Ranking India's Best Bars
Ranking India’s Best Bars

Vikram Achanta, founder and CEO of Tulleeho, has been a leading provider of beverage education and training to the hospitality industry for over two decades. His most recent effort has been 30BestBarsIndia, a highly regarded national bar ranking that he set up jointly with Radhakrishnan Nair, publisher of Man’s World India.

Alcohol has been Vikram Achanta’s passion for as long as he can remember. So much so that after obtaining a management degree from IIM Calcutta and spending many years in the lucrative area of management consultancy, he gave it all up during the so-called ‘first dotcom boom’ of the early 2000s to set up Tulleeho.com, a website and company dedicated to providing alcobev-related information, education and training to industry professionals and consumers.

 

 

“The Indian alcohol industry goes back a long time. But the early 2000s when we set up Tulleeho was the time when big changes were afoot,” says Achanta. “New companies were either being launched, or were being formed as part of mergers and acquisitions. I didn’t come from a hospitality or alcoholic beverage background — I came from a consulting background where we focused on solving problems first.”

 

The ‘dotcom’ hysteria did not last long, and most of the startups that fueled the boom disappeared within a few years. Tulleeho, however, not only survived but has over the last two decades become a leader in its area of beverage education and consultancy, providing services to companies not just in India, but also in surrounding countries. In addition, Achanta has transformed himself into a leading commentator and writer documenting the rapid changes in the local alcobev scene — eventually becoming the consulting editor for various magazines while releasing Tulleeho’s very own ‘Book of Cocktails’.

 

“This was pretty pioneering in the sense that nobody had ever thought of doing this in India at that particular time,” he continues. “By the mid-2000s, we were running promotions in bars and with clients, and even ran some of the first bartending competitions in India. In 2008-09, we focused further on education and training, starting with bartenders and the wait staff, before beverage companies hired us to train their employees.”

 

Achanta in that sense had a ringside view of the changes that have happened on the Indian bar scene in the last two decades. The changes have been so dramatic that not many people remember or know that India hardly had a bar scene to talk about till the 1990s. Except in a few cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, bars till then were largely restricted to premium hotels. Independent bars were virtually non-existent even in places like Bangalore and New Delhi. The rising prosperity of the middle class in the post liberalisation era changed everything. Stylishly designed, well stocked modern bars and microbreweries seem to be everywhere these days and their numbers continue to grow, not just in major metros, but also in tier-two cities.

 

 

Achanta’s most recent quest has been to raise the profile of Indian bars, provide them national and international spotlight to bring them the recognition that many of them deserve. Teaming up with Radhakrishnan Nair, Publisher & Editor of MW magazine in 2019, they jointly launched 30 Best Bars India, an annual platform that ranks and honours the best bars in the country based on a predetermined set of parameters.

 

“30BestBars was envisioned as a platform to recognise and raise the standards of bars and beverage service in India,” says Achanta. “Its aim has been to provide local bars and bartending talent an opportunity to gain prominence in the international markets and also help promote bartending as a serious profession across the country.” With editions in 2019 and 2021, 30 Best Bars India has rapidly gone on to become an industry standard — being part of the ranking has become a prestigious honour for several iconic Indian bars.

 

What gives the 30 Best Bars India ranking its credibility is the fact that it is based on a jury vote at the two crucial stages of the selection. The work starts with a long list of prominent bars from as many as 15 or more cities around the country, created with help and recommendations from industry professionals and bar enthusiasts who are familiar with each of these cities. “The previous two editions, and the 2022 ranking that we are currently working on, have all started with a list of over 600 bars,” says Achanta.

 

A jury of over 60 bar connoisseurs, and industry insiders and our 12 jury chairs help build a master list of bars that is then screened for creation of the list of the Top 100 Bars in the country and nominees in other award categories. “We also make sure that the selection is not entirely skewed towards the large cities and that bars in smaller cities also have a presence in the list,” says Achanta, bringing up a few examples of modest yet lively hotspots from Goa such as Escobar or Joseph.

 

The Top 100 list is voted on by a larger jury of more than 200 people living across the country, which yields not only the ranking of the 30 best bars in the country, but also the ranking of bars in a variety of other categories including Best Hotel Bar, Best Independent Bar, Best Bartender, Best Microbrewery, Best Cocktail Menu, etc. Many of the top bars in the 30 Best Bars India in the last three years have since gone on to be featured in many international bar rankings. “The ranking process is hard work spread throughout the year, but it has been worth the effort,” Achanta says.

 

Images: 30BestBars

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