Autumn 2013 and London’s bar industry is abuzz with rumours of a new bar that was going to change the very nature of the cocktail. Located in the as-yet less than trendy Hoxton Street this was *the* opening to have an inside scoop on – a bar with no ice or citrus.
As we all know, the lack of lemon or frozen water was just the beginning. Soon Ryan Chetiyawardana and Iain Griffiths, alongside a solid cast of London’s best creative minds, were producing drinks that pushed what we knew as sustainable, edible and even enjoyable. Heck, even Beyonce and Jay Z came to check it out.
And now, on Friday 24th Feburary, White Lyan releases its last menu. Yes, London’s most innovative bar is closing. Sort of…
“We always wanted to challenge,” says Ryan. “There's so many great bars around the world, but there's a lot of stubbornness and reluctance to question too, so White Lyan became a platform for that, and became a venue to start discussions from. In short, it was weird. But it became successful in those challenges - the industry has changed, so we want to challenge other aspects. And make it weird again! It's about staying true to what White Lyan (and the company!) is about; accessible innovation. Heaps mad shit to get people excited and get everyone drinking better.”
So White Lyan is updating, getting itself ready to push us all in the new ways yet again. But before that happens, before it closes its door in April and undergoes a transformation into a new concept, there was always going to be a final menu.
Perhaps surprisingly you should recognise all these drinks – some from the very first menu.
“I think the last menu we did was our most successful "waste not want not live lots", but we also found ourselves continuing the conversations we'd had. We wanted to move onto new areas, and so many people missed some of our early drinks that were at the core of the concept, and others missed some favourites so a final hurrah seemed a fitting chance to return to them,” says Ryan.
The last drinks White Lyan, as you know it, will ever serve:
Beeswax Old Fashioned
Mr Lyan Scotch, sugar, bitters, beeswax egg.
Mr Lyan gin, lettuce, Herbes de Provence, red apple soda.
Moby Dick Sazerac
Mr Lyan rye, Peychaud's, ambergris, Absinthe rice.
Bone Dry Martini
Mr Lyan vodka, bone.
Mr Lyan gin, bramble tea, sourdough, lime, redcurrant soda.
Mr Lyan Vodka, bay leaf, cranberry, grapefruit soda.
Tennessee Nitro Martini
Mr Lyan Cola, Jack Daniel’s, Sandows cold brew coffee.
Joining these seven drinks will be five more including the Stone Daiquiri, the Lada Lada, the Layered Negroni, the Ribs and the Seaside.
And it's in this last celebration of everything White Lyan has achieved that we all realise however great, however wonderful the new concept is, it will have to work extremely hard to fill the very large shoes of what went before - a bar that has truly been a trend-setter, an innovator and an inspiration to the industry.
"Lots of people saw White Lyan as a "fuck you!" to the industry," says Ryan. "It was never this. It was about a conversation we felt needed to be had. At first this was met with hostility, but thankfully it succeeded. When once people saw bottled cocktails as a cheat, they now appear in 5 star hotels and dive bars across the world. The same with sustainability, focus on ingredients, control, old-style bartending...White Lyan wasn't fully responsible for these changes, but I'm proud it acted as a catalyst."
As to what comes next, well all we can say is watch this space. Seriously, glue your eyes to it.
But before that, for the next two months, go and celebrate the creativity and ingenunity that was White Lyan. "I hope everyone who came through the bar, and of course everyone who worked there over the years, values the love the bar intended to give to the world of food and drink," says Ryan.
From us at DrinkUp, we certainly did and have just to say, quite simply, thanks for all the fish.
And ambergris and chicken bone distilate and "wine" and drinks with names like katnip cooler and drawings on the menu of half-dead mermaids and all those pornographic lions and nights in the basement that we can never speak of again - thanks for all that too.