Dandelyan’s Iain Griffiths on building a bar in 24 hours and predicting the next big spirit

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Barking mad: Iain Griffiths is facing the challenge of working across three bars during London Cocktail Week as well building another in 24 hours
Barking mad: Iain Griffiths is facing the challenge of working across three bars during London Cocktail Week as well building another in 24 hours

Related tags: Bar, Bartender, London

Iain Griffiths is business manager at Mr Lyan, Ryan Chetiyawardana’s bar and drinks company, and bartender at Dandelyan. He is also part of the London team competing in Bacardi Brown Forman’s 24 Hour Bar Build competition as part of London Cocktail Week (5-11 October).

Tell us about the 24 Hour Bar Build:

The 24 Hour Bar Build is a project that Barcardi Brown Forman Brands started in the US last year. It is taking a slightly different format this year for London Cocktail Week.

Our team from London is being pitted against teams from three other cities around the world (New York, Paris and Singapore) with four of the Bacardi Brown brands and we’re being challenged with the task of creating a bar in 24 hours.  

The London team is working with Patron, New York has Grey Goose, Singapore has Bacardi and Paris has Bombay Sapphire.

Our task is create a bar that embodies the city that we live in, the product we’re working with and something unique that will draw customers into the bar  – what you’d do with any normal bar really, but in this case we have just 24 hours to do it.

What are you looking forward to about the challenge?  

It gives us the opportunity to work with a lot of people we might not get the chance to work with usually. I really respect the other guys - Rich Woods from Duck & Waffle, Sly Augustin from Trailer Happiness, Andy Shannon who heads up the bar at the Punch Room at the London Edition hotel, Luca Missaglia from Aqua and Nathan Shearer who runs the bar at Callooh Callay - it's going to be fun working with them.

It’s the first time for everyone involved, so it will be interesting to see what happens. 

All four drinks have to be based around Patron tequila, so it will be interesting finding ways to get people to come in and try our drinks. There may be people who are naysayers about tequila, so it will be an interesting challenge to get them to try in in the way we present it. 

What are you looking forward to at London Cocktail Week?

The Spitalfields village is going to be fantastic. We’re going to be running a bar there all week and we’re working with SodaStream on a brand new machine which isn’t being launched until June next year.

We’re going to work with some great spirit brands and create some interesting cocktails that will put the SodaStream machine at the forefront.  I’m looking forward to that, although having a third bar for a week is proving a challenge, on top of building one in 24 hours. 

If you were creating your own dream bar in 24 hours what would it look like?

It would draw on the best from a lot of the bars around the world I’ve been fortunate enough to drink in and work in over the years.

It would have the atmosphere of Bramble in Edinburgh. It’s one of the greatest bars ever. You get such a rush of excitement when you walk into that bar.

There’s a beautiful bar in Sydney, Australia called The Baxter Inn. I’m yet to see a bar which has a better design and aesthetic. 

The drinks themselves would try and reflect what I do already and what as a company Mr Lyan already does, which is about putting something out there that’s a bit weird and left of centre but presenting it in a very simplistic and almost classic way. 

Do you think tequila is set to have its moment in the spotlight like gin?

Tequila’s always remained a bit of a mainstay. It’s been demonised in some eras, but overall I think it has remained quite a staple. There are not just gin bars popping up all over the place, there are tequila bars too.

As to what will be the next big spirit, Ryan and I get asked that practically every week and even though we work with it, we can’t predict it.

We are constantly seeing the emergence of more esoteric spirits like aquavit from Scandinavia and sake from Japan - spirits that have a cultural reference to a particular society. It does seem that if that society becomes on trend, then their spirits do as well. 

What’s the latest with Dandelyan? (Chetiyawardana’s bar which opened last year at Mondrian London)

Dandelyan is going really well. Lorenzo Antinori at the Savoy has just come on board and will be head bartender alongside Aidan Bowie which is exciting. We’re going to start on our next menu for launch next year and we’re going to continue to explore modern botany for that.

In the meantime it’s about battening down the hatches and getting ready for the onslaught of Christmas. We want to get as many people in to try as many cocktails as possible during that period and we’ve got some new initiatives to do that.

Like many bars, we we already do a Champagne service at the table, but we’re extending that to cocktails, so we’re planning to have a range of cocktails in a bottle that you can have delivered to your table just like you can have with Champagne. It encourages people to try more and gives a speed of service too if you have a group of six walking in and the bar’s busy. They can opt for that. 

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