If you asked Camille Cavan what her love language is, her answer, without hesitation, would be "gift giving."
Whether it was making infused oils and packaging them in pretty boxes for friends in high school or her current gig garnishing mixed drinks with the care of a baker piping decorative swirls onto a cake, the bar manager at Quaintrelle on North Mississippi Avenue expresses her affection through thoughtfully presented tokens that engage the senses.
Consider her latest creation a much-needed gift to a stressed-out city: a DIY cocktail kit. It's a present she's more than happy to provide—even if it means revealing some of her secrets.
"I've had a lot of messages from bartender friends who are like, 'I can't believe you're giving away your recipes!'" Cavan says. "This is not a time to be selfish. This is about giving and community and being together."
Cavan says she had the idea for a "cocktail box to go" in her back pocket for nearly a decade, but it took the pandemic to give her the nudge to actually execute the project. The $20 boxes contain all the ingredients to make four servings of a mixed drink—with the exception of the liquor. Every other week, Quaintrelle will roll out two new kits, each based on a different drink from the restaurant's menu.
Novice barkeeps who might feel intimidated by liquors they can't pronounce and equipment they've never heard of will find the kits an easy entry point to the world of homemade cocktails. Not only do they come with step-by-step instructions printed on a card, but Cavan hosts a weekly tutorial on Quaintrelle's Instagram account, providing tips on shaking techniques, where to pick up jiggers and strainers, and quick substitutes in a pinch if you're missing a certain bar tool.
One of two drinks that debuted last week in Quaintrelle's kits, the Annabel Lee, is a personal favorite of Cavan's, inspired by a beverage you might expect to find in the time capsule from a '90s steakhouse: the New York sour.
"I was sitting there one afternoon," Cavan says, "and I was just like, 'You know what cocktail I never see anymore? A New York sour. Like, who makes New York sours? How cool would that be to do some sort of weird take that looks like a New York sour, but tastes like a pisco sour?' Because pisco sour is my favorite cocktail in the world."
The resulting mix of tart and tang offers the sensation of stepping into a cool shower after a sweaty summer day—rejuvenating yet relaxing. It's a feeling that in no way reflects the work that goes into creating it. Cavan makes the syrups from scratch—from pounding the almonds into a fine soot for the orgeat to chopping and juicing fresh pineapples that go into the gomme. Each takes two hours to produce.
"That's my favorite part of the job," Cavan says. "Thank God! Or else it would be so hard. Just being able to create for others, that's what I do. It's funny, as soon as I started making these kits, I started feeling a little more at home."
Here's what you'll find in your Annabel Lee kit—minus, of course, the pisco:
Bartenders can manufacture an orgeat in about 15 minutes, but Cavan doesn't do shortcuts. "It just doesn't have the same amount of creaminess unless you baby it," she says. First, she pulverizes fresh, organic raw almonds. The dust then gets thrown into a pan on the stovetop, where Cavan adds orange flower water, rose water and sugar, bringing the mixture to a boil several times. The last step is straining the orgeat twice, resulting in a milky syrup that's significantly less sweet than the store-bought version.
The pineapple gomme
Cavan again demonstrates how she'll go the extra mile with the thick, silky gomme. Instead of using gum syrup, she purchases gum Arabic powder to make a concentrate that will then be combined with simple syrup. The other components are fresh, organic pineapples that take a ride through the juicer.
Two whole limes come in the kit, which you cut and juice at home to give the drink its squeeze of citrus.
Two small cylinders contain a cluster of garnet-hued Toschi Amarena cherries and cherrywood-smoked Jacobsen Sea Salt. There's also a sachet of thyme to tuck into the glass.
The kit includes a sleeve of husky ice blocks, provided by local frozen water purveyor PDX Ice.
ORDER: Quaintrelle's Annabel Lee cocktail kit can be ordered at quaintrelle.co or by calling the restaurant at 503-200-5787 for pickup at 3936 N Mississippi Ave. They are also available for delivery through Caviar and Tock.