The magazine’s annual poll saw Diageo rise from ninth place a year ago, displacing Marks & Spencer form the top spot.
Tesco – top two years ago – was fifth in the 2008 poll.
Sainsbury’s was named second best retailer, with Morrisons in sixth.
SAB Miller was second most admired in the restaurants. pubs and breweries sector with Greene King fourth and Scottish & Newcastle fifth.
Management Today’s report said that Diageo's win was “a tale of a meticulously planned strategy consistently executed over many years with little regard to the whims of corporate fashion”.
It added: “Diageo's focus on the top end of the market has also helped the firm to tread a shrewd path through the growing controversy over health issues and worries over irresponsible alcohol sales.
“With government ministers and consumer groups getting increasingly concerned at loss-leader retail promotions, Diageo can afford to take a lead on responsible drinking, as its brands are generally too upmarket to be involved.”