International Women's Day, inspiring inclusivity within the Drinks industry
International Women’s Day stands as a global tribute to women's triumphs and a resounding call for gender equality. This year, the theme of "inspire inclusion" carries profound significance within the drinks industry, long recognised for its male-dominated landscape. To illuminate the diverse experiences and pivotal roles of women within this sector, we've conducted interviews with five exceptional women spanning various job roles, from behind the bar to purchasing, marketing, and entrepreneurship. Our objective is not only to honour these women's accomplishments but also to showcase the vast array of opportunities within the drinks industry, thereby fostering inclusivity and spotlighting the multitude of roles that enrich its dynamic tapestry.
International Women's Day, Suzie Robinson

Suzie Robinson: Purchasing Manager 

With a career that naturally blossomed in the drinks industry, Suzie cultivated a keen palate and a deep appreciation for locally sourced producers. From her early days at Harveys in Bristol to managing The Hop Pocket Wine Shop in Herefordshire, Suzie honed her expertise in selecting and curating a diverse range of beverages that celebrate the very best local producers. Suzie's dedication to quality and support for local artisans shape her approach to purchasing, guaranteeing that the shelves showcase the finest offerings from Herefordshire.


Why did you want to work in the drinks industry? Please explain a brief outline of your career to date.

My journey into the drinks industry was unexpected but began with a fortunate opportunity in Harveys' Marketing department of Bristol Cream fame. From there, I managed their Wine Merchants before transitioning to The Hop Pocket Wine Shop in Herefordshire. Working alongside owners Paddy and Jane Shave, I immersed myself in local drinks, forging connections and building relationships with local producers. When the shop was acquired by the Pudge family, I was appointed manager, responsible for integrating it into the new Food Hall. Here, I’ve solidified our reputation as the go-to destination for exceptional local beverages.

What are the key elements you look for when deciding to list drinks brands?

Local products are key to our ethos but their quality has to be outstanding. The owner of the brand or their representative has to be impressive too, I like to like who I'm working with. Authenticity, passion, professionalism, sustainability and the story behind the product are all vital elements too. Great packaging giving a strong shelf presence is also key, as is pricing, which, if over ambitious will leave it on the shelf catching dust. I don't like dusting!

In the competitive landscape of the spirits industry, what do you think the top tips are for brands to survive and thrive? 

Maintaining the quality and the authenticity of the brand is vital, and you'd hope would be a given. Keeping a clear brand identity and having it stocked and served at the right shops and bars is undoubtedly hard work but essential for its desirability. Achieving targeted, relevant media is a real art but finding that audience of drinkers who thrive in discovering new, fabulous quality drinks who then love that feeling of having discovered a rare gem, is the ultimate goal.

How will you be drinking a Gattertop vodka this International Women’s Day?

To my way of thinking when a drink is as delicious as Botanic Nº7 I don't want to mess with it by adding other flavours. I'll have a chunky tumbler, plenty of ice and a generous measure of chilled Gattertop Vodka which I'll drink alongside some  Apple Cured Salmon on rye bread. Happy days! 


international Women's Day, Charmaine, owner of Chapters Restaurant tending her garden

Charmaine Blatchford: Owner of Chapters restaurant, Hay-on-Wye

Charmaine is the co-owner of Chapters, a Green Michelin star Restaurant in Hay-on-Wye. She opened the doors of Chapters in 2019, together with her partner who is the head chef. Having previously worked together in a restaurant in Hereford for a few years they then decided to find somewhere of our own; championing sustainable practices with seasonal menus and local produce. 


What are the core values that guide your restaurant, Chapters, and how do they influence your decision-making process as an owner? Can you provide examples of how these values have been reflected in your restaurant's culture and offerings?

Chapters is a pretty good representation of the food that Mark and I like to eat, served in a way that we like to be served. Really good quality but delivered in a chilled-out way. Sustainable dining is very important to us and to how we live our lives outside of the restaurant so it was natural for the business to reflect this. We were awarded the Michelin Green Star for Sustainable Gastronomy for the third year in a row in February and we are delighted for our efforts to be recognised in this way.

As part of celebrating International Women's Day, can you provide a few words of wisdom to someone wanting to join the world of hospitality and carve out a career where they strive to make their own difference?

