What Does It Take to Make a Great Zero-Proof Drink?
We’re on the cusp of change: “zero proof” offerings are increasingly popping up, with more industry folks taking sobriety and healthier lifestyles seriously. At the very least, the verbiage and stigma are improving. But still, imagination lags in this normally bold-thinking city. Lime soda and pineapple-coconut water won’t be going toe to toe with a classic martini anytime soon.
At Quaintrelle, an eclectic NoPo restaurant with a low-lit bar, Camille Cavan is upping the game, with three nightly options as intensely considered as her stylist cocktails. She approaches her drinks like a good cook: tapping seasonal finds for juicing, making an array of from-scratch flavor boosters, pineapple gomme to rose salt to lemongrass cordial, and adding visual drama via vintage glassware and handsome garnishes. The trio of options makes room for a personalized bartender’s choice; a “seasonal” drink, starring anything from radishes to pluots; and a riff on a classic cocktail, perhaps a no-booze gin and tonic sporting her preserved lemon cordial, allspice syrup, and smoked saline.
Cavan, a veteran bartender, didn’t just jump on the bandwagon. She’s been toying with formulas since 2015, creating special drinks for her then-pregnant sister, who felt on the outs when it came to cocktail hour. Yeah, she still calls them mocktails. "No one should ever be shamed for not drinking. It should never not be fun.”