London’s Most Radical New Cocktail Bar

The last time I went to the premises that now house White Lyan, it was a crummy boozer at the wrong end of Hoxton that specialized in pole-dancing, bad rock and warm beer. Ten years later, the pole-dancing platform is still there (and, occasionally, so are the rock bands, though I can’t vouch for their quality), but the warm beer has been replaced by one of the most ambitious—and controversial—cocktail concepts to hit London in some time.

You see, White Lyan doesn’t deal in perishables: no ice, no lemons, no fruit juices, no fresh garnishes, no milk, no eggs—nothing. Despite the fact the place has a regularly changing list of more than 20 esoteric cocktails—ranging from a Beeswax Old Fashioned to layered shots and long drinks like the Monkey Ball, made with Scotch, cassia, chocolate, truffle and banana soda—not so much as a measly olive crosses the granite bar top.

Every cocktail is pre-batched and served from branded White Lyan bottles dispensed from a single, frosted chiller cabinet glowing futuristically behind the bar. Even the garnishes are spartan—maybe a smear of pomegranate paint, a ‘twist’ of rice paper spritzed with absinthe or a pinch of ash—the rituals and theatrics of bartending reduced to little more than pop and pour.