Golden handshake: Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy is named The Best Bar in North America 2024

Emma Sleight - 23/04/2024

A Mexican bar takes the No.1 spot in North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024, sponsored by Perrier, for the first time. Hot off the back of the live announcement at the awards ceremony – held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico – the Handshake Speakeasy team describe how it is helping change perceptions of the country as a whole

While the precise location of Handshake Speakeasy might be secret hidden behind an innocuous black door marked with a silver number 13 in Mexico City’s Colonia Juarez neighbourhood the bar’s reputation is well known. This art deco shrine to cocktail craft has been at the forefront of the innovative Mexican drinks scene since opening in 2021.

In three years, under the exacting guidance of Bar Director Eric Van Beek, it has been hugely acclaimed, ranking at No.3 in The World’s 50 Best Bars 2023 and achieving the No.2 position in both the 2022 and 2023 editions of North America’s 50 Best Bars. This year, following this remarkable journey, it has taken the top spot in the region.

“It’s like a dream,” says Van Beek in disbelief, immediately after the bar’s coronation. “I really thought we were going to drop a few places. There are so many great new bars who are working so hard this year.” Marcos Di Battista, one the bar’s co-founders, adds: “We waited for two years for this for this moment. It finally happened!” Ask anyone in the North American bar scene about Handshake, though, and they will likely tell you there’s no more deserving winner.NA50BB24-no-1-incopy-handshake
Handshake Speakeasy made history as the first Mexican bar to be named The Best Bar in North America

Known for its intriguing and thoroughly modern approach to molecular mixology, Handshake Speakeasy has built a signature style driven by the bar team’s extensive work in the back of house lab, where it concocts syrups, clarifies juices and infuses cordials, creating mind-bending results showcased in every glass. Take, for example, the Cariño, a hybrid cocktail between a piña colada, daiquiri and mojito made with Greek yoghurt.

While the bar’s victory may have come as a surprise to Van Beek and his team, it’s also the product of a reclamation process involving the entire country’s bar community. “For years, Mexico has had a negative reputation internationally from movies, TV and public perceptions,” says Van Beek. “Finally, we’re starting to see people come to Mexico and taste the culture, feel the warmth of the hospitality and put the country on the map in a positive way."

Handshake Speakeasy celebrates its country’s burgeoning cocktail culture alongside fellow Mexico City bar Rayo, the Roma Norte hotspot dedicated to celebrating Mayahuel, a pre-Columbian goddess associated with agave, which takes the No.5 spot. Another stalwart in the Mexican capital, Licorería Limantour, is ranked No.9, with artisanal mezcaleria Tlecān debuting on the list at No.10. Also based in Mexico City: Café de Nadie comes in No.17, Baltra at No.26 and all-female-run Japanese izakaya Kaito del Valle at No.28. List regular Hanky Panky takes the No.42 ranking, with Brujas rounding out the city’s representation at No.45.
Meadowlark took home the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award for its menu inspired by the Chicago World Fair

It wasn’t just the capital that was well represented, however, with a host of bars from across the country ranking in this year’s list including Playa Del Carmen’s Zapote Bar at No.11, El Gallo Altanero from Guadalajara at No.14, local bar Bekeb from San Miguel de Allende at No.27, Oaxaca’s Selva at No.34 and Arca in Tulum at No.37.

It was a night of celebration for the US  contingent too, with the country boasting 26 entries overall and welcoming a host of newcomers from Chicago to the ranking, such as Meadowlark (No.32), which wins the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award 2024 for its homage to Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Also new to the list from the Windy City, Best Intentions is ranked at No.48. A Chicago bar also claims the inaugural Bareksten Best Bar Design Award 2024 with Avondale Bowl, housed in a former bowling alley, taking home the accolade.

The Disaronno Highest New Entry Award goes to superstar NYC bar Superbueno, which comes in hot at No.2 in this year’s ranking. The Nikka Highest Climber Award is also claimed by a New York City bar in the form of Martiny’s at No.4, climbing 25 spots from its ranking in North America’s 50 Best Bars 2023. Last year’s winning bar, Double Chicken Please in Manhattan, ranks at No.7.
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North America's bar community celebrated together at the awards ceremony in San Miguel de Allende

The Caribbean sees two bars featured in the list, with San Juan institution La Factoría taking the No.18 spot, and new entry to the list from Grand Cayman, Library by the Sea, debuting at No.35, earning it the London Essence Best New Opening Award .

Special award winners announced at the live awards ceremony included the Campari One To Watch Award, which goes to dual-concept, neo-Chinese-Italian bar Simpl Things in Toronto, and the Roku Industry Icon Award , with equality champion Claudia Cabrera of Kaito del Valle named its winner.

In the weeks preceding the ceremony, two pre-announced awards were revealed: the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award 2024 was bestowed to Jewel of the South for its superb southern service, and Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2024 recognised Atwater Cocktail Club’s Kate Boushel as an industry favourite.

 Stay tuned to 50 Best’s social channels over the next few days as we share exclusive photography and videography from the events held across San Miguel de Allende.

The list of North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024, was announced at a live awards ceremony on Tuesday 23rd April from San Miguel de Allende. To stay up to date with the latest news, follow us on InstagramFacebookX and YouTube, and sign up to our newsletter