The cocktail industry has come an awful long way in the last decade or so. Back in the day, I was tending bar part time in some of London’s best bars to pay my way through university. I was the last of dying breed: an amateur.
Top bars and restaurants are now dominated by men and women who take their art as seriously as Vincent van Gough. The very best travel the world, entering competitions in exotic locations, undertaking residencies in the hippest bars and working as ambassadors for the world’s most powerful drinks brands.
For the foreseeable future this is a one-way trend. Titans like Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià may be heroes for foodies, but bartenders will soon become household names for those of us who prefer to focus our efforts on liquid nourishment. It won’t be long before a duo like the maestro Salvatore Calabrese – creator of the Breakfast Martini – and his son Gerry Calabrese, of Hoxton Gin, take over our TVs
As the cocktail business has grown, so have the events – most notably Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, and its Spirited Awards ceremony. The awards at Tales includes an international section, but this year it might as well be renamed a London awards, with this great city just scooping six of the eight, including:
- International Bartender of the Year: Ryan Chetiyawardana (pictured) of White Lyan and Dandelyan.
- Best International Hotel Bar: Beaufort Bar, The Savoy.
- Best International Restaurant Bar: Blind Pig at Social Eating House.
- Best International Cocktail Bar: Artesian, The Langham.
- Best New International Cocktail Bar: Dandelyan.
- Best International Brand Ambassador: Claire Smith-Warner, Belvedere, London based.
Ryan Chetiyawardana, a.k.a. Mr Lyan, led the charge. His confusedly spelled Dandelyan bar is part of the luxurious Mondrian hotel in the former Sea Containers House on the South Bank. The bar menu takes botanical inspiration, with the menu split between cereal, vegetal, mineral and floral.
The cocktails are as bold as the bar’s Tom Dixon interiors – and like London’s best hotel bars it has the right measure of chic and service, with enough of its own personality to make it unique. It’s the kind of bar where you don’t need to look stylish to get in, but you’ll be letting down the view for everyone else if you don’t make a little effort.
Try the Evil Manhattan, made with botanical beer vermouth, and the Concrete Sazerac, which uses concrete-filtered cognac, fermented Peychaud and absinthe. Also, see if you can convince them to whip up a Beauty and Beast – an excellent whisky cocktail using the coveted Mortlach Rare Old (see recipe below).
London is the best place in the world for cocktails, with Mr Lyan at its vanguard. If you like your cocktail bars cultivated, Dandelyan will blow you away.
Beauty and The Beast
- 30ml Mortlach Rare Old
- 5ml Green OIive
- 5ml Belsazar White Vermouth
- 6 drops Rare Tea Co Rooibos tincture
- Stir over ice; strain and serve in a tumbler; garnish with 3 slices coppa and 3 green queen olives