A stiff drink is normally just the job to ease away the stress of the day, and help you chill out. But now a new trend is emerging across the US bar and restaurant scene that offers a whole different way of relaxing. The cannabis-infused cocktail or beer.
It all stems from the growing number of US states which are now legalising the sale and availability of cannabis. However, these drinks don’t contain the psychoactive properties of the whole marijuana plant, but an extract, CBD, which can be bought in health food shops, and contains anti anxiety properties. Cannabis-light if you like.
But there is, not surprisingly, already a lot of interest and demand for these cannabis-based drinks. Jason Elsner, head bartender at celebrity Los Angeles hotspot Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, has made a name for himself with his $20 cannabis-style cocktails.
These include the Stony Negroni, which is made up of gin, vermouth, Amaro Contratto Aperitivo, a splash of Port and a dash of CBD.
Sour T-iesel is a twist on a tequila sour, made up of tequila, lime agave nectar, mint, sage leaves, aquafaba (tbhe vegan equivalent of egg white) at touch of CBD and matcha green tea powder, dusted on top in the shape of a cannabis leaf.
Completing the trio of drug-laced cocktails is the Rolled Fashioned, comprising bourbon, mescal anejo, cinnamon, sarsaparilla syrup, Peruvian tree bark, vanilla bean, star anise and a dash of CBD.
“I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the future,” he told The Daily Mail. “For centuries cannabis has been used for its healing qualities, but the weed has also been lumped in with cocaine and other hard drugs as something bad and psychotic.
“Now I think we’re at a place where we can become educated about different parts of the plant outside of what we’ve grown up with.”
Relaxing the laws
And as more states relax the laws around cannabis we can expect to see more bars and restaurants catching on to the trend.
More than two dozen US states have already decriminalised medical or recreational use of cannabis with that number expected to only rise further.
Even the major drinks research companies, like Euromonitor, see cannabis-based drinks as a major new category in its own right.
“With conservative projections estimating a near fourfold increase in legal cannabis sales in the medium term, there is no question that the industry – still in its infancy – will soon become a much greater disruptor than the once ignored craft segment ever was,” confirmed Euromontior’s Spiros Malandrakis.
He pointed to Humboldt’s Finest cannabis vodka from Redwood Spirits as an example. A spirit made with locally-grown hemp from Oregon and currently only on sale in California and Colorado.
Meanwhile Chicago-based Earth mama has released a “marijuana-inspired” vodka infused with herbs and other botanicals.
And earlier this year Colorado-based brewer Dude’s Brews, announced its Canna-Beer series, which will feature a range of “CBD-rich, cannabis-infused” beers. It came following the drug’s legalisation in the state of Colorado in January.
Opportunity for brewers
“It will begin with micro-brewers/ distillers and hemp,” predicts Malandrakis. “The former will find it easier to experiment than sclerotic multinationals. The latter – naturally free from the controversial psychoactive components of marijuana – will provide an initial, flavourful embrace of the trend without risking legal repercussions.”
Jane West, owner of Denver-baesd cannabis event production company Edible Events, believes that the liquid landscape will change dramatically over the next 10 years.
“Alcohol companies will create low alcohol, THC-infused products that taste like a Bourbon,” she told Bloomberg.
It seems there are many ways of bending current laws, never mind future ones. In the UK, where cannabis is still illegal, a home brewed ale made using cannabis leaves went on sale at a pub in the Albert Inn in Totnes, Devon. The brew manages to dodge drug laws by using a lower strength variety of the plant.
Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.