tokyo, Honshu, Japan)
  • The Cocktail Club (Jakarta, Javo, Indonesia)
  • ZEST (Seoul, South Korea)

Best International Cocktail Bar: Canada*

  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Bar Mordecai (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Bar Pompette (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Civil Liberties (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Cocktail Bar (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Dear Friend Bar (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Laowai (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Milky Way Cocktail Bar (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • The Cloakroom Bar (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • The Keefer Bar (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • The Raven Room (Whistler, British Columbia, Canada)

Best International Cocktail Bar: Europe

  • 🔶🟥🔵 A Bar with Shapes for a Name (London, UK)
  • Drink Kong (Rome, Lazio, Italy)
  • HIMKOK (Oslo, Østlandet, Norway)
  • Kwãnt (London, UK)
  • Line Athens (Athens, Greece)
  • Panda & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
  • Paradiso (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Röda Huset (Stockholm, Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden)
  • Satan’s Whiskers (London, England, UK)
  • Three Sheets Bar (London, England, UK)

Best International Cocktail Bar: Latin America & Caribbean (LATAM&C)*

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena des Indias, Bolívar, Colombia)
  • Bon Vivants (Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas)
  • Carnaval Bar (Lima, Peru)
  • El Barón Cafe & Cocktail Bar (Cartagena des Indias, Bolívar, Colombia)
  • Handshake Speakeasy (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • La Factoría (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
  • La Uat (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Oh No! Lulu (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Rayo Cocktail Bar (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • The Liquor Store (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Tres Monos (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Best International Cocktail Bar: Middle East & Africa (MEA)

  • CAUSE | EFFECT Cocktail Kitchen (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • Dead End Paradise (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Front/Back Accra (Accra, Ghana)
  • Galaxy Bar (Dubai, UAE)
  • Honeycomb Hi-Fi (Dubai, UAE)
  • Salmon Guru Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Shinkō (Cairo, Egypt)
  • Sin + Tax (Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa)
  • The Drinkery (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • The House of Machines (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)

Best International Hotel Bar presented by Ford’s Gin

Best International Hotel Bar: Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • ARGO at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (Hong Kong, China)
  • Bar Trigona at Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • BKK Social Club at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Charles H. at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul (Seoul, South Korea)
  • DarkSide at Rosewood Hong Kong (Hong Kong, China)
  • Dean & Nancy on 22 at the A by Adina Hotel (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Origin Bar at the Shangri-La Hotel (Singapore)
  • The Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • VIRTÙ at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Otemachi (Tokyo, Honshu, Japan)
  • Writers Bar at Raffles Singapore Hotel (Singapore)

Best International Hotel Bar: Canada

  • Bar 1608 at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (Québec City, Québec, Canada)
  • Bar George at Le Mount Stephen Hotel (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Botanist at Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Clive’s Classic Lounge at Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Clockwork Champagne & Cocktails at Fairmont Royal York Hotel (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Library Bar at Fairmont Royal York (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Marcus Lounge and Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Montréal (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Nacarat at Fairmont Queen Elizabeth (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • The Lobby Lounge and RawBar at Fairmont Pacific Rim (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Writers Room Bar at Park Hyatt (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Best International Hotel Bar: Europe*

  • Atrium Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze (Florence, Tuscany, Italy)
  • Avra Bar at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens (Athens, Greece)
  • Bar Les Ambassadeurs at Hôtel de Crillon (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • Mirror Cocktail Bar at Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel (Bratislava, Slovakia)
  • Punch Room at The Madrid EDITION (Madrid, Spain)
  • Seed Library at One Hundred Shoreditch Hotel (London, England, UK)
  • Side Hustle at The NoMad Hotel London (London, England, UK)
  • Super Lyan at Kimpton De Witt (Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands)
  • The Court at Palazzo Manfredi (Rome, Lazio, Italy)
  • The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel (London, England, UK)
  • Velvet by Salvatore Calabrese at Corinthia London (London, England, UK)

Best International Hotel Bar: Latin America & Caribbean (LATAM&C)

  • BEKEB at Hotel Casa Hoyos (San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico)
  • Carlotta Reforma at The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Fifty Mils at  Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Hotel B at Relais & Châteaux (Lima, Peru)
  • King Cole Bar at The St. Regis Mexico City (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • La Botica at Las Ventanas al Paraiso (Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico)
  • Library by the Sea at Kimpton Seafire Resort (Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands)
  • NKIRU Bar at 45 by Director Hotel (Santiago, Chile)
  • Rabo di Galo at Rosewood São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil)
  • Zapote Bar at Rosewood Mayakoba (Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico)

