MOVERS AND SHAKERS
“We announced Dandelyan was closing two days before it won The World’s Best Bar award,” says Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka the cocktail guru Mr Lyan. “Many asked if we’d reverse the decision in light of winning the title. No. Dandelyan had its time. And from the ashes of Dandelyan came a new bar which we call Lyaness.”
As with Ryan’s first bar White Lyan, now reincarnated as Cub, the driver behind Mr Lyan’s empire is to keep evolving and stay fresh – in every respect. When White Lyan opened in Shoreditch in 2013 it was the first bar in the world not to use any perishables: that meant no fruit and, unbelievably, no ice. It was an exercise in sustainability, using pre-made cocktails and innovative ingredients.
Cub’s fierce sustainability is overseen by “zero waste” executive chef Doug McMaster. Overlooking the Thames on the South Bank, Lyaness shares the spirit of innovation, using the most esoteric of ingredients. “Snails make a delicious blackberry liqueur,” says Ryan, somewhat unexpectedly. “Our mushroom supplier employed ducks to control the snail population, but the ducks only worked with the mushrooms, not the pesky molluscs! That led to us fermenting snails with blackberries. The resulting liqueur had a beautiful earthiness. So in collaborating with the supplier, we ended up with one of our most popular cocktails.”
What Ryan loves about cocktails is that they suit our moods better than any other food or drink. “The right mixture of ingredients, theatre and the unknown combine to make magic,” he says. “I truly believe that a cocktail can spark joy.”
It can also trigger nostalgia. Mr Lyan’s latest invention, the Time Capsule, is a personalized bottled cocktail. “Evocative tastes define a Time Capsule,” says Ryan. “I meet with the client to learn about their tastes and memories. We try to capture the essence of who they are: a memory, a moment, a celebration. Together, we create a concoction derived from some of the world’s rarest drinks, some older than any living human.”
Ryan recalls the most poignant ingredient he has ever used: a vintage cognac made during the First World War. “In one sip is history, emotion, loss and hope,” he says. “This liquid portraiture is a collaboration to reflect a life well lived.”