Cocktail maestro Ryan Chetiyawardana (Mr Lyan) has really pioneered and changed the world of mixology. He opened his first bar, White Lyan, in 2013 as the first cocktail bar in the world to use no perishables; no fruit and even no ice. It was an exploration in sustainability which started the ball rolling for many other bars now showcasing world class sustainable mixology.
We caught up with Ryan to talk about all things mixology, cocktails and more.
1) How did it all start?
I actually started in kitchens before I worked in a bar. We’d grown up cooking from a young age, and my parents used food and drink as a way to socialise, so when I was leaving school I wanted to learn more about that from a practical, professional perspective so enrolled in the College of Food in Birmingham. But I quickly missed the interactions I’d have with people when cooking at home, so on a flippant suggestion from my oldest friend, started to work in a bar where I could do the same work, but also converse and cater the requirements to the people I was creating for. The bar then became a constant – and an output for my interests and studies – whilst I was at University (firstly Fine Art at St Martins in London, then Biology and Philosophy at Edinburgh University), and I totally fell in love with the industry, and never looked back! After working in lots of different styles of venues over the years, I started Lyan company with my sisters and cousins 10 years ago.
2) Mixology and cocktails are often just as complex as cooking. Tell us about some of the methods that people may not know about in mixology?
They’re exactly the same – you just cater to a wider set of emotions and circumstances in the bar over the kitchen, but the principles and ingredients are just the same. We do similar cooking methods, but also add in cold preparations, alongside more complicated methods such as distillation, vacuum infusion, fermentation and fat washing. The work we do across the bars ranges from very simple extractions and infusions to highly complex productions that can take weeks to complete.
3) Tell us about your involvement with Beefeater and the new Beefeater Crown Jewel?
Beefeater has long been one of my all-time favourite brands. Their history, excellence and versatility has made the classic Beefeater Gin a mainstay of both my home and my bars. But there was a different emotional connection with Beefeater Crown Jewel. It was rare to come across when I was a young bartender, and when working at Bramble (a famous gin bar in Edinburgh), I developed a huge affinity for the product when friends were able to bring us back a bottle. So obviously I was hugely honoured to be able to play a part in the global relaunch of this iconic product. Being tasked to hark to its heritage whilst bringing it into a modern style of serve was something I hugely enjoyed – especially so when getting to tell this story alongside dear friends Desmond and Alessandro Palazzi.
4) We heard the Beefeater Crown Jewel launch party was the best party of 2022. Tell us all about it?
It really was! Firstly there’s something quite remarkable about staging the party in the Tower of London. Given the brands’ and Desmond’s connection with the venue and the Yeoman Warders, we were given a very special insight into the history of the building, and even given a private tour of the Crown Jewels – and all this set the scene for a cocktail reception, entertainment, speeches and a spectacular 3 course dinner. Each guest also had the pleasure of taking home a personalised bottle of Beefeater Crown Jewel! It was an incredible celebration of London, history and the modern world all rolled into one!
5) Top tips for creating great cocktails at home?
Think on the occasion and prep accordingly. Just like with your food, it’s best to play to your own tastes, but to also consider the situation. Drinks can be very simple, but they can also be extravagant, and working to the situation helps you prepare in a manner that helps reflect the occasion – and stops you running around trying to get everything together!
6) Can sustainability in mixology ever become the norm?
Absolutely! We should be thinking about being as considerate as possible in all our daily actions – and our drinking/dining choices are one of the areas where we can make the most impact. Using the best ingredients possible is one of the best means of getting the best out of your food, and when it tastes better, it’s probably doing better for the planet too. There are easy steps you can take to make sure you’re buying in a considered manner, using up your ingredients fully, and making sure you’re thinking on what happens in your waste streams that are easy to fold into daily life. And the more we make a focus on balancing ingredients in our purchasing, the more it demonstrates to bigger businesses and governments that the topic is something we collectively care about so they can instigate bigger, meaningful changes at a larger scale.
7) Which mixologists and bartenders inspire you and why?
So many! But often most inspiration comes from travelling to new places and trying new things. I’ve had really incredible inspiration coming back from everywhere from Mexico, to Poland, to Japan to Australia! Bartenders such as Vijay in Singapore, Jeremy & Charlie in Sydney, Sam & Mickey in NYC – as well as old friends and Lyan Alumni such as Iain, Aiden and Rob – all continue to inspire.
8) If you could award a Michelin star for mixology right now, who would it be to and why?
I think it could be a double-edged sword for the bar world if there was this style of award, and I worry about the way awards have started to influence who and why people invest in the industry so I’m wary about thinking about who it would be awarded to. That said, in terms of grander style decadence, The Connaught team always deliver a fine-dining style experience!
9) How will the London bar scene look like in 5 years?
Hopefully as diverse as it has been for the last 5 years! The impact of Brexit, bad governance and the pandemic have ravaged the industry, and curbed what and who can come in from abroad, so I’m hoping London can retain its crown as the global food destination, but I do worry about how it will do so. But I do think the industry is one of the most resourceful and inventive in the world, so I’m hoping we will see new style of bar coming through that represent the multicultural identity of the city.
10) What is next for you? What projects are you working on?
We always have lots on, and always keep a few secret projects in the pipeline! But I’m really excited that we celebrate 10 years of the bars this year, so we’re planning some fun events to tie each of the brands together and share the different learnings and cultural differences we reflect in each of the venues.
To discover more about Mr Lyan, visit: mrlyan.com
To discover more about Beefeater Crown Jewel, visit: beefeatergin.com
All imagery courtesy of My Lyan / Beefeater.
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