Please note, White Lyan has now closed. New bar Super Lyan has opened in the basement. Time Out Food & Drink Editors, July 2017.
The headlines you’ll read about this Hoxton cocktail bar will proclaim that it doesn’t use ice. That shows how extraordinary it actually is to dispense altogether with such a time-honoured way of chilling drinks, but it’s not even the most exciting thing about White Lyan.
It was the first solo venue from single-minded cocktailian Ryan Chetiyawardana (see Dandelyan too), and not only has he chucked out the frozen water, he also employs no citrus, sugar, fruit or other perishables, and next to no branded products. You can’t order off menu, and there’s only one of each colour of wine and one lager.
The former White Horse pub in the untrendy bit of Hoxton doesn’t give much away from the outside, but once inside it’s clear this is no standard operation. It’s all-black with a minimalist New York ’80s sort of look about it. Instead of a back bar stacked with spirits there are big fridges holding the pre-made products of hours of labour by Ryan and his team – most of the hard work here is done before opening. Spirits are especially made to order, or refined and ‘rebuilt’ using filtered water and distillations.
All this, unsurprisingly, results in some pretty unusual drinks. The Moby Dick Sazerac is made with rye, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe-soaked rice paper. The whale reference comes from the addition of ambergris – yes, the sperm whale secretion – which adds body. The Monkey Ball contains scotch, cassia, chocolate, and truffle and banana soda. Czech lager is the only beer, but if you like pale ale it can be jazzed up with a hop ‘atomisation’.
Does all this sound a bit pretentious? Think about it like this: comparing White Lyan to your local boozer is like comparing Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck to a greasy spoon. It’s a genuine pioneer in a new cocktail movement – be a part of it yourself and visit.