The Award-Winning Bartender Changing The Conversation About Sustainable Drinking

Bartender and entrepreneur Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr Lyan, views cocktails as an experience, a key to helping people appreciate life's finer things. Chetiyawardana's mother was a pastry chef, and he learned early on how food and drink influences environments (via Punch). He studied art, biology, and philosophy — all topics that can be seen in his menus and approach to hospitality today.

"It's a manner in which we can use this as a tool alongside things like our beautiful homes, our music that we love, and the things that we've been interested in that we've seen traveling around the world," he told MasterClass. "How can we use that as a way of helping people gather together and helping them have a much better time?"

When Chetiyawardana opened his first bar in 2013, White Lyan was the first in the world to abandon perishable ingredients like fruit and ice, and bartenders used pre-made cocktails to reduce waste (via Mr Lyan). The concept has since followed Chetiyawardana, and as he has moved forward with other award-winning endeavors, sustainability remains a common denominator. He is one of the industry leaders for restaurants and bars with sustainable programs.

Setting an industry standard

Ryan Chetiyawardana's bars have challenged industry norms. Perhaps his drive stems from his studies, Chetiyawardana tells Imbibe Magazine, but he's made it his mission to show conscientious service needn't come at the cost of elegance or taste.

White Lyan was game-changing, recognizes Club Oenologique, and sustainable hospitality has since become more commonplace. At White Lyan, ingredients were used thoughtfully, and spirits, beer, wine, and water were distilled in-house, reports Grazia Magazine. The concept was notable not only for its approach but also for the creativity seen throughout the establishment, recognizes Punch. And while many whispered "gimmick," Chetiyawardana admitted to Departures, he remained focused. He sets an example for minimizing food waste. Now, drinks poured at White Lyan, like the Beeswax Old Fashioned, are found at bars around the world. Brands like the zero-waste restaurant Silo have approached Chetiyawardana for custom cocktails to accompany their dishes. An Italian fashion brand requested drinks to celebrate the launch of their recyclable wear, and Chetiyawardana used commonly discarded plants to decorate them (via Mr Lyan).

With titles such as U.K.'s bartender of the year and international bartender of the year, Chetiyawardana's efforts have been well noted, per Grazia Magazine. In 2014, White Lyan was named best new bar in the world, and Dandelyan claimed the same title at the 2015 Spirited Awards. His hotel bar, Lyaness, won world's best bar in 2022 (per Forbes). It's safe to say Chetiyawardana shows no signs of slowing down, and we're eager to watch.