Ryan Chetiyawardana became a world-famous bartender who has won seemingly every major mixology award because he made a prescient commitment to sustainability, eschewing ice and other perishables while playing with unusual ingredients and preservation methods.
But even Chetiyawardana’s bars can’t make everything. Silver Lyan, which opens tonight in the depths of the recently opened Riggs hotel in Penn Quarter, has an outside source for its leather distillate, a flavor meant to balance out the cherry blossom sour, cognac, citrus, and cereal grain orgeat flavors in a Japanese Saddle cocktail served with a caper berry garnish.
The new bar is, however, infusing curaçao with roasted blue and yellow corn to add what Chetiyawardana (aka Mr. Lyan) calls a “plump” flavor to a Driftwood Margarita. It also has Indian lime and pasilla chile.
Mr. Lyan is in D.C. because that’s where his partners are. High-end hotel brand the Lore Group houses Chetiyawardana’s Lyaness bar in its Sea Containers London property and Super Lyan in the DeWitt in Amsterdam. Lyaness was rebranded from Dandelyan, a botanical-driven venue that at various times earned No. 1 global ratings from the Spirited Awards and World’s 50 Best Bars.
The cocktail menu at Silver Lyan is separated into four sections:
- Cultural Exchange explores D.C.’s status as a meeting point for different nations. For example, Japanese Saddle references a gift from Japan to the U.S. in the form of cherry blossoms. This is also the place for a $375 Presidential Gift with “Very Old Highland Aberfeldy Scotch” and honey gifted from a beekeeper at the Congressional cemetery.
- American Craft focuses on U.S. contributions to the world. So there’s a Project Apollo with a gin that Chetiyawardana says is supposed to “emulate the minerality that cones back from lunar rocks’ and a sour pineapple and raspberry dust. “Apparently, space smells like raspberries,” Chetiyawardana says.
- Flights of Fancy includes dramatic presentations for old favorites. There’s an $80 Jello Fruit Basket with eight total pieces that take a stab at typically cloying flavors (appletini, tequila sunrise, pina colada, passionfruit daiquiri) and four shots of Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Champagne. There’s also a Ceres Joker cocktail with a “detonated” lemon twist delivered via popped balloon.
- Kinda Classics take on American standards. There’s a bottled Fish House Punch that incorporates fish sauce sherbet and a Project Manhattan that gets concentrated blasts in an industrial microwave to simulate aging.
Should customers be so inclined, there’s also $5 Miller High Life and $8 Guinness, with the latter served in a Champagne flute per a Chetiyawardana family tradition.
Chef Patrick Curran from the Cafe Riggs brasserie on the ground flour came up with an eight-item bar menu that starts off with an $8 bowl of Chex mix with smoked tea, seaweed, and Virginia peanuts.
In contrast to Cafe Riggs, Silver Lyan is covered in dark tone with lots of oak wood and deep red paint. One room, bordered by a display case holding women’s athletic trophies, is situated in the old vault of the repurposed historic bank.