Priyanka Blah, the dynamic founder and editor of The Dram Attic, is a prominent figure in the global cocktail scene. We had the privilege of interviewing her for Vietcetera, just in time for the highly anticipated 50 Best Bars in Asia event, where she holds the prestigious position of Academy Chair.
Priyanka is more than just a writer; she’s a passionate advocate for South Asian hospitality professionals, helping them find global opportunities. Her dedication to fostering connections in the industry is truly commendable. Not only that, Priyanka is also a consultant, providing strategic insights to craft spirits seeking global expansion.
Here, Priyanka Blah shared her thoughts on what sparked her interest in Vietnam’s bar scene and how it compares to other Asian markets. She also highlighted how the youthful and innovative energy in Vietnam’s F&B scene influences the local bar culture, providing valuable insights into Vietnam’s bar scene.
Can you tell us how you went from starting The Dram Attic to becoming the Academy Chair for 50 Best Bars in Asia and what inspired you to pursue these roles?
I started The Dram Attic almost ten years ago with the sole intention of documenting my own journey with spirits and cocktails. This was before Instagram became popular, so the best way for me to chronicle my experiences was by writing about them on my website. Before I knew it, the readership grew, and people began turning to the page for inspiration and recommendations. Brands started paying attention and reaching out for collaboration; the rest is history. The Dram Attic is continually evolving as a content platform centered around F&B.
My role with 50 Best Bars happened organically. The team is always on the lookout for voices from various regions that can highlight great bars and bartenders. When they approached me, I was more than happy to accept. It marked an important milestone in recognizing the quality of talent in our region, and South Asian bars have much to offer. The acknowledgment from 50 Best Bars was highly appreciated.
Other than your involvement with The Dram Attic and 50 Best Bars in Asia, what else captivates your interest in spirits and cocktails?
For several years, I have been providing consultation services for emerging craft spirits. Brands specializing in craft spirits from around the world and spanning various categories have frequently engaged with me to develop their sales and marketing strategies, aiding them in expanding into international markets. This is what occupies most of my days.
What initially sparked your interest in exploring Vietnam’s bar scene, and how does it compare to other Asian markets?
I’ve always been interested in Vietnam due to its history, food culture, and, in recent years, its emerging bars. I’ve had friends who lived and worked there, and they always had fantastic experiences to share. It’s also fascinating to witness a fellow developing nation making such a significant impact on the F&B landscape in Asia and the world.
Regarding how the bar scene compares, I’d say it’s clear that everyone is putting in their best efforts. Striking a balance between meeting consumer preferences and following your instincts can be challenging. For a country/region that is still working to establish itself in the industry, I believe Vietnam has a good understanding of the developments in Asia and the rest of the world and has a strong pulse on the situation. There’s evident effort, commitment, and a sense of community, and further development can only enhance the strength and quality of the bar industry.
How do you think Vietnam’s cocktail culture reflects the country’s multicultural spirit?
I’ve witnessed world-class bars and techniques in Vietnam, and with the continued support of brands, this can only improve over time. Brands play a significant role in nurturing a vibrant cocktail culture. I greatly respect brands that aim to foster community and cultural growth rather than solely pursuing profits.
Vietnam’s F&B scene is buzzing with youth and innovation. How do you think this energy translates into the bar scene here?
I notice strong synergies between the approaches of some of Vietnam’s top chefs regarding ingredients and how these methods are mirrored in the creation of drinks by bartenders in some of the best bars. This connection is vital because Vietnam has a pronounced and indomitable focus on locally sourced, high-quality produce. The most prudent and practical approach would be celebrating and championing local produce.
You’re attuned to creativity and the guest experience. What makes Vietnamese bars unique in your perspective compared to other places you’ve visited?
Every person is greeted with a smile, and there’s a consistent level of respect for everyone who enters the establishment. This is key, and this is what makes a great bar experience.
Can you tell us about a memorable bar experience you had in Vietnam?
One of my favorite moments was when we enjoyed cocktails at Nhau Nhau, with Chef Peter Cuong Franklin playing his favorite records. And more recently, I had an outstanding meal at Esta.
Looking ahead, where do you see Vietnam’s position in Asia’s drinks industry, say, five years from now?
I believe that with sustained dedication from bar owners and brands to nurture the current generation of bartenders, Vietnam’s bar scene can truly thrive. Investing in bartender education and training is essential, and with a greater emphasis in this area, I foresee many Vietnamese bars evolving into top destinations for cocktail enthusiasts in the coming years.