Best International Hotel Bar: Middle East & Africa (MEA)*

  • Blind Tiger at Jumeirah Al Naseem (Dubai, UAE)
  • Electric Pawn Shop at the Dubai Hotel (Dubai, UAE)
  • Flashback Speakeasy Bar & Lounge at Paramount Hotel Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Gigi Rooftop Restaurant & Bar at the Gorgeous George Hotel (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • HERO at Trademark Hotel (Nairobi, Kenya)
  • Jiko Restaurant at Tribe Hotel (Nairobi, Kenya)
  • Library Bar at The Abu Dhabi EDITION (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
  • Monkey Bar at 25hours Hotel (Dubai, UAE)
  • Smoke & Mirrors at SLS Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • The Bulgari Bar at the The Bulgari Resort Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • The Leopard Bar at the Twelve Apostles Hotel (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)

Best International Restaurant Bar presented by Gin Mare

Best International Restaurant Bar: Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • Alba Bar & Deli (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)
  • Burnt Ends (Singapore)
  • Caffe Fernet (Singapore)
  • Gimlet at Cavendish House (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • Neon Pigeon (Singapore)
  • PANTJA (Jakarta, Javo, Indonesia)
  • Ralph’s Bar (Chengdu, Sichuan, China)
  • SG Low (Tokyo, Honshu, Japan)
  • Sugarhall (Singapore)
  • Vender Bar (Taichung City, Taiwan)

Best International Restaurant Bar: Canada

  • Bar Kismet (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Honō Izakaya (Québec City, Québec, Canada)
  • Le Majestique (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Major Tom (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
  • Mount Pleasant Vintage & Provision (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Published on Main (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Quetzal (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Restaurant Pompette (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Rouge Gorge (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • SUYO (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

Best International Restaurant Bar: Europe

  • Angelita (Madrid, Spain)
  • Bar Lupo (Zürich, Switzerland)
  • Carico Milano (Milan, Lombardy, Italy)
  • Danico (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • Galileo (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Gucci Giardino 25 (Florence, Tuscany, Italy)
  • Hakkasan (London, England, UK)
  • Le Mary Celeste (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • Locale Firenze (Florence, Tuscany, Italy)
  • Sins of Sal (Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands)

Best International Restaurant Bar: Latin America & Caribbean (LATAM&C)

  • ARCA Tulum (Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico)
  • Aruba Day Drink Bar (Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico)
  • Bar Carmen Medellín (Medellín, Aburrá Valley, Colombia)
  • Casa Prunes (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • CoChinChina (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Jardín Tragos y Pasteles (Bogotá, Colombia)
  • Lady Bee (Lima, Peru)
  • Mamba Negra (Medellín, Aburrá Valley, Colombia)
  • Niño Gordo (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Tan Tan (São Paulo, Brazil)

Best International Restaurant Bar: Middle East & Africa (MEA)

  • Amelia Restaurant & Lounge (Dubai, UAE)
  • Asoka (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • Bôndai Restaurant & Bar (Accra, Ghana)
  • COYA Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Funky Monkey (Diani Beach, Kwale County, Kenya)
  • LPM Restaurant & Bar Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Mimi Kakushi (Dubai, UAE)
  • Roka Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • Upper Union (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
  • Zuma Dubai (Dubai, UAE)

Best New International Cocktail Bar presented by Diageo Bar Academy

Best New International Cocktail Bar: Asia Pacific (APAC)

  • Apollo Inn (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
  • Bar Leone (Hong Kong, China)
  • Bar Us (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Cat Bite Club (Singapore)
  • El Primo Sanchez (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Fura (Singapore)
  • Puffy Bois Pizza (Singapore)
  • The Savory Project (Hong Kong, China)
  • The Waratah (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
  • Tokyo Confidential (Tokyo, Honshu, Japan)

Best New International Cocktail Bar: Canada

  • Bar Bello (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Bar Bisou Bisou (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Bar Dominion (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Bon Délire (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Charlie’s Watch Repair (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
  • Electric Bill Bar (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Humboldt Bar at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
  • LE TIGRE (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
  • Must be the Place (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
  • Overpressure Club (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Best New International Cocktail Bar: Europe*

  • Abstract Bistrot (Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France)
  • Bar Llama (Madrid, Spain)
  • Bar Nouveau (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • Dram Bar (London, England, UK)
  • Equal Parts (London, England, UK)
  • Groovy Fluids (Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands)
  • Rumore (Milan, Lombardy, Italy)
  • Savoy Brasserie & Bar at Mandarin Oriental Savoy (Zürich, Switzerland)
  • The Honey Moon (Paris, Île-de-France, France)
  • Twice Shy (London, England, UK)
  • Vesper Bar at The Dorchester (London, England, UK)
  • Viajante87 (London, England, UK)
  • Wacky Wombat (London, England, UK)

Best New International Cocktail Bar: Latin America & Caribbean (LATAM&C)

