Chemists and/or anyone with an enthusiasm for chemistry, or the mixological take on Breaking Bad
Well healed and capitalised cocktail fiends, fans and believers of every kind
Any of you pioneering types who enjoy something experiencing something rather different and quite unique. Or watching the beginning of what might become a trend.
Drinkers who care more for the hard stuff, and not so much for wine or beer.
Trendy people and trend seekers looking for a trendy spot (‘cos if this isn’t trendy I probably don’t know what is)
In A Word
Lyan Taming in Hoxton
If cocktails are your thing then the White Lyan is also your thing now. Don’t believe me? Go and find out for yourself. It’s mental, in a good way.
The bar currently lives within the shell of the old White Horse pub – though I think it moves around from time to time. The brainchild of a bunch of very clever mixologists, the bar has taken the perhaps iconoclastic approach of doing away completely with ice, or citrus, or even mixing things in front of you.
In the true scientific style, they minimise the number of variables (such as the sweetness of a lime) by standardising everything and mixing it in advance. Then when it’s booze time, it’s usually a matter of taking it out of the fridge, pouring it out and then adding some crazy shit like a pipette full of I’m not sure what, some ash, vaporised absinthe or the odd bit of litmus paper. Also included are reductions, paints, mists, sprays, glues etc
And then you get to taste what all the fuss I’m making is about.
The White Lyan’s current location is can be found little off the beaten path, just along on Hoxton Street and adjacent to the somewhat Brutalist looking Geffrye Estate (which gives the whole area a gritty, dystopian feel).
It is quite an experience to sit at the bar. In fact, I think if you don’t sit at the bar and observe these guys’ doing cocktail craziness (at least for your first visit), you’re going to miss out on quite something
These are also some of the friendliest bar people I have yet to meet, and the time they save in pre mixing allows you more time to ask them about what the actual fuck is going on in front of you, or talk about the restaurant scene in Melbourne. Or why I don’t teach guitar any more…
At some point, the bartender explains some of the neuro-gastronomy that goes on behind the bar, and how it works. For example, with the three house wines, they can add a custom created distillate which changes the aroma, and tricks your brain into thinking it tastes different. So with the white, the distillate adds a touch of something that makes it taste like it’s been aged in oak barrels. I didn’t get to try it, but if I went back I would love to do a taste test for before and after.
WL’s drink selection at first glance might strike some people as arrogant, or strange. One beer? One red wine? Thanks for the selection guys. But when you speak to them, it makes complete sense…
The White Lyan is all about demonstrating their own creations. You don’t go there just to sip someone else’s stuff – you go to the White Lyan to drink their very own version of alchemy. By not diluting the drinks menu with third party offerings, they’re not diluting their brand either. What you see is what you get. And what you get is some pretty crazy shit…
And speaking of crazy, you probably want to know what the cocktails are like
Pricewise, they come it at around the normal London prices, perhaps a smidgeon more costly. The menu changes every 6 months or so, and they’re currently on their second incarnation. I don’t know what the last one is like, but this boasts some old classics with a White Lyan twist, along with a few rather newer, more novel ideas. The guys also keep you topped up with water and palate cleanser all night long.
Here’s what me and Bryony tried (in order of imbibement)
Beeswax Old Fashioned
Intense and honeyed, just below that level of sickly sweet, almost as if they’d diffused it. Like a honey JD, but without the tastebud rape. A bit too much for me.
“Confusingly great”. Simultaneously vinegary/salty/acidic and sweet. You get the notes of elderflower. I was initially sold by the idea of blueberries. Second favourite.
This was Bry’s so I only tried a little and can’t remember really what it tastes like. But, what I do remember is that when you breathe out through your nose, fun stuff happens on your palette.
This one was recommended to me by the soft spoken Edinburgh bartender. It was his favourite and now mine too. It quite surprises you. The Fino sherry adds a subtle dryness which somehow gets the floral, sweet notes from the apricot a few seconds after.
The soda water gives it a little bite too, which strengthens the dryness. And it also smells amazing. Put it inside your body.
Bone Dry Martini
So, it’s a pretty much straight vodka that’s actually quite pleasant to drink. I guess like any good martini, it’s just borderline harsh, forcing you to appreciate it for what it is. Vodka strong, but with a slightly blunted edge.
I don’t know whether this is because they’ve done it perfectly or I’m just becoming jaded to hard drink. The dissolved bone calcium supposedly gives it some minerality, but my barbarian palette misses it. Maybe that’s what takes the edge off of the vodka.
They use burnt leak for the layer of ash on the top. it has an almondyness that makes me think of some kind of alcoholic milkshake, or dessert in a glass. This is Bry’s, I try just a little. Nice but a bit like drinking crack cocaine, too much for me.
Coffee infused subtle alcohol mouth joy. The booze they use in it changes quite regularly, so they just refer to it as ‘hooch’. They get their grind from Square Mile. This one has a subtle coffee sharpness that’s offset by I suppose sweeter and smokier notes from the non coffee components.
It’s almost watery in taste, but in such a good way. Like an epic filter coffee full of alcohol, promise and variety. Bry, who hates coffee, does not enjoy it. This means I get to drink it all. And I do,
Blunted tequila plus smokiness with prominent elderflower notes. To be honest at this point all the cocktails were kicking in and I was a little too inebriated to either recall things properly or take proper notes. I am pretty sure that I enjoyed it.
See No (Shot)
I finish on this one, and by this point I feel finished. However, I kinda recall what it tastes like. Musty. Hints of something herbal. Possibly lavender? It’s Served in a size that’s much more generous than your regular shot. Like an empyreal fragrance that passes through you, oh so quickly…
Needless to say, the evening ends with one extremely drunken walk down lovely Bishopgate. I race a determined, lycra clad woman out powerwalking to get to London Bridge (she is unaware that we are in a race). We tie at the intersection by Tooley Street.
I am a man still a man who prefers his spirits unadulterated. Or blasting my body with Californian red wines. Still, despite my lack of enthusiasm for cocktails, I’d say that White Lyan is my new favourite cocktail bar (I am not hugely experienced in cocktail bars however)
Simply put, they’re ingenuitive, completely unpredictable and the whole experience is intimate, welcoming and fun.
If you’re the kind of person who really likes cocktails, you’ve probably already been. But if you are, and you haven’t, I’d strongly urge you to go already. You are in for something special…
A: 153 – 155 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ.
P: Tel: (0)203 011 1153