Night Vision: How Mr Lyan Is Making Nightlife Mindful
London is notorious for its nightlife, but what you might not know is that its swiftly gaining a following in the sustainable circle, too. This is largely down to a Ryan Chetiyawardana, London’s coolest bartender on the block. Going by the nickname Mr Lyan, he opened his first bar, ‘White Lyan’, in London in 2013 as the first cocktail bar in the world to use no perishables; no fruit and even no ice – and what the New York Times called “The Most Important Bar to open in the last decade”.
With an emphasis on community and creating a tailored drinking experience, Ryan is now touted as one of the most influential Londoners, going on to open three more bars across the city, so we quizzed on him what he thought the future of mindful nightlife holds.
A NEW WAY OF DRINKING
On the former grounds of the ‘White Lyan’ bar, he sought to transform the place into two new hot spots: Super Lyan, and cocktail restaurant, Cub. The former was rebuilt from the infamous White Lyan basement in 2014, serving classic cocktails with a Mr Lyan twist. But its not just the drinks that been souped up: the space has taken the notion of sustainability to never-before-seen heights. Incorporating by-products into their drinks, it uses natural products in more innovative ways: the acidity of rhubarb makes a great Sour, while they retain the fibres to make cocktail sticks. Working with producers directly, they’ve sourced biodegradable bamboo straws which guests can take away, plus they use ingredients grown by friends for unique products rarely seen elsewhere.
“It should be easy for everyone to play their part without radically overhauling their current scenario”
Making small but important changes, Ryan is fighting to prove that a high-quality night out needn’t cost the earth, saying “We’ve tried to dispel myths to begin with – that sustainability and luxury are at odds, that it’s difficult, that it doesn’t make a difference, that it’s contradictory – as the idea is to show that it need not be about sacrifice.”
Striking up a new, modern conversation around sustainability, he soon launched Cub in July 2017. The team looked at food systems, farming practice and how food and drink experiences can be explored in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet. While you could expect fine courses that look effortlessly whipped up, the real beauty is behind-the-scenes; having made the venue their own ecosystem with experimental ingredients on site, this club forms part of a program to research the effects of environment on food growth and flavour.
And its this constant learning curve that Ryan believes is the key to sustaining a more environmentally-friendly future: “I think one of the biggest challenges we face is around education. The problems surrounding sustainability have geographical variance (although of course everything is interconnected, and most apply across the world) and the problems shift as habits change, but the main charge, and what makes the biggest difference is education – for both the industry and the public.”
THE FUTURE IS NOW
To better inform its own education, the bar collaborates with zero waste pioneer chef Doug McMaster of Silo, flavour wizard Arielle Johnson from MIT and #brandtotrust Krug Champagne. But its not only hard work by night – they also work with St Marys to show that food can create positive social change, as well as provide inspiration for incredible offerings without damaging society or the planet.
“Alcohol is the governmental scapegoat for society’s ills, and as crucial as it is to have the restrictions and tougher conversations around it, it’s scarcely a balanced discussion”
But what does the future of sustainable nightlife hold? “There are barriers” he says, “…some things require shifts in the law, or support from governmental level to make a difference, and often, you’re putting out fires, or fighting the political cases which diverts from the main stories that need attention. But thankfully the conversation has become mainstream so there are easy wins to be had.”
So while there is some work to be done, Mr Lyan has taken huge strides in proving the sustainability of a great night out. And it seems that this movement isn’t slowing down anytime soon; Ryan Chetiyawardana’s glass of tipple remains positively half full.
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