Find good role models, It is a male-dominated industry but there are so many women doing amazing things and they don't have to be doing the same jobs as you - look out for women-led businesses that employ other women - if other women want to work there its likely to be a good place to work.

As a woman navigating the competitive landscape of the restaurant industry, what advice would you give to aspiring female restaurateurs?

Don't be afraid to get it wrong, I really look up to Chantelle Nicholson a New Zealand chef who owns a beautiful restaurant in Mayfair, totally smashing it but her previous restaurant was not as successful. Keep learning and ask for help. PLUS talk to other restaurant owners in the area that you plan to open up a space  - it's not about being in competition with each other.

International Women's Day, Paramijt Nagra, Co-founder of Crazy Gin

Paramijt Nagra: Co-Founder of Crazy Gin

Paramijt’s journey to creating Crazy Gin took a notably unconventional route. With a background in the Met Police, alongside experiences in Her Majesty’s Court Service and the realm of Psychology, her career has been anything but linear. It was actually a drunken Friday night conversation over a very bad Indian takeaway that sparked the idea to create Crazy Gin. Launched in 2016 with a vision to weave together British and Indian cultures, the aim was ambitious yet clear: to introduce a product to the drinks market that not only stood out for its unique taste but also celebrated a deep cultural legacy—a vision that was recognised and embraced by Harvey Nichols during their prestigious launch.


Can you share any personal or professional experiences that influenced your decision to start a spirits brand, and how did you navigate the initial stages of launching your business?

Crazy Gin has been deeply inspired by my childhood, where food and drink were the language of love and unity. Our drunken conversation led us to imagine transforming the traditional lassi into an innovative gin. This idea marked our first step into the drinks industry, a sector we approached with no prior business or industry knowledge. We had a steep learning curve when it came to understanding production methods and industry regulations. However, there was also strength in not being from the industry as it freed us from the constraints of traditional pathways. Through exploring vacuum distillation, we were able to bring our concept to life, creating a gin that perfectly mirrors our dual heritage and laying the foundation for Crazy Gin—a brand that stands for innovation, creativity, and the rich cultural pride at the heart of our journey.

Can you discuss some of the major hurdles you faced during the process of establishing and growing your spirits brand?

The road to establishing Crazy Gin has been challenging. Among these was the task of breaking the stereotype that Indian gins were merely accompaniments to Indian food. More daunting, however, were the biases I encountered as a British Indian woman in this space. I faced assumptions about who held the leadership role within our company, with questions often directed towards male interns under the mistaken belief they were the decision-makers and encountered comments to my surprise such as "I thought your lot didn't drink," that reflected cultural insensitivity.

How did you approach these challenges, and what strategies or resources proved most valuable in overcoming them?

Despite these obstacles, I used them as opportunities to educate and initiate dialogue. Recognition from esteemed platforms such as Harvey Nichols, being celebrated as Brand of the Year in 2023, and our feature in The Observer’s Top 50 Food and Drink Brands have been crucial in dismantling barriers and showcasing the universal charm of our gin.

Reflecting on your experience as a founder of a spirits brand, what initial steps or considerations do you believe are crucial for women who are contemplating starting their own venture in this industry?

To women contemplating an entrepreneurial journey in the spirits industry or elsewhere, it's vital to recognise and confront gender disparities. This awareness should not discourage but rather embolden you to face and navigate the challenges ahead. Cultivating resilience, building a supportive network, and engaging with peers are essential steps. Such efforts not only enhance your venture but also contribute to a culture of generosity that lifts the entire industry. In today’s connected world, effectively leveraging social media is key for storytelling and brand building, allowing you to reach and resonate with an audience that aligns with your vision and values, especially in spaces where traditional platforms might overlook you.

International Women's Day, Emma Giles, In the Secret Bottle Shop holding a bottle of wine

Emma Giles: Customer Service and Event Manager

Emma brings over 15 years of diverse hospitality and events experience to her role at Secret Bottle Shop. Despite navigating a male-dominated industry, Emma's determination remains unyielding, inspired by her mother's unwavering support. Emma advocates for fair workplace practices, emphasising equal opportunities and flexible working hours for women. In her daily responsibilities, Emma handles customer inquiries, manages event calendars, and contributes to both physical and online operations, embodying her commitment to excellence and empowerment in every aspect of her work at Secret Bottle Shop.


Please tell us a bit more about your background and day-to-day role at Secret Bottle shop.

