Hamish Smith expands on the three-step thinking that is at the heart of the annual Bartenders’ Brand Awards.

You’ll know as bartenders that the taste of the products you serve is the most important factor in your purchasing, but not definitive. When buying, you’ll also make a judgement on the packaging, the prowess of the branding, how much the bottle stands out on the back bar, and you’ll picture the product in the midst of service, shadow-pouring to test its functionality. Lastly, you’ll look at the price and the financial particulars surrounding it. When all is said and done, you’re running a business that won’t be a business much longer if the numbers don’t add up. At the BBAs we try to mimic this three-step thinking in our judging so we can provide the best possible guide to the best brands in the bar channel.

First comes the blind tasting, where our panels of bartenders score out of 50, considering aroma, complexity, taste and versatility in cocktails (where appropriate). Then the packaging is revealed and scored out of 25, and finally – taking into account the taste and design, coupled with abv and price – a value-for-money score is given, once again out of 25. Here, for ease and consistency, we work off rrps. We then total up the scores to give an overall number out of 100, but we split out what each product received for each of our three assessments. That way, if you’re a bar that prizes value for money over design, or taste over everything else, you can quickly see what works best for you. But it is the overall number – not the medals – that is the basis for our top-five lists, with the highest-scoring brand in each category given the not-too shabby moniker of Category Champion and, the best of the best, the even loftier title of Supreme Champion.

So, who are the BBA judges? Well, they’re all pretty big names in the United Bar-dom, but they are also skills appropriate to each category, chosen for their experience or specialism. We invite six bartenders to join each Zoom session, with each category having a chair – a bartender with considerable experience in the area - and a Class host to help things along. The sessions are lively affairs, with no quarter given to products deemed short of the mark. Indeed, when you look at the BBAs scoring versus other competitions, it’s clear that our bartender judges are pretty hard to please – medals are hard won. This year only two brands scored more than 90 points out of 100 and the average score across all products was 61/100. Only 15 received gold medals across our three measures and, drilled down, 16% of products received a gold medal in taste, 21% got gold for design, and 16% took top honours for value for money. In other words, medals mean more at the BBAs. The results that follow are a highlights package of the best five products in each of our major categories, but for a more extensive view of the products judged this year, visit bartendersbrandawards.


Alex Taylor, ex-Pennyroyal

Alison Taffs, The Hop Inn

Andreas Grammatikopoulos, Linthwaite House Hotel

Angelos Bafas, The Berkeley Restaurant

Anistatia Miller, The Dark Horse

Ben Thompson, Brewdog Cardiff 

Cai Anderson, Herbie & The Llama

Callie Thirsk, Fox & Chance

Camille Vidal, La Maison Wellness

Carlos Garcia, Lusin Mayfair

Chelsea Ennes, Scaredy Cats Café

Connie Cain, Milk

Connor Rainsford, Ugly Butterfly

Courtney Dowd, The Barn at Moor Hall 

Courtney Francis, Couch

Danny Morton, Golf Fang Liverpool

Deano Moncrieffe, Hacha

Drew Fleming, Kiki Lounge

Elon Soddu, Twice Shy

Emmy Pip Knight, American Bar at The Savoy

Eve Green, Passing Fancies

Ewan Grieve, Lab 22

Fredrik Olsson, Kosmopol

Georgi Radev, Laki Kane

Graham Suttle, The Finnieston

Gregorio Soriente, The Zetter Marylebone

Helen Anne Smith, Bacareto

Iain McPherson, Nauticus

Jack Williams, Golden Pineapple

Jake Burger, Portobello Star

Jamie Lewis, Kiki Lounge

Joe Millar, The Cocktail Service 

John Ennis, Manolo

Josh Powell, The Natural Philosopher

Julia Thomson, Devil’s Advocate

Julian Rose-Gibbs, The Anchor Inn

Liana Oster, Nomad London

Lucia Montanelli, The Dorchester

Matthias Ingelmann, Kol

Mike Baxter, Gonzo’s Tea Room

Noah Villeneuve, Kore Drinks

Rebecca Bird, Bird at the Bar

Salvatore Calabrese, Donovan’s

Sam Moseley, Golden Pineapple

Sarah Luxon, Wiper & True Taproom

Sian Buchan, Uno Mas

Sophie Bratt, Nobu London

Steve the Barman 

Susannah Mansfield, Durham Micropub, The Station House

Terry Leung Ling Chi, Roka Aldwych