  • 1929 Cocktail Bar (Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico)
  • Alofah Tiki Bar (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Bijou Drinkery Room (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Booze The Bar Room (Lima, Peru)
  • Cielo Bar (La Paz, Pedro Domingo Murillo, Bolivia)
  • Cocktail & Bites (Bayamón, Puerto Rico)
  • Hoja Santa (Aguascalientes, Mexico)
  • SOFÁ – un bar (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • The Dilly Club (Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas)
  • The M Bar at Nobu Hotel Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico)

Best New International Cocktail Bar: Middle East & Africa (MEA)

  • 7 Tales at Grosvenor House (Dubai, UAE)
  • Kōzo Kigali (Kigali, Rwanda)
  • Ling Ling at Atlantis The Royal (Dubai, UAE)
  • Mii-Yao (Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Moonshine (Dubai, UAE)
  • No.19 Accra (Accra, Ghana)
  • SOON Izakaya (Dubai, UAE)
  • Soul Kitchen Dubai (Dubai, UAE)
  • The Smiths (Lagos, Nigeria)
  • Uchi DIFC (Dubai, UAE)


Note: An asterisk denotes a category with more than 10 honorees due to a tie.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform.

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

2 Eco-friendly F&B Items for Earth Day

2 Eco-friendly F&B Items for Earth Day

by David Klemt

An AI-generated image of a bee flying over seaweed, headed toward the horizon

This bee is having the time of its AI-generated life, frolicking over the sea.

It’s April 22, also known as Earth Day, and with that in mind I would like to introduce you to two products that focus on sustainability.

One is replacement for the standard cooking oils we know and love. The other is a practical stand-in for traditional honey.

The topics of sustainability, environmental friendliness, and responsible business practices are multifaceted. There’s combating food waste, upgrading to energy-efficient equipment and items that use less water… And there’s sourcing ingredients.

In the case of the two products below, both aim to be made with responsible production methods. The first seeks to use just a fraction of the resources needed to produce its traditional analogs. The other focuses on habitat restoration and protecting our planet’s all-important pollinators.

Algae Cooking Club

Seaweed isn’t just for scaring the hell out of people swimming in lakes or oceans. Instead, it’s now a viable substitute for vegetable, olive, canola, and other cooking oils.

Since it’s Earth Day (and Earth Month, of course), I want operators to be aware of this environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cooking oils.

According to the Algae Cooking Club website, “Many cooking oils are still sourced from industrial farming methods, while climate change is radically reducing crop yields. An estimated 1.4 billion acres of new farmland will be needed to feed a growing world. Algae offers an exciting alternative. Instead of waiting entire seasons to harvest, algae has the potential to produce high-quality fats, proteins, and nutrients in a matter of days with a fraction of the land, water, and carbon needed, without sacrificing flavor and quality.”

Per Elisabeth Sherman, writing for Food & Wine, Algae Cooking Club can credibly claim that production of their algae oil produces just half the carbon emissions in comparison to avocado, canola, and olive oil. Oh, it’s also packaged in a recyclable aluminum bottle.

There are several seaweed- or algae-based cooking oils available. I’m focusing on Algae Cooking Club’s oil because one of the world’s best restaurants is reportedly using it moving forward.

That restaurant is Eleven Madison Park, helmed by owner and chef, Chef Daniel Humm. Not only is the restaurant one of the best, it was named the World’s Best Restaurant by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. Chef Humm claims that Algae Cooking Club’s oil doesn’t overpower delicate flavors, nor does it taste off or burnt.

So, if it’s good enough for one of the best restaurants and one of the best chefs in the world, it’s going to have my attention.


I don’t want to start a debate here, but it’s important to note that there’s a dispute over whether honey is vegetarian or vegan.

On the vegetarian side of the discussion, it’s not meat or fish. Also, most people would say that bees aren’t harmed during the production of honey.

However, on the vegan side, honey is an animal product. Further, it’s a product produced by exploiting an animal. Therefore, honey can’t be vegan. And, yes, that means vegans will try to avoid consuming it.

Well, what if there existed a product that looked, tasted, cooked, and overall behaved like honey that didn’t exploit any bees? There is.

From Mellody Foods comes Mellody Plant-based Honey. Currently, there are two expressions: Golden Clover, and Spicy Habanero. Both, according to Mellody, are 1:1 matches to honey produced by bees.

The company claims that Golden Clover and Spicy Habanero tastes, drips, drizzles, and sticks like traditional honey. Each flavor is vegan, gluten- and glyphosate-free, and pollinator-friendly.

Crucially, both plant-based honeys are made using sugars, acids, and botanical extracts. Of course, Spicy Habanero includes its namesake pepper as well.

You and your culinary and bar teams can learn about Mellody here.


Eco-friendliness and sustainability are important values to a not-insignificant portion of the world.