Over the past 15 years, I've immersed myself in the dynamic world of Hospitality and Events, overseeing ventures such as weddings, live events, fine dining restaurants and high-end cocktail bars. My expertise lies in customer-facing roles, and my passion for meticulous organisation aligns with the intricate details of event management. The Secret Bottle Shop felt like the perfect fit for me, given my lifelong love for wine. In my daily role, I handle customer service enquiries, manage our events calendar, and contribute to both our physical store and online operations as necessary.

Can you share a story or example of a woman who has inspired or influenced you in your career or personal life, and how their actions have made a positive impact?

To be honest, in terms of my career, my journey has often been in a male-dominated space. It hasn't stopped me, though – it's fuelled my determination to reach higher levels. My rock through it all is my mum; she's my strength and empowers me every day.

Reflecting on the theme of this year's International Women's Day, #InspireInclusion, what steps do you believe businesses can take to empower in the workplace?

 I believe it's crucial to establish a fair and level playing field in the workplace, ensuring equal opportunities for female employees. While I'm fortunate in my current workplace, I think other organisations could provide greater flexibility in terms of working hours, enabling women to better accommodate their children's needs.

How do you like to drink a Gattertop vodka?

I love a Gattertop Damson vodka mixed with a good glass of fizz! Perfect combination!

International Women's Day, Florence at Glasshouse Bar, Tunbridge Wells pouring Gattertop Drinks Damson vodka liqueur

Florence: Bartender/ Assistant General Manager

Florence is a budding mixologist with six months of experience in her current role at the Glasshouse Bar in Tunbridge Wells. Prior to this, she honed her skills as an Assistant General Manager at a pub. Though still discovering her own style, Florence leans towards the classic approach to mixology, drawing inspiration from her mentors and continuously expanding her knowledge base. She thrives on the creative aspect of her craft, viewing mixology as an art form where the energy invested directly influences the final product. Florence takes great pride in her work and finds joy in sharing her creations with others, believing that they reflect the passion and dedication she puts into each cocktail.


As a female bartender, what distinct perspectives do you bring to your role, and how do you leverage them to innovate and elevate the customer experience?

I’m a people person which is how I got into hospitality in the first place. I enjoy looking after people and building an emotional connection, making people feel at home and welcomed. I’m intuitive to people’s emotions and adapt depending on their needs. I feel like hospitality is such a fast-paced working environment, it’s easy to get swept up but it’s taking the time to care about each individual, this is what separates you from being just another person behind a bar. As a female bartender, I think this is a skill I’m particularly good at, as well as providing a sense of organisation behind the scenes which all elevates the customer experience.

How do you utilise your creativity as a bartender to invent distinctive and Innovation drink options that cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences?

Innovation is still something that I’m growing into. For me personally, I utilise my creativity by building off the classics. Your classics take into account the majority of people’s tastes and preferences, it may be safe but people tend to really enjoy an upgraded take on it all.

Can you discuss some of the hurdles you've encountered as a woman in the drinks industry, and how you've handled them to thrive in your role?

I found gaining respect to be quite a challenge which I rise to. I’m a young female and although I have worked hard it’s still something I struggle to hold. Be it customers who say or do disrespectful things under the influence or people I have worked with not having faith in my ability. I handle it differently depending on who it is and what the situation is, but I always have to have confidence in my decisions. Being in this industry you can learn a lot about people very quickly by how they carry themselves, talk to others and act on things. I’ve learnt for everyone you have to keep respect and clear boundaries, the notion I stick to for this is to treat people how you want to be treated. I’m still finding new ways to improve and grow as a person which I feel is so important to thrive, changing and adapting is a huge thing in the industry and being complacent is just not an option.

These remarkable women embody the essence of International Women’s Day by championing inclusion and shattering barriers within the drinks and hospitality industry. Their journeys serve as powerful examples of the invaluable contributions women make across various roles. By showcasing the diversity of roles within the industry, these stories aim to inspire and empower women considering a career in hospitality. By highlighting the breadth of opportunities available and showcasing women thriving in traditionally male-dominated spaces, we hope to dismantle outdated narratives and encourage more women to pursue their passions in the drinks industry. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us amplify these voices and continue our collective efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable world for all within the hospitality sector and beyond. 

March 07, 2024
Gattertop Drinks Company

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