You’d be hard pressed to find an authority figure when it comes to cannabis cocktails. But Warren Bobrow, the author of Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics, doesn’t think that’s because the combination is a bad idea. He should know — he literally wrote the book on the subject. He’s a strong believer in a good cannabis cocktail. It’s just that everyone else (other than a few brave bar owners) is too scared to tackle the subject.
“I don’t think anyone has had the nerve to do it, nor have they found a publisher to take that type of risk,” Bobrow tells me over the phone, chuckling. “This is not a big lucrative project. I wish it was, but there’s so much preconceived stuff about it.”
There’s that, and the fact that making cannabis cocktails the right way — in a safe way that actually tastes good — is a lot harder than just throwing a couple nugs into a cocktail shaker. Luckily, Bobrow has it mastered, and it all started with a dream and a passion for quality cocktails and cannabis.
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Bobrow didn’t recently jump on the cannabis trend. He says he’s been enjoying marijuana since he was 13 years old, and has experimented with putting marijuana in food. He was a banker for 20 years, but has since become a notable person in the cocktail world with four books about cocktails. Then in 2012 he read about a cannabis-infused dinner at Robertas in New York City. He noticed something curious in the story: The food had cannabis in it, but no one touched the drinks.
“So I wanted to change the world in my own way and offer something people hadn’t done before,” Bobrow says. “So I made all of my own drinks.”
Today, you don’t know cannabis cocktails if you don’t know Bobrow’s book. But for starters, here are some of the most important things to know before experimenting with cannabis cocktails.
“It’s not just stuffing a bunch of weed into vodka and hoping for the best,” Bobrow says. “That gives you green chlorophyll garbage that doesn’t get you stoned, it just gives you a headache.”
Bobrow’s preferred method of extracting THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is through a process called decarboxylation, or simply decarb. Decarboxylation turns THCA, a non-psychoactive compound found on live marijuana plants, into THC. To decarb, you heat the cannabis at 240 degrees for an hour (Bobrow uses a decarboxylation tool from Ardent that is microprocessor controlled).
The quality of liquor matters
“Use the very best liquor you can use, no skimping,” Bobrow says. “It’s the same realm that I use in my craft cocktails. I only use small-producer craft spirits because I know that the quality is high.”
You get out what you put in. So put in the good stuff.
“All of my craft cocktails and mocktails and tonics and things that I use in the book include the use of the highest-quality craft spirits someone can buy,” Bobrow says.
Don’t overdo it
“It’s very important to understand this is a psychoactive drug and too much can render the user impossibly couch-locked like I found myself once or twice,” Bobrow says.
Luckily, Bobrow has done all the experimenting so you don’t have to.
“The best advice I can give is balance,” Bobrow says, because everyone’s body chemistry is different. The results can be unpredictable, as a VinePair writer who drank weed wine found out.
You don’t have to get crazy for a good cocktail
“My drinks are not sweet,” Bobrow says. “They’re really dry, aromatic, savory, with great balance. And they’re cocktails that anyone can make with very limited time: simple, classic, crisp, beautiful.”
Bobrow’s cocktails utilize cannabis-infused bitters, cannabis cherries that he calls “greenish cherries,” and infused liquors. You don’t need 20 ingredients to make a good cannabis cocktail. Stick with the basics and infuse cannabis for the ideal cocktail.
If you try one cannabis cocktail, try this one
Bobrow is inspired by history. One person in particular stuck out to him: Milton Mezzrow, a jazz musician in the 1920s who sold weed to Louis Armstrong. He named a cocktail after him, the Mezzrow Cocktail. The cocktail is a mix of cannabis infused vermouth, 1 ounce of bourbon, aromatic bitters, and greenish cherries in a glass with crushed ice.