It follows that a percentage of consumers seek out and want to support restaurants and bars that share their values. So, if the above products make sense for your concept, give them careful consideration.

If they’re not a fit, that’s fine. However, it’s a good idea to look into what products and practices you can embrace to become a more sustainable operator.

It’s possible you’re already greener than you think. Keep going.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor KRG Hospitality received compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this post.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

KRG Hospitality Start-Up Restaurant Bar Hotel Consulting Consultant Solutions Plans Services

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Kate Boushel Earns Bartenders’ Bartender

Kate Boushel Earns Bartenders’ Bartender Award

by David Klemt

Kate Boushel, Director of Beverage and Education for the Barroco Group

Cheers to bartender, educator, and mentor Kate Boushel for earning the 2024 Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award, the first Canadian bartender to win the title.

Boushel, the director of beverage and education for Barroco Group, is well deserving of this honor. It’s important to note that this award is voted on by industry peers.

In addition to selflessly educating and mentoring others, Boushel also tends bar at the incredible Atwater Cocktail Club and Milky Way Cocktail Bar, both in Montréal, Québec.

Interior image of bar inside Atwater Cocktail Club in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Atwater Cocktail Club.

She is an advocate, fighting for representation. Further, Boushel is helping to lead the industry toward truly embracing inclusion in myriad ways. Not only does she fight for everyone to be welcome, Boushel fights for workers to seek purpose in the industry, and be recognized for their talents and impact.

Hospitality is, at its core, about service, community, and inclusion. Therefore, there’s zero question Boushel deserves recognition as the Bartenders’ Bartender. I’ve never heard anything but positivity when anyone has spoken of her. One need only review the social media posts announcing Boushel’s award and accompanying comments to see how much her peers revere her.

The announcement of this award is part of the run-up to the 2024 North America’s 50 Best Bars ceremony. In its third edition, the ceremony returns to San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. Learn more about this year’s event on episode 113 of the Bar Hacks podcast, featuring Emma Sleight. Those not attending in person can watch the April 23 livestream via YouTube and Facebook.

Congratulations to Kate Boushel!


An inspirational spirits educator and mentor for female leaders in the industry wins the bar world’s leading peer-voted award

April 11, 2024 – Kate Boushel, Director of Beverage and Education for the Barroco Group and bartender at Montreal’s Atwater Cocktail Club and Milky Way Cocktail Bar, has been named the recipient of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2024. Boushel is one of the leading forces behind Barroco Group’s innovative bar concepts and has been recognized for her legendary teamwork behind the bar as well as her impactful mentorship, involvement in community initiatives and career consulting – particularly for other women in the beverage industry. She is the first Canadian recipient of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award.

After leaving the restaurant and bar industry for a career in government and public relations for nearly a decade, Boushel’s passion for local flavors, spirits, and cocktails, as well as her natural inclination toward the art of hospitality, brought her back to bartending. Outside of the bars themselves, Boushel has competed on a global and national scale in industry competitions such as the Marie Brizard Masters, Diageo World Class, Bombay’s Most Imaginative Bartender, and Speed Rack.

Boushel represents the Barroco Group in bar events, pop-ups, and panels that discuss shifts in the global bar sector. She continues to bring awareness to the Canadian bartending community as an advocate for diversity, as a resource for bartenders at all levels, and as a support to fellow bartenders through a variety of programs within the industry.

An innovator and true connoisseur of bartending, Boushel is responsible for co-crafting the cocktail menus within Barroco Group, which includes the drinks programs for Atwater Cocktail Club, Barroco, Foiegwa, Milky Way, Fugazzi, and Bon Délire. Under Boushel’s creative and innovative guidance, these bars have continued to play a significant role in providing paces that support a healthier planet while promoting and prioritizing local farmers and producers and developing budding talent within the region. Boushel divides her time between advocacy and working with her teams to incorporate sustainability into everything they do, from the ways they work to the products they use. Her hard work, determination, and commitment to hospitality make her a worthy winner of the industry’s most prestigious peer-voted award.

Emma Sleight, Head of Content for North America’s 50 Best Bars, said, “Kate is an industry powerhouse who has transformed and pioneered the cocktail scene in Montreal and throughout North America. A supporter of bartenders, whether long-established or new to the trade, and an advocate for sustainability, she is a thoughtful and dedicated promoter of local producers and a mentor to all who have worked with her. In Kate’s time at Atwater Cocktail Club, she has created cocktails that take Canada’s mixology roots and blend them with her own take on classic drinks, keeping quality ingredients at the heart of everything she and her team do. She has also dedicated time outside of Barroco Group to mentor women in the industry and play an active role in a variety of community-focused initiatives. Together, we congratulate Kate on being awarded the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award.”

