In the vibrant world of mixology, where creativity and passion collide to create liquid masterpieces, one name stands out – Sasala Dissanayake, the talent behind CocktailswithValerie. A self-taught and self-learned mixologist, her journey from the corporate world to cocktails is about pursuing one’s true passion.


Sasala’s story begins with a solid foundation in education, having completed her primary education at Cambridge High School in Dubai, UAE, before returning to Sri Lanka for her O/Ls and A/Ls at Wycherley International School. Following this, she pursued a degree in Business Administration at Curtin University, Australia, and ventured into the corporate world, building a successful career in Human Resource Management. Fifteen years at the esteemed John Keells Holdings provided her with invaluable skills, but as she reached her later years, she felt the call to embark on a new, more personally fulfilling journey.

The turning point came during the lockdown period when Sasala, driven by a desire for experimentation, accidently ventured into the art of mixology. Armed with a penchant for photography, she began documenting her creations on her personal Instagram handle. This laid the foundation for what would later become ‘CocktailswithValerie.’

The brand’s name itself, ‘CocktailswithValerie,’ emerged serendipitously during a pop-up sale named ‘Valerie Drive.’ Sasala’s involvement in mixing drinks for the event sparked the idea, leading to her Instagram page dedicated to showcasing her unique cocktail creations.

What sets CocktailswithValerie apart is Sasala’s innovative twist on classic cocktail recipes. Limited by the ingredients available during the lockdown, she infused local flavours, using substitutes like Narang (citrus fruit) instead of lemon and incorporating indigenous herbs like karapincha, rampe, and green chilli. The result? Intriguing, unique cocktails that caught the attention of her friends and sparked the beginning of a new chapter.

Despite Sasala’s background in Human Resource Management, the transition to mixology wasn’t without its challenges. Plans for a venture in the tourism sector were put on hold due to the Easter attacks and the ensuing pandemic, leading Sasala to redirect her focus towards her newfound passion.

CocktailswithValerie quickly gained popularity, and Sasala found herself undertaking the cocktail bar at birthdays, weddings to masterclasses and corporate gatherings. One of her most beloved events is the “Ladies Night,” a carefully curated evening for a select group of women. Sasala emphasizes that while she predominantly caters to ladies, her events offer a diverse range of cocktails to suit every palate.

In the male-dominated world of mixology, Sasala has not only held her ground but has also garnered immense support from her peers. Her signature cocktail, the “Strawberry Smash,” has become a must-have at her events.

Addressing the distinction between a bartender and a mixologist, Sasala highlights the specialized focus of a mixologist on cocktail concoctions, setting them apart from the broader responsibilities of a bartender. Having seamlessly transitioned from a corporate career to become a part-time mixologist, she views her newfound passion as more of a hobby than traditional work, allowing her to prioritize her personal life and maintain a stress-free balance.

Reflecting on her journey, Sasala encourages aspiring individuals, especially women, to follow their unconventional dreams. Her message is clear: be passionate, believe in yourself, and pursue what sets your heart on fire. Her story embraces one’s true calling, crafting a life that is both fulfilling and flavorful.

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