The Pinnacle Guide Wants to Honor Great Bars in a New Way

These aren’t your typical bar awards

Atlas in Singapore, a 2 PIN bar winner on the Pinnacle Guide
Atlas in Singapore is a 2 PIN honoree in the first Pinnacle Guide
Atlas/The Pinnacle Group

What does being “Pinned” mean, at least in the cocktail world?

The Pinnacle Group hopes that word will help us change how we think of great bars and help foster the burgeoning cocktail tourism scene. The London-based organization, founded by drinks vets Hannah Sherman-Cox, Siobhan Payne and Dan Dove — a group behind everything from London Cocktail Week to the Global Bartending organization — just released its initial list of bars that offer excellence in drinks and service, along with notable contributions in the areas of philanthropy, sustainability and diversity. 

Dubbed The Pinnacle Guide, these awarded drinks establishments earn a PIN (or two or three), somewhat akin to the stars of the food-oriented Michelin Guide. Interestingly, the bars self-nominate, sharing details across six assessment modules, from their drinks programs to staff management and the venue’s look and feel. From there, the list is evaluated and pared down, followed by visits to the bars from anonymous reviewers (who are trained beforehand) conducting in-person evaluations.

“There is no shortage of awards in our industry but The Pinnacle Guide team saw the opportunity to create something different that will have real and lasting benefits for cocktail culture — for bartenders, bar owners and bar-goers,” co-founder Siobhan Payne tells InsideHook. “We’re aiming to be more inclusive, creating an opportunity for every deserving establishment, regardless of size or location, to gain recognition and elevate themselves.”

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Interestingly, no bar in the initial guide earned a 3 PIN status, although PINs will be announced several times per year. “To be awarded a PIN, a bar must demonstrate ‘excellent’, ‘outstanding’ or ‘exceptional’ work on both sides of the bar,” says co-founder Hannah Sherman-Cox. “To gain a 3 PIN status a bar must submit an exceptional written application, and provide exceptional service during the anonymous visits. In this first round of applications, The Pinnacle Guide saw bars that demonstrated 3 PIN status in one, but not both of these aspects, so we know that the 3 PIN status is achievable, but we have set a very high standard.”

That said, the initial PIN list is certainly diverse: 12 bars received a 2 PIN designation, including Atlas (Singapore), Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour (Phoenix), Nipperkin (London), Panda & Sons (Edinburgh), Paradiso (Barcelona) and Pretty Decent (Louisville). An additional 25 cocktail dens earned 1 PIN. And only four of the shortlisted bars appear on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, while a majority of the Pinnacle Group’s first honorees are owned, co-owned or led by women or ethnic minorities (within their own market).

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

The awards also promise to serve as a resource for the bar industry itself; the Pinnacle Group is offering feedback throughout the process. “For the bars, we’re hoping this can also be a self-reflection exercise on how they can always be improving,” says co-founder Dan Dove. “The self-nomination process is intentionally very rigorous, so applicants need to be committed to take the time to fill it out and participate.” 

It’s certainly a good resource, but the question comes to this: With the World’s 50 Best Bars, its newer North American counterpart and the Spirited Awards (among others), how will the group set itself apart from other drinks evaluators? 

“Unlike other bar awards systems, The Pinnacle Guide evaluates bars on their own concept rather than against one another,” says Sharman-Cox. “It’s natural to be compared to other awards systems, but we’re trying to create something completely new and different for the industry, that complements what is already available. Our guiding principle is to have fair and visible processes at the core.”


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