Sacramento company makes artfully composed can-conctions.
WRITTEN BY NATASHA BOURLIN
PHOTOS BY RACHEL VALLEY
Ryan Seng sips a Boar’s Bourbon Root Beer
B eing challenged to keep up with demand is a good problem to have — it usually means you have a product that everyone wants. This is the case for artist Ryan Seng and the Sacramento business he founded in October 2016, Can Can Cocktails. With multifaceted talent, a vision, and intense motivation, this bootstrapping bartender cultivated resources to bring his new business to life.
Can Can's White Linen cocktail
The art of the drink
It’s a beautifully simple idea: portable cocktails in a can that are intentionally crafted not to be too sweet. Can Can launched with a delicious blend of vodka infused with locally sourced mint, raspberries, lemon, and soda — a drink Seng created while working in his former position as a bartender at Grange Restaurant & Bar. He named it 120, referring to the calorie count of the original drink (though in its new canned form, it’s more like a 240, he says).
“We’re making composed drinks a lot of people don’t know how to make,” Seng says.
It’s a skill he refined during his lengthy stint bartending. At Grange, he had at his disposal local produce, talented chefs, a full bar, and a kitchen in which he could experiment. And experiment he did.
Today, he uses the same methods to create Can Can products — meshing art with science. He composes a drink just the way he wants it, weighs each ingredient out to the gram, then multiplies it. Getting the flavors just right before scaling up the quantity is critical.
Seng seeks out local ingredients for his cocktails and sources the highest-quality spirits, often in their highest-proof form, as the high proofs extract the natural flavors he desires.
His products’ drinkability spans the seasons. When tilted back for initial consumption, they greet your palate with flavors that are a delightful surprise — so fresh they almost contradict the sensation of cold aluminum in your hand.
Can Can’s White Linen cocktail transports the drinker to a porch down south, where you might fan yourself while sipping. Made primarily from vodka, cucumber, elderflower, and lemon, it has a botanical crispness and subtle flavors that are well balanced.
Seng spent seven years on the recipe for his Boar’s Bourbon Root Beer. After a childhood captivation with root beer, he tried for years to achieve the right balance of texture, sweetness, booze, and sassafras. The result is a whiskey-forward cocktail with just the right syrupy texture and sweetness and hints of clove.
Can Can Cocktails' flagship drink, the 120
Why cans, aside from them being convenient, recyclable, and less cumbersome to take to parties than multiple bottles and ingredients?
“I guess I just like drinking out of cans,” Seng says. “I like the feel of it in my hand, and cans preserve the drink better. Many ready-to-drink beverages are filled with flavors and colors. I just wanted to open a can and have a good drink. They’re also good for the California lifestyle.”
Consumers seem to agree. To keep up with demand and his growth aspirations, Seng signed a lease in November of last year on a 3,300-square-foot manufacturing, storage, and office space. He’s the first to set up shop in Sacramento’s food incubator project, The Food Factory (see cover story from our fall issue), and is excited to be part of the bustling, creative hub of people who will bring his longtime friend Andrea Lepore’s vision to reality.
Can Can products are available in multiple cities and venues in Northern California, including the Golden 1 Center, and Seng has plans to add many more outlets to his roster. The new space provides better opportunity to create more cocktail varieties, including custom cocktails for clients who desire them. He also aspires to distill his own spirits.
What’s on each can is nearly as interesting as what’s in it: scaled-down versions of Seng’s artwork, which can be found in full size hanging on his walls at home. He is, in fact, a talented artist in many forms, from oil painter to craft cocktail connoisseur. And now, he can add successful entrepreneur to his vitae.
Natasha Bourlin is a Reno-based writer with a newfound appreciation for canned cocktails. She has never been a fan of sweet drinks unless lying on a tropical beach.