When Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, the world’s most-awarded bartender, launched his Time Capsules bespoke cocktail service, he set himself no easy task: to encapsulate a person’s life in liquid form. He likens it to modern-day portraiture – capturing the essence of who someone really is but distilling it through flavour rather than paint.
“It’s an exploration of what luxury is: it’s not about bling, although the cocktails may include some incredibly rare and frankly outrageously delicious liquids. It’s more about the human side, about spending time with people. If you’ve had a well-lived life – and everyone has a story – how do you encapsulate that? Beyond the rare liquids, it’s about reflecting stories in a set of flavours.”
The couture cocktail service – which starts at £10,000 (US$13,100), and can go up to £100,000 (US$131,045) for the top-tier service called The Monarch – includes a one-on-one meeting with Chetiyawardana in which he inspires you to muse on your favourite moments, flavour preferences and aspects of your life story. He then hosts a tasting of liquids he has selected specially for you. Based on your reactions, he will create a unique cocktail, bottle it and label it by hand.
The liquids he has access to – in his own collection and through his personal relationships with small houses around the world – are exceptional: from bottles of chartreuse made from herbs that are now extinct, to cognac produced by women in the 1920s when the men were at war.
“There’s an ethereal nature to these cognacs, a distinct style,” explains Chetiyawardana. “Women had always been looking after things behind the scenes and then with the men away they were allowed to shine.”
Unlike in a wine tasting, for example, in which the range of flavours is relatively limited, he might throw in old sherries with “incredible weight and savoury flavours”, whisky blended with ambergris, cherry brandies with dry nutty tones or voluptuous fruits, or herbal liqueurs that “you can’t quite put your finger on – like walking through a forest and into an Indian spice market” at the same time.
“It’s a celebration of some of the wonderful things humankind has made, chosen to express the story that someone wants to tell about their own life,” says Chetiyawardana.