We’re celebrating the bars that make our cities and towns great.
Today I’m launching two events I’m very excited about: Boothby Best Bars QLD and Boothby Best Bars NSW.
It’s both an awards program and a larger editorial project. Put simply, from Monday 20 March next week you’ll be able to nominate the bars in Queensland and New South Wales that you think are great. Those nominations will be voted on by a advisory panel of bartenders, bar owners, brand figures and influential industry types in each state. Then on May 22 in Brisbane and June 19 in Sydney we’re going to throw a big industry party to countdown the best bars in each state and hand out a few awards.
It’ll be a lot of fun. But there’s the editorial side, too, and my aim here is to put the focus on bars at the state level, highlighting the bars of the capitals but also giving some love to the bars that make our regional cities great.
Great bars speak to a time and a place and a way we live right now, and I think where they are matters — the punters, the climate, the environment, the culture is that little bit different depending on the city or town that you're in. I hope that we’ll see the spotlight turn to bars that can sometimes be missed at the national level.
It’s also a way of giving the wider world a better guide to good drinking in each state, because the rankings and awards will come from the votes of the Boothby advisory panel in each state. It's similar to the successful model we used for the Boothby Drink of the Year Awards last year, and I think that process gets the rankings about right. So I’m pulling together more than 50 bartenders, bar owners and other industry figures to participate in the panel and cast a vote — to express your interest in being a part of that, please drop me an email at email@example.com.
The Boothby Best Bars awards offer the chance to celebrate venues as a whole; the Drink of the Year Awards, which returns this year in November, are more of an individual thing celebrating the work of bartenders. The Boothby Best Bars awards take a broader view, and I love that it offers the chance to get to know the bars outside each state’s capital city. I’m hoping we’ll see bars in places like Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast getting a look in on the QLD list, and when we come to NSW, I’d love to see Byron Bay and Newcastle, the ‘Gong and more getting a go.
As a born Queenslander myself, the process here is important to me. The way the nominating and voting works means that it will be Queenslanders — those who know what is great in their cities and towns — telling the rest of the country where the good drinking is at and who is at the peak of their powers and not the other way around. The same goes for NSW.
We need to celebrate what makes our bars different. When you travel, do you want to go someplace that gives you what you get at home? Or do you want to visit that place, experience the bars that are theirs and the bartenders who give you something you can’t get anywhere else?
I’ve long been motivated by this Hemingway quote: “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares; if you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.”
These awards will give you a great guide to do just that.
A big thank you to Simon and Pete and the team at Jolene’s in Sydney for agreeing to host us in June, and to Pete and Nick and the Frog’s Hollow Saloon crew in Brisbane for kicking things off in May. And this wouldn’t be possible without support from some great brands: thank you to Giffard liqueurs (and 3Two1 Drinks), to Orlando wines, to Patrón Tequila, and to Perrier for getting behind this idea and supporting our bars.
Nominations open on Monday 20 March, so keep an eye out on Boothby socials (you can find us on Instagram here at @boothbydrinks) and your inbox.
How does it work?
- From March 20 2023, we’ll put the call out for nominations in both Queensland and New South Wales, with an emphasis on getting nominations from regional cities and towns in both states.
- After nominations close at 11:59pm AEDT on Sunday 2 April, the Boothby Advisory panel consisting of bartenders, bar owners and other industry figures will cast their votes based on the nominations, which will need to include at least two venues from outside their own city.
- On the night of Monday 22 May, we’ll gather at Frog’s Hollow Saloon to celebrate the best bars in Queensland, with the countdown of the Top 40 and the awarding of the Best Bar in QLD sponsored by Giffard; the Best New Bar QLD sponsored by Patrón Tequila; the Best Cocktail Bar QLD sponsored by Perrier; Person of the Year QLD sponsored by Orlando; and Queensland’s All Time Great for bars that have been operating for seven years or more.
- Then on Monday 19 June, we’ll celebrate at Jolene’s in Sydney and countdown the Top 50 and award the Best Bar in NSW sponsored by Giffard; the Best New Bar NSW sponsored by Patrón Tequila; the Best Cocktail Bar NSW sponsored by Perrier; Person of the Year NSW sponsored by Orlando; and the All Time Great NSW.