Atwater Cocktail Club was recognized by North America’s 50 Best Bars in 2023 as No.32 on the list. Known as one of the most charismatic cocktail bars in Montreal for its creatively curated selections, the menu features elegant drinks made with high-quality ingredients and incorporating techniques such as fermentations, emulsions and carbonation installations. Cocktails come to life with ingredients such as repurposed egg whites, acid-rectified grape juice, and celery bitters. The full menu aims to keep guests educated about their drink’s ingredients, alcohol percentages, and translations in both English and French. Outside of its cocktails, Atwater Cocktail Club has an extensive selection of wines, beers, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Kate Boushel says: “Receiving the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award is one of the greatest honors of my career. I see it as an emblem of the global hospitality community and our industry’s way of recognizing fellow professionals who go above and beyond to embody this spirit that unites bartenders across the world. It goes without saying that this milestone is a testament to the unwavering support of our partners at the Barroco Group, my network and the friendships I’ve fostered throughout my career. As I reflect on this moment I feel seen, filled with gratitude and proud for what this represents to our Montreal and Canadian bar community.”

Carlos Andrés Ramírez, Global Advocacy & PR Manager of Altos Tequila, says: “We love that this year’s North America’s 50 Best Bars Altos Bartenders’ Bartender is Kate Boushel from Atwater Cocktail Club in Canada. This is a very well-deserved award to someone from a country that every year demonstrates its relevance in the industry and has more and more bars scaling up. From Altos Tequila and Altos Tahona Society, huge applause to Kate and all the staff around her. Salud!”

The Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award is second in a series of special pre-announced awards for North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024, which will take place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. For the second year in a row, San Miguel de Allende will host the live awards representing North America’s drinks and bar industry coming together to announce the most prestigious list of expert-voted drinking destinations across all of North America.

The countdown of the list of North America’s 50 Best Bars and the awards ceremony will also be broadcast to a global audience who are not able to attend in person, and bar and cocktail lovers will be invited to join through The World’s 50 Best Bars Facebook page and 50 Best Bars TV YouTube channel.

About North America’s 50 Best Bars

Following the success of The World’s 50 Best Bars, sponsored by Perrier, and the establishment of Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2016, 50 Best launched North America’s 50 Best Bars, with the first edition of the awards held in New York, N.Y. on June 7, 2022. It shines a much-deserved spotlight on the region as a world-class drinks’ destination and acts as a mouthpiece for the outstanding talent coming through. The inaugural North America’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony and unveiling of the list provided a unique opportunity to unite bartenders, bar owners, cocktail aficionados and drinks media from all over the region at a captivating celebration of drinks, hospitality, passion and talent. North America’s 50 Best Bars includes voting for bars from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. William Reed, which owns the 50 Best brand, is entirely responsible for the organization of the awards, the voting system and the respective lists.

How the Voting Works

The ranking for North America’s 50 Best Bars will reflect the best bar experiences based on the votes of the Academy members, who comprise anonymous North American bar industry experts (including bartenders, bar owners, drinks media and well-traveled cocktail connoisseurs) from the USA, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 2023, the Academy expanded to 270 members. This change was implemented to obtain a wider snapshot and ensure a greater number of diverse voices voting for the awards. Moreover, as per all 50 Best lists for restaurants, bars and hotels, 25 per cent of Academy members are refreshed annually to keep the perspectives dynamic and relevant. Members of the 50 Best organization do not vote and do not control the composition of the list; that is the collective role of the voting Academy. This means that bars cannot apply to be on the list and no sponsors have any influence on the list.

The Academy is divided into 7 regions: USA Northeast; USA Midwest; USA West; USA South; Canada East; Canada West; Mexico and the Caribbean. Each region has its own panel of members including a chairperson, called the Academy Chair. The Chairs each then select a voting panel, ensuring a balanced selection. Each North America Academy member will vote for 7 bars, with a maximum of 5 in the home country (or state in the U.S.) where they are based. Voters also have the option to vote for a further 2 (or more) bars located outside of their home country (or U.S. state) up to a maximum of 7.

Voting is carried out individually and strictly confidentially on a secure site and remains confidential before the list announcement. Academy Chairs are not privy to, and have no knowledge of, the votes cast by the voters in their respective regions. They are neither spokespeople for the 50 Best brand.

The list will be the result of a poll of 270 experts (all within the North American continent), who each cast votes for the bars where they have had their ‘best experience’ during the last 18 months before the voting deadline. The list is a simple computation of votes by North American voters for bars in North America. Further information on the Academy Chairs and how the voting works is available on the FAQs page here.

