Ryan Chetiyawardana collects awards like other men collect stamps or trainers. Known professionally as Mr Lyan, he has, variously, been lauded as The World’s Best Bartender, Time Out’s Person of the Decade and has been a fixture of the Evening Standard’s 1000 most influential Londoners list every year since 2014. To say he is a big deal in the world of cocktail-making is an understatement. He is the undisputed king.
He now has 7 bars across the world, including outposts in Washington DC, Amsterdam and London. Though this wasn’t always his plan. The son of a cancer specialist and pastry chef, he was raised in Birmingham and studied at Central St Martins, Edinburgh University and the Birmingham College of Food, before deciding his place was, in fact, behind a bar.
He describes the cocktails he produces as without anything “superfluous and without gimmicks. We want there to be that clarity of flavour, we put a lot of work in behind the scenes to be able to do that. We like to spend our time looking after our guests, making sure they're having a good time”. Often what this means is that his bars have to have a fully working kitchen, complete with sous vide machines and Thermomix, so much prep is there to complete.
To Chetiyawardana, a good cocktail is about balance. “In terms of the flavours everything needs to be in harmony, but it's really about the context of it as well: if you are throwing a party for your friends you don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen making drinks”.
To mark the launch of our new daring Botanical Capsule – which is full of vibrant colours, floral prints inspired by vintage botanical illustrations, and lots of soft towelling tees – we worked with Chetiyawardana on a special cocktail collaboration. A long-time fan of using botanicals in his drinks, there is no better person to bring the capsule alive. Read on for a guide to Chetiyawardana’s life in cocktails – and an introduction to our exclusive Orlebar Brown X Mr Lyan collaboration.
Eden Milk Punch
35ml ELLC Kew Gardens gin 15ml Rare Tea Company almond blossom tea syrup (5g Almond blossom flower tea 150g water; 150g sugar) 10ml Capreolus raspberry eau de vie 50ml almond milk Citrus slices, edible flowers, lavage and raspberries to garnish
Method: For the almond blossom tea syrup, steep flower tea in freshly boiled water for 15 minutes. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain out flowers and store in a bottle or airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. When it comes to make the cocktail, combine all ingredients in large punch bowl, stir to combine, add ice block and garnish then serve ladled into ice filled glasses garnished with edible flowers and citrus slices. If you don’t have a punch bowl, the drink can be prepared singularly and served straight into a glass and garnished the same. For the garnish, freeze citrus slices, edible flowers, lavage, and raspberries into an ice block.
20ml Clairin Communal Rhum 30ml wild berry syrup (70g wild blueberries; 50g blackberries; 1.5g dried chicory powder) 50g sugar 50g water 100ml sparkling wine 1 x small pinch flaked sea salt Pea shoots and citrus zest to garnish
Method: For the wild berry syrup, combine all ingredients and blend to dissolve the sugar and break-up the berries. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer or muslin cloth to remove solids. Store in a sealed container or bottle in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. When it comes to serving the cocktail, combine all ingredients except wine into a spritz glass, add ice and stir to combine, top with wine and garnish with pea shoots and citrus zest.
“The botanical capsule has a real vibrancy to it; it feels like a balance of fun and sophistication. And a bit of magic too. That really inspired me when I was creating the cocktails. I took it as a visual lead, but also kind of a symbolic one. I had this amazing image in my head of being able to catch up with friends by a pool. So, I made it a sharing drink; something you go around topping drinks up with. In terms of the ingredients, we have really reflected the clothes in the choice: so, we have a special gin from the East London liquour company which was a collaboration with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Then we again bring in the florals with the tea we use, in this case an almond blossom tea. The Real Tea Company sources things in a very considered way, choosing only carefully grown blossoms that give this amazing balance of nuttiness and a florality. For Succory Spritz we used a lot of fresh fruit flavours. Both of the drinks inspired by the capsule are delicate and very flavourful at the same time – a real interpretation of the capsule.”
50ml gin 15ml dry vermouth 2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Mix the ingredients by stirring over ice, then strain into a very cold cocktail glass and add an un-pitted green olive or a little lemon twist
“To me, this is the archetypal cocktail. What's really incredible about it is, it's so seemingly simple. There are not many ingredients. But it's so easy to mess up. My first ever taste of one wasn’t very successful, actually. I remember being on holiday with my dad, and having seen James Bond order, asking him to have one and he did, and he was like, “this is awful”. It wasn't at a cocktail bar, we just asked them to make it. I think I tried a sip of it and was repulsed. It was much later in my life when I had a real martini at Bramble bar in Edinburgh. I discounted it as a young bartender. But when I got into them, it demonstrated to me that less is more. It was a real eye opener.”
Scotch and soda
50ml blended scotch 120ml chilled soda water
Method: Mix and serve over a large cube of ice.
“The reason I love this is a lot of people don't even regard it as a cocktail. And that, to me, is kind of part of the fascination. This is probably the drink I drink the most. I love highballs as a category: I drink them when I go out. It's a drink that is not too intense a flavour; you can take your time over it; it changes as you drink through it. You don’t have to throw things together to be able to make a cocktail, it's just about finding the right harmony.”
Beeswax Old Fashioned
350ml beeswax bourbon 350ml cognac 150ml simple syrup 115ml filtered water 4ml Angostura bitters 2ml Peychaud’s bitters
Method: Mix beeswax bourbon, Cognac, simple syrup, filtered water, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud’s bitters in a container. Pour out six equal quantities into chilled glasses. Garnish with citrus peel.
“This was on the first menu I ever created at my first bar, White Lyan, and is, admittedly, quite tough to replicate at home. It is our version of the Old Fashioned, but it flips some of the ingredients and proportions. It also contains one of my favourite ingredients, honey. As you start drinking, it is quite sweet but as you drink through it, not only does the beeswax kind of accumulate on your palate, it goes kind of chewy and rich, as the drink warms.”
40ml citrus vodka 10ml fresh lime juice 10ml dry vermouth 15ml rich citrus syrup (2:1 syrup infused with pink grapefruit peel and dried bay leaf) 20ml unsweetened cranberry juice
Method: Mix and shake well. Then double strain into a chilled coupette and garnish with a flamed orange slice.
“During the early 1990s, there were all these amazing drinks that were coming out of the Bay area in San Francisco. It was an incredible movement and the Cosmopolitan was part of it. Most people now associate it with Sex and The City and really bad ingredients. Everyone discounts it. But to me it is a classic cocktail. It's a drink that I've really loved riffing on over the years., I think we've had a version of a cosmopolitan on pretty much every bar's menu. It's a way of demonstrating that it can be a bracing, snappy pick me up. So, it's about challenging the kind of preconceptions and getting people to not take things too seriously. We want things to feel inclusive.”