There’s a new bar recognition system in town – The Pinnacle Guide aims to be the bar industry standard with its 1, 2, and 3 pin rating approach.

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

While anyone in the bar industry will be familiar with the numerous awards and rating systems available, we still felt like something was missing – which is why we wanted to create The Pinnacle Guide. Our goal is to offer a reliable and trusted recognition system that elevates the bar industry, underpinned by fair and visible processes. We don’t want to just create another award system for the sake of it – we truly want to work collaboratively with the drinks community globally, to create an accolade that is enduring and internationally respected.

Our team brings deep industry expertise, along with a wide global network of industry contacts to tap into for their insights. Hannah and Siobhan are the co-founders and organisers of London Cocktail Week, and are also consultants, contributors and connectors for the global drinks industry through their consultancy business HANDS, with clients ranging from multinational drinks companies to independent start-ups. Dan brings 18+ years of experience from across different areas of the hospitality industry, and now owns and operates Global Bartending, a talent, event and strategic agency.

We started off with a year-long consultancy phase, where we held roundtable discussions, and interviews with the global industry around the world to encourage our community to provide honest input on the criteria. Inviting the opinions of such a high calibre of industry professionals was both illuminating and humbling. Their input and that of all the hundreds and hundreds of bartenders around the world who came to us with thoughts and opinions have been integral to the project.

Following 18 months of in-depth, open conversations with the global hospitality industry, and a lot of work behind the scenes, we have finalised an application process we feel proud of, and are excited to open up applications to bars around the world. We realise the self-nomination process is quite detailed, but we felt this was important; not only to allow venues to showcase what they’re most proud of, but to give them a moment to reflect and think about where they might have room for improvement in different facets of bar operations. With this application, we’re hoping to level the playing field – so bars of all sizes and locations feel they have a fair shot at recognition.

Following a successful application, bars will receive a series of anonymous reviews. We all feel strongly that a bar is so much more than just the cocktails it serves, so our judging criteria covers six areas of a bar’s operation, including venue look and feel, overall hospitality, how staff are hired and taken care of, and, of course, the drinks programme. Beyond excellence in drinks, hospitality and ambience, we also want to reward operators who are making a positive social impact and this breadth of modules help us to assess what happens on both sides of the bar.

As with most industry awards, it’s crucial to keep our reviewers anonymous in order to offer an unbiased review, based on a true guest experience. Reviewers will be a mix of industry experts and discerning bar enthusiasts, and to mix up the reviewer panel beyond the traditional industry circles, we’re inviting anonymous reviewers to apply to join our launch team. Once selected, we’ll offer a virtual training for them to learn more about what constitutes outstanding hospitality. Each reviewer will be compensated for two cocktails per bar, and asked to submit feedback on their experience. Assuming a reviewer retains their anonymity, the role will last for two years before they are given the option to reapply.

We’ve heard The Pinnacle Guide referred to as a “Michelin Guide for bars,” and it’s an easy comparison with the 1-, 2- and 3-PIN ratings we’ll be rolling out. The concept is quite different from anything that exists currently in the bar industry (more frequently with single venues or individuals recognised for one award, or a ranked list). With The Pinnacle Guide, we won’t have a limit to how many PINs we can award – so there really are no barriers for exceptional venues to achieve a rating.

Interested bars may apply on The Pinnacle Guide’s website; first PINs will be awarded in early 2024.

The Pinnacle Guide founders

HANNAH SHARMAN-COX and SIOBHAN PAYNE are committed to elevating the industry from the inside out. They are the Co-Founders and Organisers of London Cocktail Week – the greatest celebration of bar and cocktail culture in the world, now in its fourteenth year.

They are also consultants, contributors and connectors for the global drinks industry through their consultancy business HANDS, with clients ranging from multi-national drinks companies to independent start-ups. They are regularly featured within the international drinks press and national consumer media, as well as being on the judging panels for many industry awards globally.

DAN DOVE brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in a multitude of sectors across the hospitality industry, with over 20 years’ experience in beverage marketing, international event management, advocacy development and bar operations. He previously worked for a decade as the World Class Manager for Diageo Reserve and now owns and operates Global Bartending – a world leading talent, event and strategic agency, the luxury partner for the global drinks industry.

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