About the Award Sponsor: Altos

Altos is a super-premium Tequila, crafted from 100% blue agave in the heart of Los Altos, more than 2,000 meters above sea level, in the western state of Jalisco, in Mexico. Born from a collaboration between Altos Tequila’s Master Distiller, Jesús Hernández, and the internationally renowned UK mixologists, Dré Masso and the late Henry Besant, Altos was made by bartenders for bartenders in 2009. The Altos range celebrates the authenticity of Mexico in a modern way, as such each Tequila is crafted in part using the 500-year-old traditional Tahona method, before being distilled in small copper pot stills.

About the Host Destination Partner: San Miguel de Allende

Located just 170 miles northwest of Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende earned its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 2008. With more than 175,000 residents, the town shares this distinction with the most historically and culturally significant destinations in the world and is Mexico’s unofficial wedding capital. Thanks to its advanced culinary and cocktail scenes, San Miguel de Allende is already beloved by in-the-know travelers. The town is also famous for its exquisitely preserved examples of 16th-century Spanish Colonial Baroque architecture, as well as iconic structures like La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, a stunning neo-Gothic cathedral. In the mid 20th-century, San Miguel de Allende became a haven for Mexican painters, which, in turn, attracted foreign artists and writers. They fell in love with its picturesque cobblestone streets, stately mansions, colorful artisanal crafts markets and cosmopolitan, bohemian lifestyle that continue to enchant travelers today.

About the Main Sponsor: Perrier

For more than a century, Perrier® has collaborated with some of the world’s most influential major artists, including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Bernard Villemot, and Jean-Gabriel Domergue, each of whom in their own way have demonstrated a certain artistic irreverence. With a history that began in 1863 in Vergèze, in the Gard region of France, the Perrier® brand is now recognized worldwide thanks to its iconic green bottle. Appreciated in more than 140 countries, the brand is acclaimed for its natural mineral water combined with the power of its bubbles.

Images provided by CURICH|WEISS

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

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Rocky Start to Cali’s Fast-food Wage Hike

Rocky Start to California’s Fast-food Wage Hike

by David Klemt

AI-generated image of a $20 bill with a cheeseburger covering the president's face, in street art style

I instructed AI to draw a cheeseburger on a $20 bill, in street art style. Enjoy.

We’re barely two weeks into the $20-per-hour wage hike for fast-food workers in California and not everyone is happy with the results thus far.

That is, of course, if reports are accurate. However, the stories coming out of the Golden State are raising eyebrows.

On April 1, the minimum wage for fast-food workers in California jumped to $20 per hour. On the surface, AB 1228 appears to be a victory for hourly hospitality professionals employed by fast-food concepts.

Unfortunately, once we go beyond the surface, things aren’t that cut and dry.

Operators in California are implementing all manner of adaptations in response to the state’s minimum wage boost:

  • Increasing menu prices.
  • Cutting staff hours.
  • Reducing staff.
  • Decreasing operating hours.
  • Closing one or more days of the week.
  • Postponing updates and upgrades.
  • Focusing on delivery.
  • Introducing automation.
  • Putting items that require less labor on the menu.
  • Closing locations permanently.

It should go without saying but a wage increase doesn’t do much good if one’s hours are reduced significantly. Further, it does zero good if one’s employer shutters the workplace.

Per reporting, that’s precisely the situation team at one Fosters Freeze location is in currently. On April 1, workers at a Lemoore, California, location received a group text explaining that their restaurant was closing permanently. Understandably, some staff thought the text was an April Fool’s Day prank.

Certainly, the Lemoore Fosters Freeze isn’t the only restaurant closure related directly to the minimum-wage hike. Nor, it seems, will it be the last.

More Pain Points

When people hear about fast-food menu price increases, the assumption is that guests will reduce visits. Or, perhaps they’ll adjust their usual order. Alternately, some people anticipate guests will give their business to a different fast-food brand.

However, there’s another result that some fast-food operators in California are anticipating or experiencing already.

At a certain point, perception of value is affected negatively. Eventually, a consumer will perceive more value in visiting a full-service restaurant than a QSR or LSR. So, it’s likely that fast-food operators in California will lose guests to traditional “sit-down” concepts.

Should that possibility become a reality, traffic will drop. When the traffic drops, workers’ hours are reduced. Some operators, therefore, will lose staff to FSRs; people need to go where the work and money are, after all.

So, beyond the need to adapt to comply with the new minimum-wage law, fast-food operators must compete with FSRs to keep staff and guests.

What’s a Fast Food Restaurant?

Curious about how California defines “fast food restaurant” in AB 1228, I looked up the text of the bill.

The relevant parts are found under section 1474:

“(a) ‘National fast food chain’ means a set of limited-service restaurants consisting of more than 60 establishments nationally that share a common brand, or that are characterized by standardized options for decor, marketing, packaging, products, and services, and which are primarily engaged in providing food and beverages for immediate consumption on or off premises where patrons generally order or select items and pay before consuming, with limited or no table service. For purposes of the definitions in this part, ‘limited-service restaurant’ includes, but is not limited to, an establishment with the North American Industry Classification System Code 722513.”

