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Photo for: Know Ryan Chetiyawardana, The Master Mixologist!


Know Ryan Chetiyawardana, The Master Mixologist!

We bring to you everything about one of the most innovative bartenders present in London today, Ryan Chetiyawardana.

Growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland in a family with Sri Lankan parents, strong food and drink culture was a part of his heritage. Ryan developed a knack for cooking and mainly drinks. He studied cooking, along with biology and philosophy, at the University of Edinburgh and went on to gain experience at Bramble Bar. In 2013, Ryan opened his first bar, White Lyan, in London. Ryan’s second bar, Dandelyan at the Mondrian Hotel, is currently at number three on San Pellegrino’s "World’s 50 Best Bars" list. He has also written two books, Good Things and the follow-up Good Together.

His first bar White Lyan rose to fame within no time because of its primary focus on sustainability. To avoid perishables, no ice or fruit was used in making the cocktails in his bar. He used the concept of pre-made cocktails and different ingredients to cut down on waste. His remarkable and innovative cocktail-making techniques leave wine enthusiasts with no choice but to visit his bars. He has three outlets in total: Lyaness, in London, which overlooks the Thames; Amsterdam’s Super Lyan, set in a historic 17th-century house; and Silver Lyan, in Washington, D.C., which reopened in mid-July after the pandemic. Let’s have a look inside the life of this celebrated mixologist:

His Favourite Book: Harold McGee’s Nose Dive. Ryan said that luckily he had worked with Harold many times over his career. What he likes the most about the book is that it covers a complicated area, yet makes it approachable.

Places he would like to visit again: Japan and Sri Lanka. Ryan loves the Japanese cultures and flavors and has traveled there several times, but he would not mind visiting again. He wants to visit Sri Lanka again to learn about his family history.

His favorite pastime: Reading. He loves reading as it helps him relax and he finds joy in it. Reading is something that he does even while traveling, particularly fiction books.


His favorite series: Parts Unknown. Ryan tends to not watch TV a lot, but during the pandemic, he also binged on some series just like the rest of us, and Parts Unknown featuring Anthony Bourdain is a series that he loved.

One peculiar thing he never travels without is Tea. Ryan never travels without his tea and finds peace in the madness of his schedule.

One anonymous passion: Stationary. Ryan, in an interview with Barrons, told that he is a big fan of amazing pens and papers, being an illustrator himself.

His go-to drink: Scotch and Soda. What he will drink depends mostly on his mood and the setting but scotch and soda is his all-time favorite drink. Also, a martini with someone he loves is unbeatable- his idea of perfect moments in life.

What he wanted to be when he grew up: Doctor. Ryan was always fascinated by plants and biology and wanted to be a doctor when he was a kid. But his dad discouraged him and thought the bureaucracy would frustrate him. Later, with the help of his teachers and mentors, he found a balance between arts and sciences and took on bartending.

Best and Worst Drink: 1964 Bowmore Fino Cask OB for Oddbins was the best drink he ever had. He found the taste complex and intense and feels that it is the best drink to exist. As far as the worst drink is concerned Cod liver oil tops the chart for him. His mother tricked him into drinking it when he was 6 years old.

One album he’d listen to for the rest of his life: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by Bowie. He feels he could spend his life listening to songs from this album because of their oh-so-perfect layering.

Favorite wine bar, dive bar, and meal: Ryan’s favorite wine bar is Meursault, his favorite dive bar is Jack & Coke and the best meal he ever had was Faviken for his 30th birthday.

The Greatest challenge he overcame: The greatest professional challenge was to break down the barriers surrounding food and drink, according to Ryan. He said that people opposed his ideas, but he only used them as constructive feedback and moved forward. He said that being vocal about his ideas and mission helped him a lot in gathering support from people.

His Greatest Achievement: His team. He believes that none of the awards compares to the team he has gathered. He said his team inspires him because they all work together and at the same time challenge each other. He believes his team is his biggest asset.

Greatest Professional influence: He said that his greatest influence is his sister Natasha. Talking about his mentors, he said he was very fortunate to have amazing mentors like - Mike Aikman & Jas Scott, Craig Harper, Andy Gemmell, Lewis Jaffrey, Stu McCluskey, Chris Stock, Billy Skelli-Cohen

Where would he like to open a bar next: In an interview with foodism, Ryan said that he would like to open a bar in Paris or Australia. He added, “I think Australia has one of the strongest scenes in the world; Melbourne and Sydney are incredible cities and I think it would be amazing to do something there. Some of my favorite bartenders in the world are in those two cities and that's a crucial thing, having people who are like-minded around you.”

A phrase he uses a lot: ‘Yahoo!’, and ‘A rising tide helps all ships’.

His happiest time: He describes himself as a dumb puppy because he is happy most of the time. But his specific moments of happiness are tea, his girlfriend Annabelle, nature, music, and a book.

What is something he still wants to achieve: On what he wants to achieve that he still hasn’t he said, “There is still a lot of legitimacy and recognition I’d like to be afforded to the world of food and drink, and then within that, the brilliance that is occurring in the drinks side of this.”

One thing he’s not good at: Electronics. He believes that juggling between different gadgets sucks all his attention and that is why he can never have a TV on.

The most expensive thing you own is Porsche. In an interview with Club Oenologique, he said, “The most expensive thing was probably a vintage Porsche when I was 21 – I’d just come out of the hospital and took out a loan to buy it as a celebration of not being dead. I think it was the timing and the perspective but I was like, “Screw this, I’m buying a Porsche.”

Speaking about his unique approach to his bars, Ryan said that the locations of his bars are very specific. Talking about finding ways to push the boundaries, Ryan said, "The bars have evolved over the years from the early days of White Lyan when it was trying to understand the formula we use—how do we use ingredients, how do we put together drinks." I suppose Dandelyan was taking the mantle of White Lyan and seeking a way we could look to nature for ingredients and challenge that whole setup of where you source stuff for a bar. That’s continued through all the venues; each of them is trying to find something, "he told in an interview with Imbibe Magazine.

Ryan Chetiyawardana

Image Source: Forbes

When he was asked why sustainability is a key feature of his bars? he said that he wanted to show that luxury need not come at the cost of nature or the planet. Traveling and working in different countries gave him a chance to have this conversation about sustainability, which did exist before, but was mostly overlooked, and that is why he uses his company to bring the topic to light. In an interview with Imbibe Magazine, he said, "Because it’s not a single-answer problem; it needs lots of different approaches."

One of his favorite words is innovation. According to him, innovation motivates him as it is a reflection of everything around us. His philosophy of life is, “his way of doing things differently.” He believes people are doing amazing things in the world every day, but there is no need to copy them. He works in his way and believes it’s not just about him but about "us." It's about people working together towards a common goal and trying to achieve success. His life has been an exciting journey and he continues to live it to the fullest each day and inspire people around him.

Article by: Vidisha Dewan, Beverage Trade Network

Header Image Source: South Bank London

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