db interview: Ryan Chetiyawardana

28th March, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

Ryan Chetiyawardana has a stinking cold. Meeting the affable cocktail maestro at his new East London bar on a freezing Monday afternoon in early February, his drink of choice is ginger tea.

Sat beside him is his heavily-inked business partner Iain Griffiths. Dressed head to toe in black, Griffiths’ rolled up sleeves reveal everything from giant sailor’s anchors to a flame-haired, bikini- clad vixen.

Having met at the Bramble bar in Edinburgh, while Griffiths upped sticks to Sydney, Chetiyawardana was taken under the wing of Tony Conigliaro at his Islington speakeasy, 69 Colebrooke Row, before moving on to the envelope pushing Purl in Marylebone and Worship Street Whistling Shop in Shoreditch.

Having become one of the most respected names in mixology, last September Chetiyawardana made the bold move of opening his first solo venture, White Lyan in Hoxton, enlisting Griffiths to help run the project.

Named after Ryan’s childhood moniker, White Lyan isn’t your ordinary cocktail bar. There’s not a cocktail shaker or a twist of lemon in sight. And don’t even get them started on ice. Keen to shake up the industry, the concept for White Lyan is an audacious one.

All cocktails are pre- batched and served without ice. “We’re not anti mixology, we just wanted there to be as few rules as possible,” begins Chetiyawardana, adding, “A lot of people are put off from ordering cocktails because of their high price tags and the fact that they take a long time to make – our cocktails start at £6 and take under a minute to make, so we’re hoping to attract a broader audience.”

He continues: “This isn’t a vanity project – it isn’t about us, it’s about the customer. That’s why we stuck a pole in our basement; we want people to have fun.”

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