1474 also includes the following:

“(c) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), ‘fast food restaurant’ means a limited-service restaurant in the state that is part of a national fast food chain.”

Interestingly, there’s also this exemption:

“(2) ‘Fast food restaurant’ shall not include an establishment that on September 15, 2023, operates a bakery that produces for sale on the establishment’s premises bread, as defined under Part 136 of Subchapter B of Chapter I of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, so long as it continues to operate such a bakery. This exemption applies only where the establishment produces for sale bread as a stand-alone menu item, and does not apply if the bread is available for sale solely as part of another menu item.”

Further, AB 610 carves out more exemptions.

Accusations of Corruption

The bakery exemption is fueling accusations of corruption.

Per reports, the exemption is quite favorable for Panera Bread. Why is that particular chain being held up as an example of special treatment and corruption?

As it turns out, should reporting prove accurate, a Panera Bread franchisee and billionaire named Greg Flynn is a Governor Gavin Newsom campaign donor. It’s claimed that Flynn has donated more than $200,000 to Gov. Newsom.

Last month, Flynn, in response to what has been dubbed “PaneraGate,” stated that the minimum wage at his franchise locations would rise to $20 per hour. This announcement was, Flynn claimed, to remain competitive, and in no way a reaction to the controversy surrounding what many perceived to be a favorable exemption for a donor, high school friend, and past business partner.

Again, California is barely two weeks in to this mandated pay rise. To say it’s early days is an understatement. There will be further consequences and adaptations for months and years to come.

So far, however, while many workers and even business owners are happy with the new law, some are already sounding alarms and pushing back.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

KRG Hospitality. Restaurant Business Plan. Feasibility Study. Concept. Branding. Consultant. Start-Up.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

AI: Coming to a Loyalty Program Near You

AI: Coming to a Loyalty Program Near You

by David Klemt

In a logical step forward, artificial intelligence is now coming to restaurant loyalty programs to enhance personalization and encourage engagement.

Proponents say that AI is in a position to learn about program members and make recommendations. Most importantly, they claim that such technology learns to present offers that will motivate guests to make a purchase.

At the end of the day, that is the reason loyalty programs exist.

One international chain embracing AI tech to enhance their program is Wendy’s. As one would expect, they’re using AI to study an individual’s preferences, visit frequency, purchase history, and more.

Should this investment in AI prove successful, the Wendy’s loyalty program will further establish itself as one of the best in the industry. In addition to enhancing the gamification aspect of the app, offer uptake should increase.

It’s no secret that consumers want personalized offers. However, that doesn’t mean a marketing email with their first name in the greeting. A truly personalized offer is one that shows the company extending it understands the recipient.

For a surface-level example, let’s say a loyalty program user’s purchase history makes it clear they’re exclusively vegetarian or vegan. It’s incredibly likely that offering this person a deal on a double cheeseburger will fail. Over time, after receiving enough offers that don’t resonate, that user may decrease visits and even exit the loyalty program.

Toward the end of last year, Wendy’s said they expected sales driven by digital opportunities to reach nearly $2 billion. A key driver is, of course, their loyalty program.

It makes sense, therefore, for the QSR giant to invest in AI to enhance loyalty.

Punchh It

Wendy’s is partnering with PAR Tech to enhance their loyalty program via artificial intelligence.

In 2021, PAR Tech acquired a loyalty and guest engagement solutions provider called Punchh for $500 million. Now called PAR Punchh, the aim is to make it simpler for restaurants to leverage loyalty.

“With the Punchh acquisition, we are building a platform that enables restaurants to scale quickly, own their path to innovation, and take back their guest relationship. This eliminates the need for juggling disjointed vendors, developing cumbersome point-to-point integrations, and relying on 3rd party dependencies. At the same time, Punchh advances our ability to provide customers with an end-to-end solution, from guest-to-kitchen, through one unified data source,” said PAR Tech CEO and president Savneet Singh back in 2021.

Per PAR Tech, there are more than 200 enterprise-level restaurant chains using Punchh currently. It stands to reason that number will grow if partnering with the platform proves lucrative for brands like Wendy’s.

Further, as AI tech reaches ubiquity and delivers more desirable results, it should become more affordable for regional chains and independents to leverage it as well.

Operators of all sizes who offer loyalty programs should keep an eye on AI-enhanced programs and the opportunities they present.

Image: Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Going on with Chili Crisp?

What’s Going on with Chili Crisp?

by David Klemt

A street-art-style image of a jar of chili crisp versus a jar of chili crunch

I’m not convinced that AI platforms know much about chili crisp or human hands.

