Malaysia's Penrose KL and Bar Trigona make it on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list

Coa in Hong Kong retains its title as Best Bar in Asia for the third year in a row.

Penrose KL's Xoco Negro, an earthy variation of negroni (Photo: Sam Fong/The Edge Malaysia)

Despite the rumble of Typhoon Talim that landed in Hong Kong a day ago, The Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony was still very much a high-spirited affair. The event, which took place at the Rosewood Hong Kong yesterday, was off to a sweet start for Malaysia as newcomer Penrose KL clinched the first prize of the night at No 50. Opened in August 2022 and spearheaded by Jon Lee, former bartender of Tippling Club Singapore, the elevated bar in Chinatown adheres to a theme inspired by the English mathematician, Roger Penrose. 

As a self-professed “geek for art in numbers”, Lee draws references from the five-fold symmetry in Penrose’s tiling, and uses it as a guiding principle for making his cocktails. Hence, each drink will have five elements: alcohol, taste (sugars and acids), flavour (modifiers like strawberries), body (cream) and dilution (ice). 


Jon Lee of Penrose KL (Photo: Penrose KL)

The Malaysian contingent cheered thunderously once again when Bar Trigona, at No 36, was named The Best Bar in Malaysia for the sixth year in a row. Extending its cocktail education beyond the gilded walls of its host Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur, the bar — led by Rohan Matmary who took the reins from Ashish Sharma in October 2022 — continues to solidify its relationship with a community of local farmers that supplies the ingredients for its patriotic drinks programme. “Foraged Malaysia” follows hot on the heels of its Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award success last year.


Team behind Bar Trigona

Holding steadfastly onto the No 1 spot for three consecutive years was Hong Kong's Coa, established in 2017 by bartender-owner Jay Khan. The Best Bar in Asia and The Best Bar in Hong Kong made its debut on the list in 2019, securing the Highest New Entry Award at No 12, and has steadily rose through the ranks to claim the coveted top gong. Born in Hong Kong with Pakistani roots, Khan braved the bars of Lan Kwai Fong and watering holes in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia before setting up Coa in 2017 on Shin Hing Street. These days, he shares his love for the often-misunderstood spirits of tequila and mezcal with discerning and curious drinkers.


Coa ranks No.1 and is named The Best Bar in Asia and The Best Bar in Hong Kong (Photo: Asia's 50 Best Bars)

Asked what the achievement would mean to the bar, especially it won on home turf, an emotional Khan said during an exclusive post-award press conference, “Six years ago, we opened Coa without any expectations. Today, we’re here for the third time in a row on this stage, and this year in our hometown, which makes it the most special one of all… Having guests come to our bar and making them feel like it’s their home, that has always been our end goal, since day one.”

Coa’s head of operations Ajit Gurung added, “We just want to remain accessible. We try to make our [drinks] programme simple and approachable.”

Bartending stalwart Jigger & Pony, also The Best Bar in Singapore for the third year running, took home the second place. This year, it has also been crowned the Rémy Martin Legend of the List. The Lion City commanded 11 spots on the list, including Nutmeg & Clove, which made an impressive leap of 29 spots up to No 7; and Sago House at No 10, a huge jump from last year’s No 31. The latter also clinched the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award for its unparalleled service experience.


Singapore's Jigger & Pony claimed No. 2 (Photo: Jigger & Pony)

BKK Social Club climbed seven spots to reach No 3; followed by Tokyo’s Bar Benfiddich at No 4; and Seoul’s Zest at No 5.  The South Korean bar saw a meteoric rise of 43 spots, thus winning both the Nikka Highest Climber Award as well as The Best Bar in Korea.

The ceremony, hosted in collaboration with 50 Best’s destination partner Hong Kong Tourism Board, was a reunion of sorts for the bar community as the event was a first full-scale gathering in Asia since 2019. Determined by 260 bar experts across the continent, the 2023 edition featured drinking establishments from 17 cities and 12 countries in total.

See below for the full list of winners:

50. Penrose, Kuala Lumpur
49. Bellwood Tokyo, Tokyo 
48. The Living Room, Mumbai 
47. The Old Man, Hong Kong 
46. Soko, Seoul 
45. High Five, Tokyo
44. Bee’s Knees, Kyoto
43. The Public House, Taipei 
42. Native, Singapore
41. Vender, Tai Chung 
40. Smoke & Bitters, Sri Lanka 
39. Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou 
38. Copitas, Bengaluru
37. Southside Parlor, Seoul 
36. Bar Trigona, Kuala Lumpur 
35. Bombay Canteen, Mumbai 
34. The Curator, Manila
33. Mostly Harmless, Hong Kong 
32. Stay Gold Flamingo, Singapore 
31. Quinary, Hong Kong
30. Employees Only, Singapore 
29. Pantja, Jakarta 
28. Alice, Seoul
27. Atlas, Singapore
26. Penicillin, Hong Kong
25. Le Chamber, Seoul
24. 28 Hong Kong Street, Singapore
23. Lamp Bar, Nara
22. Mahaniyom, Bangkok
21. Manhattan, Singapore
20. Virtù, Tokyo 
19. The Cocktail Club, Jakarta 
18. Sidecar, New Delhi
17. The Aubrey, Hong Kong
16. Republic, Singapore
15. Analogue, Singapore
14. The SG Club, Tokyo
13. Cham Bar, Seoul
12. Vesper, Bangkok 
11. Indulge Experimental Bistro, Taipei 
10. Sago House, Singapore
9. Dark Side, Hong Kong
8. Argo, Hong Kong
7. Nutmeg & Clove, Singapore
6. Tropic City, Bangkok 
5. Zest, Seoul 
4. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo 
3. BKK Social Club, Bangkok 
2. Jigger & Pony, Singapore 
1. COA, Hong Kong 

More details about the awards here.


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