Cocktails for the Cannabis-Curious
Despite authoring a forthcoming book titled "Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, & Tonics," barman Warren Bobrow is going to harsh your mellow a little: Legally (also regrettably), cannabis cannot be served in U.S. bars. There are a few under-the-radar bartenders who experiment with the controversial herb, according to Bobrow, who also wrote "Apothecary Cocktails" and blogs at The Cocktail Whisperer. But he cautions that those enthusiasts are “taking great risk.” Given the high stakes, he’s not about to spill those beans. But perhaps his guide to infused drinks will make up for the secret-keeping.
"Cannabis Cocktails" comes out June 2016, and includes 75 recipes for spirit-cannabis drinks, tonics, syrups and bitters, along with non-alcoholic options. Within, Bobrow lays out multiple methods for decarboxylating the cannabis—to activate the THC—into mixers such as clarified butter or coconut oil, as well as spirit infusions.
The range of recipes will take imbibers from early morning to late night. Readers will choose from Vietnamese iced coffee or piña colada (both with cannabis-infused condensed milk), refreshing lemonade and calming herbal teas, or spinoffs inspired by the classics—take an Old Fashioned, for example, made new with homemade cannabis-infused bitters.
“This book is for people who are interested in homeopathy,” Bobrow says via phone from his home in Morristown, New Jersey. He wants to disabuse his audience of the long-held cultural mindset that cannabis is only for zoning out or partying.
“In researching 'Apothecary Cocktails,'” he continues, “I found that cannabis has a 2,000 year history as a homeopathic curative, so we’re not creating anything new here. But America wasn’t ready for that content when I wrote my first book,” he says, which was published in 2013. “They’re ready for it now.”
Indeed, medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, four of which permit legal recreational use (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado). But Bobrow swears that recreation was not the focus in this book—he didn’t write it to encourage indulgences. “In folk healing, there’s about 400 ailments that are alleviated with the use of cannabis,” Bobrow says. He hopes that as marijuana becomes more wildly accepted, people will expand their view of what cannabis is capable of and how it can function on the palate, even for those who aren’t likely to light up and inhale.
There are two main varieties of cannabis, and Bobrow says both play nicely with all liquors. There’s cannabis sativa, which creates intensity, focus and clarity, and there’s the muscle-relaxing indica, that can also help with sleep (hello, hot toddy).
He says some of the cannabis cocktail recipes are inspired not by the base spirit, but by the food people might enjoy while drinking. “If someone’s having a curry, I might use a spunky cannabis strain with a citrusy, barrel-aged 12-year rum.”
Mezcal works well with cannabis infusions “because of its smoky and mysterious nature,” Bobrow says. Gin boasts herbaceous notes that blend nicely, though he worries the pale green color may be off-putting for those concerned with the drink’s appearance.
One sativa used in the book, OG Kush, is a common medical cannabis, with skunky, diesel-like notes, “but not in a bad way.” Bobrow infuses it in milk or tinctures to make daytime drinks like milk punch or brandy punch. With indica, he likes a strain called Grape Ape, which he uses in evening sippers like hot buttered rum.
And don’t worry about overpowering the drink, so long as you keep to specific proportions. “The alcohol content should be one ounce or less,” Bobrow says, “and the cannabis infusion should never exceed 15-20 milliliters in one drink.” The spirits balance off of the strains, he goes on, and chemically speaking, the alcohol will have a decreased effect on you. But that doesn’t mean his drinks are made for crushing it—rec usage is a no-no, remember?
“Never drink more than one drink per hour,” Bobrow says. “Everyone assimilates THC differently, but it will compile upon itself in a skinny minute.”
If drinkers overdo the cannabis, Bobrow has a remedy: down three peppercorns and a glass of lemonade. It’s a cure he hopes most won’t need. Bobrow is confident that all his drink recipes will get the cannabis-curious where they want to go. The key here is to enjoy the slow ride.