UPDATE (April 15, 2024): David Chang has reportedly stated that Momofuku will no longer enforce the “Chile Crunch” trademark. He made the statement on his The Dave Chang Show podcast.

A legal battle over a chili crisp trademark is spilling into the public arena, and people are taking sides and making their feelings known on social media.

More specifically, Momofuku appears to be defending its “Chile Crunch” and “Chili Crunch” trademarks vigorously. To say some people aren’t exactly fans of this legal news is an understatement.

To provide context for the unfamiliar, Momofuku is a restaurant group first established in 2004 by David Chang. By 2019, the group had expanded, opening 20 venues. In 2020, Momofuku Goods began selling some of its culinary products in the retail space.

Among the products carrying the Momofuku name and peach logo is Chili Crunch. This is the brand’s version of chili crisp, a condiment consisting of oil, fried chili pepper, and other elements, such as garlic and onion (and other peppers).

From what I can find, it’s widely accepted that chili crisp originated in China, and has been around for centuries. How many centuries? I have no idea.

However, I can say with certainty that Momofuku has owned the “chile crunch” trademark since 2023. And I know that Momofuku acquired the rights to that trademark from Chile Colonial, LLC. That acquisition was part of a settlement.

Interestingly, Chile Colonial took action against Momofuku last year for trademark infringement for using the product name Chile Crunch. The former had been selling its Chile Crunch since 2008, and registered the trademark in 2015.

Now, it’s Momofuku, who apparently licenses the trademark to others, taking action to defend the trademark. Toward the end of last month, the company applied to trademark “chili crunch.”

Cease and Desist

As several outlets have reported, a number of chili crisp producers have received cease-and-desist letters.

Eater has reported that one producer, Homiah, received such a letter after they renamed their Crispy Sambal product to Sambal Chili Crunch.

The letter reads, in part, “Momofuku trusts that Homiah did not adopt the CHILI CRUNCH mark in bad faith or with an intent to create confusion. But because trademark law requires brand owners to police use of their trademarks—and because Momofuku is concerned that consumers may actually be confused here—we write to request Homiah’s cooperation.”

One element of the requested cooperation is that Homiah stop using the name Sambal Chili Crunch within 90 days.

It seems that it hasn’t taken long for these legal requests to find their way to the public at large. And, yes, sides have been taken.

Sifting through the comments on Eater’s Instagram post about this situation paints a vivid, albeit not entirely unexpected, picture.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Eater (@eater)

This is a great way to ensure that I’ll never buy Chang’s version,” reads one comment.

If no one owns RANCH, no one should own this,” says another Instagram user.

No, this is absurd. Heinz didn’t trademark ketchup, they trademarked Heinz, this is so ridiculous. He can trademark momofuko and the peach logo. But this is so stupid,” is a comment with nearly 400 likes.

Finally, there’s this simple statement: “You can’t trademark culture.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Jenn Harris would agree with that last comment. Addressing Momofuku’s legal actions, she writes, “I reject the notion that someone could exclusively own something so ingrained in my culture, a food I consider an intrinsic part of my identity.” You can, and should, read her column here.

Must Defend

There’s more at play here when it comes to trademarks.

Speaking in incredibly general termsand without providing any legal adviceonce a trademark has been granted, the owner must defend it. Failing to do so, which includes filing variations and taking action against others, can result in the loss of the rights associated with the trademark.

So, on one finger on one hand, Momofuku must defend “chile crunch” and, if granted, “chili crunch,” if the company wants to retain their trademark rights. On another, does the blame lie with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for granting the trademark in the first place?

Going deeper, should Momofuku have negotiated different settlement terms that wouldn’t preclude others from calling their chili crisp products Chile Crunch? I’m not remotely qualified to speak on the legal dispute between Chile Colonial, LLC, and Momofuku, so I can’t even begin to form an opinion. If the settlement was “pricey,” I understand Momofuku being sensitive about other products potentially cutting into their sales.

Per reporting, Susan Hojel, the owner of Chile Colonial, has said she was “going broke” defending the Chile Crunch trademark. Many of the cease-and-desist letters were going to large companies. In that sense, Hojel saw herself in the role of David, going after corporate Goliaths.

Now, however, the public views David Chang and Momofuku as Goliath, attempting to crush noble Davids. Therefore, I have to wonder if the real issue is public perception, not legality. After all, I’ve seen the label “trademark bully” affixed not to just Momofuku but Chang as well.

Worth It?

I don’t know what the answer is for the questions swirling around this legal fight. All I can do is wonder if defending this trademark is worth the backlash.

At the moment, we’re seeing comments expressing disappointment and disdain. What happens if those comments manifest in damaged brand perception?

Put another way, there’s defending your brand…and there’s defending your brand.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

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