Conversations With IWBS – Priyanka Blah

Priyanka hails from the hill town of Shillong and is the founder of beverage platform Dram Attic, is also in charge of sales of a few international craft spirits brand across MEA, Russia, CIS, the Baltic states, and Iceland.In her time, she has worn many hats.

An ex musician, artist manager, music journalist, and content lead for big international brands, Priyanka is also the founder of beverage platform – The Dram Attic and looks after sales of an international craft spirits brand across MEA, Russia, CIS, the Baltic states, and Iceland. The Dram Attic is a 6 year old content platform dedicated to highlighting bar mavens, bars, and drinks from around the world while also pushing community efforts and fundraisers

The Dram Attic is one of the only female-led and owned platforms of its kind to emerge from the region. We fired a few questions her way to get to know more about her body of work

How and Why did you decide to dive into F&B?

My love for good whisky came from my dad. He loved whisky and when I was old enough to drink, he would share his precious Malts with me which was an absolute honour. As I began to travel, that love grew into curiosity and a world of exploration. I got absorbed into cocktail culture as a natural progression from my interest in spirits and exposure to some of the best bars and cocktail culture from around the world.
Food and hospitality has always been a big part of my life and I inherit a lot of that from my mother as well.

Is there a drink you despise? Why?

I won’t say I hate it but I’m not a massive fan of tiki drinks because I often find them too sweet (not always) and OTT. I think that just doesn’t agree with my palate and style.

What is your secret for a good cocktail?

Balance and simplicity.
When it comes to balance, we often find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place when trying to cater to the generic palate stereotypes (e.g: “Indians love sweet drinks”) often not realising that we as a community have the opportunity to train their palates as well. Nothing like a well balanced drink that showcases the best of all worlds.

The other thing I feel really makes a difference is simplicity both in terms of build as well as presentation. As a guest who isn’t from the industry, most people prefer if their drink isn’t intimidating. When it comes to presentation of course, there is the argument one can make about excessively garnished drinks being “good for the gram” but then it boils down to the bartender deciding what his goals are. Simple drinks can also be stunning – great glassware and a simple garnish goes a long way.

Priyanka Blah
Priyanka Blah

Why are women bartenders such a rare breed in India? Any advice to those aspiring in the space?

This is such a layered topic that it’s hard to answer as I’m no expert. I think there are many reasons but the ones that definitely stand out for me are the cultural factors and personal inhibitions.

We could argue that there was once a time when women didn’t have the same opportunities but today that has changed. I believe the lack of female bartenders is largely to do with the societal taboo associated with women behind the bar and sometimes our own inhibitions that prevent us from breaking the glass ceiling for fear of rejection.

I’d say, get out there and assess your love for the craft. If you feel your heart is in it, work hard, never stop learning, and nobody can turn you away if you display the right attitude and talent. Have faith in your merit. Raise the bar.

I also think that those of us who come from places of privilege (and by that I mean have access to learning tools, travel, networks) need to elevate those who lack these tools. When you use your privilege for intersectional progress is when the real change happens. 

One brand you like for its taste and one for its marketing.

Kyrö Distilleries for both and so much more. I like brands whose product speaks for itself, so they don’t need to beat the drums to get noticed. They really push the envelope with their liquid. After some stunning gins and a cream liqueur, I’m really looking forward to the first Finnish Rye whisky by them.

Kyrö’s marketing strategy is also on point – simple, classy, and they’re only seen at all the right places so they’re not flooding you with content. One tends to remember brands that do things in style.

What is your favourite drink at the end of a busy day?

A Martini or a nice, peaty whisky

Any advice for aspiring F&B professionals at large?

I’m hardly in a position to give advise but perhaps the one thing I’d like to say is to stay humble and never think you know everything. Learning is limitless and humility is Your only true friend because she will teach you lessons nobody else will 🙂

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