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À la carte cocktails: Shaking up traditions with Manu Ruiz

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À la carte cocktails: Shaking up traditions with Manu Ruiz

Manu Ruiz expresses his creativity by mixing surprising cocktails. We challenged him to concoct three drinks using ingredients chosen at random. He graciously accepted and had fun blending local traditions with those of other places in the world.

Published on November 6, 2023

Free-form mixology (or almost)

There’s no doubt about it: Manu was the ideal choice to take up our challenge by inventing festive cocktails from randomly chosen spirits and ingredients. “My approach was to ask myself where this spirit or that spirit was from,” he said. Then, he had fun adding something as a nod to the country of origin, depending on the ingredients he had on hand. Without further ado, here are the three fabulous creations that resulted from the exercise—and the perfect additions to our holiday cocktail menu!

Absolut Vodka cocktail

“The inspiration came from rice pudding. It’s quite common in many countries, but in Sweden, it’s a holiday tradition. It makes me think of good old-fashioned rice pudding!” Manu explained.

Born to mix, highly versatile Absolut vodka serves as a backdrop for the festive flavours of this cocktail. Its well-balanced, neutral taste allows the peppery notes of the cinnamon, the citrus tang of the bitters and the roundness of the touch of maple shine through. 

How to serve it: “For brunch on the day after Christmas, with leftover cookies, date squares, sucre à la crème… Oddly enough, it’s a lot less sweet than you’d expect, so it can be a lot of fun.” ¹

¹ Mix your neighbourhood

Artificial intelligence has made its way behind the bar! Just as Manu draws inspiration from dishes, flavours and traditions to come up with original creations, Absolut has developed a tool that suggests cocktails inspired by 20 different Canadian neighbourhoods. Based on an area submitted by its residents as well as some “ingredients” that make it unique (such as its diversity, its numerous cafés or its thriving artistic community), the AI generated images of cocktails that mixologists then used as a starting point to create their own delectable recipes. A tasty way to bring people together to share a drink!

Bumbu cocktail

“For this one, I wanted to work with the tropical aromas of the rum, reminiscent of the piña colada, and mix them with traditional eggnog, which is more North American. It’s quite decadent! (Laughs) It has a nice, creamy texture. Yes, it’s a bit sweet, but it’s all about balance and proportions,” Manu noted.

Speaking of traditions, here it’s Bumbu artisanal rum that plays the starring role. It’s made in Barbados from a recipe that dates back 400 years! It’s light-bodied with a rich, complex taste owing to carefully selected spices and vanilla from Madagascar, which means it’s the perfect complement for the coconut in this delectable drink.

How to serve it: “For dessert, to impress your guests. It smells delicious and is a bit showy when you flambé the coconut... It’s a real crowd-pleaser!” 

 Malfy Rosa cocktail

“For Italians, the holidays are synonymous with panettone. Like many Montrealers, we have many Italian friends, and there’s not a Christmas that goes by where we aren’t gifted this little cake chock-full of Italian fruit, so that was my starting point!” Manu explained.

This cocktail features Malfy gin, a naturally flavoured gin made with pink grapefruit sun-ripened in Sicily. Its freshness, lemony notes and long juniper-infused finish balance out the sweetness of the marmalade, orgeat and raisins. 

How to serve it: “As an aperitif, or maybe even between two courses, to take a breather in the middle of a big meal!”

Now it’s your turn to create your own original masterpieces. Who knows, you might make some discoveries that soon become new traditions! Manu says to trust yourself and follow your instincts. “The most important thing is getting together with people you care about.”

Who is Manu Ruiz? Background and inspirations

Manu is a head bartender who’s known for creations with unlikely yet delightful flavour combinations. Where does he draw his inspiration from? “Honestly, usually one of two places—either a dish I’ve enjoyed or an ingredient I’ve tasted. The flavour will make me think of something, and I’ll want to work with it… but in liquid form!” Since he admittedly “likes everything,” he’s often influenced by new eateries. “Many chefs in Montreal work with unusual ingredients, and that’s where I get my ideas. It can also be something very common but used in an unfamiliar way that sparks my imagination.”

World-travelling taste buds

Manu says his creativity behind the bar often comes from always being surrounded by multicultural influences. “I’m a Spaniard who loves to play hockey!” he joked. Originally from Iberia and having grown up in Montreal, he’s always thought of the holidays as an opportunity to share and mix traditions. “The mixing stems mostly from my friendships,” he explained. “I’d spend the majority of the holidays with my Laotian and Haitian friends… We’d organize huge Christmas celebrations at the multicultural centre and eat food from around the world!” His mom, an avid traveller, would also prepare dishes from different countries—which surely left a mark on his taste buds and his style. “The truth is, it came from everyone’s openness—from my friends who invited me to dinner at their house and vice versa. That’s where it all started.”

Other spirits to discover for your holiday cocktail parties:

In partnership with Corby Spirit and Wine Limited.  

For more cocktail inspiration