The Pinnacle Guide founders Siobhan Payne, Hannah Sharman-Cox and Dan Dove

The Pinnacle Guide: “we wanted to give those folks that opportunity to have a voice”

04 June, 2024

A new bar recognition guide has just released its ­first set of awards. Oli Dodd gets the lowdown on where the Pins have dropped and where’s next in building the brand.

In February 2022, a trio of bar industry veterans announced the launch of a new recognition for the world’s best bars. ­The Pinnacle Guide, created by London Cocktail Week founders Siobhan Payne and Hannah Sharman-Cox alongside Global Bartending’s Dan Dove, set out to acknowledge bars in similar fashion to the restaurant world’s Michelin Guide, with the exemplar venues awarded with one, two, or three Pin.

Now, two years and hundreds of applications later, the first tranche of bars has landed, 37 Pin bars in total across the UK, the US, Mexico, Australia, Dubai, Spain and Singapore.

“The response has already been amazing,” Dove tells Drinks International. “Just since the results were announced, we’ve seen these Pin bars connect with one another.

“Some are already part of a global network of amazing bars, but there’s some that haven’t been in that level of conversation, and now they’re communicating with other amazing bars around the world.”

Payne continues: “There are bars that find it very difficult to be recognised, because they're not on the circuit and we wanted to give those folks that opportunity to have a voice and be celebrated. ­They can be a bar that we’ve never heard of in Minneapolis or Maine or anywhere and they have exactly the same opportunity as a bar that everyone’s heard of.”

This is why the Guide opted for an application entry as opposed to the nomination process favoured by other guides, including Michelin. ­This involves an application completed by the bar which explores the behind-the-scenes standards and practices and at least two anonymous reviews by trained assessors.

“­There are lots of things we know about bars but there’s also lots that we don’t know, specifically around their people,” explains Payne.

“There’s a lot of unbelievable work that bars are doing for their staff development, with their hiring policy, their training, for their staff who aren’t local to their country. It’s so humbling. We always joke about how long into reading an application form will it take for us to cry.”

Top accolade

One notable omission from the initial announcement of Pin bars has been the lack of a three-Pin venue.

“In order to be a three-Pin bar, you would need three Pins in your application and three Pins in your review,” says Sharman-Cox.

“We’ve got some bars that achieved three Pins in the application and didn't quite make it in the review, and we’ve got some bars that smashed the review, got three Pins, but didn’t do so well it in the application. We created the system so that once a bar applies, the result is completely out of our control.”

Now with the first recognition announcement done and dusted, the Pinnacle Guide must begin building trust and awareness among consumers. “I think, given our backgrounds, we fundamentally know how to build brands with consumers,” says Dove. “­The ultimate goal is for it to become a kind of travel guide, so if you travel to the majority of markets around the world, you’re able to understand the top five to 10 bars around you.

“There’ll be a year of seeding to build it to a certain mass where it becomes a viable guide – 37 in the world is not viable to be able to put to travellers, I think we need to be at the high hundreds.”

And the gears haven’t stopped turning. ­The second deadline for applicants closed on 31 May and following that, the Pinnacle Guide will be expanded to more markets.

“We wanted to launch in markets that we’re familiar with, but we have a section on the website where bars that aren’t in our range currently can ask for their markets to be considered in the future, and we’ve been inundated with requests,” says Sharman-Cox.

“It’s not going to be an overnight sensation, it doesn’t need to be that – but as a group, we know how to take our time and build something great.”

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