Do you hate it when you get to the end of the drink and all you’ve got left are watery dregs? Or when a Mojito is just a tad too sour for your taste buds? Fear not when sipping at White Lyan the creators have done away with ice and citrus in their quest to find the perfectly balanced cocktail.
So no lemon or crushed ice? Nope, the cocktails are pre-prepared, bottled, and stored in refrigerators behind the bar. Oh, and they don’t use jiggers either, each drink is measured out on scales to a specific weight.
Best for when you’re feeling: Experimental – past ‘ingredients’ have included bone, pomegranate paint and absinthe rice. Oh, and those two cocktail staples, ‘grass’ and ‘smoke’.
Where is it? Down a slightly sketchy side-street in Hoxton that looks like it could belong in the film Children of Men. An unassuming black door will lead you into the hub of the action…
Who to go with: Someone you want to impress. The whole concept is very unusual, and it’s a chance to show you’re well ahead of the cocktail trend.
What makes it unique: No ice and citrus – c’mon, that’s pretty cool. They won’t actually ‘mix’ the cocktail in front of you, but will use pipettes and sprays and all manner of interesting equipment. Plus the fact they infuse all their own spirits means that choice and preference is removed and you’re left in their capable hands.
So what’s the deal? It’s not often you a visit a cocktail bar with glass-fronted fridges in place of a back-bar, but that’s what White Lyan is all about. Don’t expect to see any brands you recognise, because the cocktails here are all ‘Mr Lyan’ style, using spirits that have been taken directly from the distiller and given a twist. The emphasis is on removing the variables that can result in an unsatisfactory drink, and throwing in loads of creative twists and flourishes.
Drinks are exciting and baffling – the Lada Lada is tequila, smoke, elderflower and lager syrup and arrives in what looks like equipment nicked from the biology lab, and there’s the Monkey Ball which consists of Mr Lyan Scotch, cassia, chocolate, truffle and banana soda.
Atmosphere: It’s East London, so clientele are general pretty hip and trendy – feel free to don your thick-rimmed specs, or show off your latest tattoo. The decor has an industrial feel – think exposed brickwork, metal piping, and those glowing fridges that make you feel you might be in a sci-fi film.
So what should I order? You’re going to want to try everything, because you won’t recognise most what’s on offer and there’s also fun to be had in how they present it. Our particular favourite was the Beeswax Old Fashioned using Mr Lyan Scotch, sugar, bitters, and beeswax egg. There was a lovely rounded flavour to the drink, and we savoured each delicious sip.
Other menu items? There are two wine options – red and white. Simply ask your friendly bartender/science-dude to add spice or oak, thus creating depth or richness – it’s enough to make a sommelier shudder. If you need bar snacks to soak up the alcohol then options include ‘fish n’ chips’ crackers or ‘Lyan’s paws’ puffed crisps.
Who’s behind it? Ryan Chetiyawardana, twice-named UK best bartender of the year.
Is it going to break the bank? Cocktails are between £6 – £9, so it’s not going to cost an arm and a leg. But the fact you’ll want to try them all may burn a hole in your pocket.
Final words: Unsurprisingly, Chetiyawardana has been compared to Heston Blumenthal for his cocktail creativity. White Lyan scooped the Best New International Cocktail Bar award at the annual Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail this year, and it’s plain to see why –this is cocktail creativity at its very best.
Open Tues-Sun 6pm to midnight.
153-155 Hoxton Street, London N1 6PJ. T: 020 3011 1153. whitelyan.com
Rebecca Milford, Twitter @rebecca_anne_m