Exclusive Cocktail Recipes From the Riggs Washington D.C. Hotel’s New Silver Lyan Bar
If you had to choose an opening date for a high-profile new luxury hotel, February of 2020 was pretty much the worst in modern history. Which is precisely when the Riggs Washington D.C. Hotel opened in the Penn Quarter of DC, to what was at the time significant fanfare. Of course, all the accolades in the world couldn’t possibly steel it against the hard reality that the world would be moving into lockdown conditions one month later, as the insidious coronavirus that came to be known as COVID-19 began its deadly run.
Looking back more than a year later, it’s safe to say that no other industry was hit as mercilessly by the great pandemic of 2020/2021 as was hospitality.
The health crisis isn’t over, of course. But successful vaccination programs have inspired re-opening strategies across the country. And so the Riggs – grandly fitted into the 1902 Classical Revival Riggs National Bank building – is now welcoming guests in its stylish rooms and suites…including four that are dedicated to American First Ladies Ida McKinley, Caroline Harrison, Louisa Adams and Angela Van Buren, respectively.
This also means that the Silver Lyan bar – reopened July 16 after a very short run in March of 2020 – is finally able to prove why it’s been so buzzed about as one of the most intriguing new cocktail spots in the capital. Helmed by exalted Brit drinks alchemist Ryan Chetiyawardana – known professionally as Mr. Lyan – it is furtively located in what was once the bank’s subterranean vault, making it great for a bit of covert snogging – now that we can actually do that sort of thing again. And with its sultry/plush red and orange furnishings, elegant dark wood detailing, and Art Deco lighting fixtures, it’s the perfect spot for a bit of fancy dress fun, something else which has been missing from our lives for the last seventeen months.
“There’s a great range of styles in DC,” Chetiyawardana observes, “so what we’ve tried to do is marry our own personal history with that of the country, the city and the Riggs building. A lot of the differences lie in this – we were fascinated coming into the city as outsiders, so learning about the history, learning about the culture, and local flavors, we wanted to tell some of those stories.”
Mr. Lyan, should you have missed it, made his name in mixology at London’s White Lyan and Dandelyan bars, with the latter – in the former Mondrian Hotel South Bank, now the Sea Containers Hotel – having been named World’s Best Bar just as it was closing its doors in 2018 (it’s now the fully re-imagined Lyaness). And for his first American venture, his drinks menu exhibits equal measures of sophistication and playfulness, with original creations like the HMS Resolute (Fords Officers’ Reserve gin, fino & lacto-berry, ‘falernum’ tea) and the Japanese Saddle (Sakura sour, Roku gin, Pierre Ferrand cognac, turbo citrus, leather bitters & cereal orgeat), as well as a signature Fish House Punch, and the $375 Presidential Gift, made with Very Old Highland Aberfeldy Scotch “exceptional single cask”, DC honey, applejacked bitters and gold cherry.
“The best cocktails fit the setting, but also speak to a specific mood or emotion,” he reveals. “Tying together every element you can control – the aromas, flavors, textures, name, glassware, temperature, drink arc, etc. – is the key to creating something great; but it needs to be something that connects and resonates with people. I think the best drinks are accessible, rather than needing to be prescribed in a specific manner.”
And (sort of) post-pandemic, he’s noticed straight away that people are most of all craving the unexpected and different, which is exactly what he’s bringing to the DC nightlife scene. “It means there’s more scope to give guests something new and unusual, but it also has meant there’s been some new opportunities to push things in new directions.”
With that said, Mr. Lyan was good enough to share two of his own boundary-pushing cocktail recipes, though it should be noted that these are the “home” versions of the ones served at Silver Lyan – and we highly recommend putting on your best and experiencing them in person.
Exclusive Cocktail Recipes From the Silver Lyan’s Mr. Lyan
Duck and Cover Manhattan (pictured top)
Adapted from the Project Manhattan
16oz Westward Whiskey
10oz Laird’s bonded applejack
12oz cocchi di torino
12oz martini rosso
2oz blackcurrant liqueur
0.4oz Angostura bitters
0.2oz Peychaud bitters
Vac pack or add to a glass bowl and cover with a plate, blast in the microwave for 3 minutes. Allow to cool, then strain and bottle. To serve, stir 3oz over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Drifted-home Margarita (pictured below)
Adapted from the Driftwood Margarita
1.5oz Altos Blanco tequila
0.25oz Empirical Spirits “Ayuuk”
0.5oz roasted corn infused triple sec
0.5oz fresh lime juice
Blitz salt with dehydrated roasted potato.
Rim a rocks glass with salt removing any excess. Shake all ingredients very hard over ice, then double strain over ice in your rocks glass. Garnish with pickled cornichon.