How Mexico bar Hanky Panky won the world’s top hospitality award

·3-min read
hanky panky bar
hanky panky bar

Walter Meyenberg’s initial brush with hospitality was neither in a fine dining restaurant nor at a luxury hotel. It was simply in his home.

“My first memory of it is when my mother sat me at the baby chair, cooked my meal, served the dish, and kissed my forehead,” he said.

The experience left such an impact on the Mexican that he brought it to his bar Hanky Panky, which picked up the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award today as part of The World’s 50 Best Bars awards 2022.

“Hospitality is just like that: caring, attending, loving and most important, being present for your guests,” Meyenberg said. “It is about extending and helping everyone feel that human connection.”

Walter Meyenberg (far right) with the Hanky Panky team. (Image credit: World’s 50 Best)
Walter Meyenberg (far right) with the Hanky Panky team. (Image credit: World’s 50 Best)

Founded in Mexico City six years ago and named after a 1900s cocktail, Hanky Panky began as a private bar for Meyenberg’s friends that did not stay private for long. As more people clamoured to get in, it morphed into a members-only venue before turning into a speakeasy that remains today. The bar does not disclose its address – it is only revealed after making a reservation (Google knows where it is, though). If this seems exclusive, it only exists in their service.

“At Hanky Panky, we treat everyone the same,” Meyenberg said. “Exclusivity is in the way we make every single guest feel special, so they can immerse in and experience a different world for a few hours, and just enjoy.”

This treatment extends past the bar’s doors. Need recommendations for somewhere else to go? Hanky Panky has a printed list offering suggestions from other cocktail bars to taco spots.

hanky panky bar
Casa Batlló from Hanky Panky’s Passport menu (Image credit: Hanky Panky)

Equal attention is paid towards Hanky Panky’s drinks. Cocktails comprise of riffs on classics like an opulent Daiquiri with 15-year-old rum, as well as original creations on their current Passport menu, which was inspired by the team’s travels.

The bar world has taken note. At number 12, Hanky Panky was the highest new entry in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 ranking. They have also been named as one of North America’s 50 Best Bars this year. For the 2022 hospitality award, over 650 industry experts were asked to name the bar where they received the single-best hospitality experience. Hanky Panky got their votes.

While Hanky Panky has become “a secret bar frequented by thousands, what’s been a mainstay is the spirit of friendship conveyed to each guest,” said Mark Sansom, content director for The World’s 50 Best Bars. “That early ethos of family has pervaded, making it the unique hospitality proposition it is today.”

(Image credit: Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar / Facebook)
(Image credit: Hanky Panky Cocktail Bar / Facebook)

Hanky Panky’s rise comes in the face of strong competition from other acclaimed Mexico City drinking spots including Handshake Speakeasy, Licorería Limantour, and Baltra Bar. Globally, other bars are delivering service levels that seem “to raise year on year,” said Sansom.

“What is particularly pleasing to see is that we now have a winner on three continents in the three years we’ve been running the Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award. The spirit of good service is truly global and each bar has put its own spin on the hospitality experience, with the common denominator being that the guest experience always comes first.”

But Meyenberg remains committed to his formula. “It does not change for those who have a true heart for hospitality,” he said. “Good service and hospitality are always in our nature. You either have it, or you don’t.”

The Michter’s Art of Hospitality Award is the first prize announced in the lead up to The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list, which will be revealed at a ceremony in Barcelona on 4 October.

Check out a video with Hanky Panky here.

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