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Meet the Mad Scientist of the Cocktail World

International Bartender of the Year Ryan Chetiyawardana takes on tiki trends, Beyonce’s requests and microbes

Avid globetrotter, innovative restaurant owner and daring entrepreneur Ryan Chetiyawardana—known as Mr. Lyan—has just been named the International Bartender of the Year. And the honor is well deserved.

At his first bar, London’s White Lyan, he concocted an ingenious cocktail menu using his own handcrafted, in-house drinks with absolutely no perishables—which makes it the first bar in the world to use no ice, citrus or other fresh fruit in order to reduce waste. His methods are unique, but he’s willing to share the secret sauce, so-to-speak. In his new book, Good Things to Drink with Mr. Lyan and Friends, Chetiyawardana reveals delicious recipes, heartwarming stories and helpful tips—and he’s giving you a little sneak peek right here.

How are you handling the fame of being named International Bartender of the Year? 

On the day-to-day, I am probably running around a bit more. Both White Lyan and Dandelyan (a part of the Morgans Hotel Group in Mondrian London) are not standard bars, so to get recognized in something as prestigious as that, with having done things so differently, is amazing. You kind of think you are going to be the weird niche on the side. Dandelyan just got voted best place to drink in the U.K., and that’s reader-voted. So, it’s amazing to get both the kind of industry prestige and have people go, ‘We love what you do.’ It’s brilliant for the team.

What was the idea behind your bottled cocktail line? 

Actually, I used to do these years back. For like the last ten years, I bottled cocktails for my sisters’ clients or if they were going somewhere. They wanted to enjoy great drinks, but they didn’t want to have the equipment or deal with all the fuss. I even used to hand-label the bottles.  It grew to White Lyan where people started coming in and seeing the bottled cocktails and going, ‘Can we take one of those away?’ That’s what Beyoncé did. 

What are some cocktail trends to look out for in 2016? 

In the culinary sense, there has been a lot of fermentation. It is something we have tried to talk to people about a lot and doing this is not as scary as you think. I worked on that maybe five or six years ago. I was intrigued with the kind of chaos of using microbes. I embrace the chaos side, and I think that is what we are going to see more of in bars. The set of flavors it opens up is incredible. 

I’ve also seen a bit with tikis to start to come through a bit more. Grander bars that you wouldn’t expect to have anything like that. Big flavors and kind of tropical. 

If you could choose one person to sit down and have a drink with, who would it be? 

David Bowie. My other love is music. I did a lot of music when I was younger, but I never really fully explored it in a creative sense. I’m always fascinated by how Bowie is somebody who has changed himself so much.  He’s been instrumental in so many different genres of music.  He’s also a fun person. I’m pretty sure he would be somebody you can hang out with and hear stories. Being at a bar and having cocktails is such a great way to do that, and I would love to do that with him.