Warren is a formidable force in the food and cocktail industry. Aside from being a master mixologist and chef, he is also an accomplished writer for various publications, as well as an author of four acclaimed books, the latest of which is Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Warren and learning more about creative and entrepreneurial journey:
Can you tell us about your background?
I graduated from college with a degree in film from Emerson University in Boston. The industry didn’t smile upon me, probably because I had family in the biz and there were strict nepotism rules in the 70’s and 80’s. So I had to find something to do that wasn’t television and motion pictures. Fortunately, my parents took me to Europe with them (my late father did international law) over the years and our extensive travel and love of culture rubbed off on me. We were not hotel room diners, we ate in local places, local food/drink was the basis of my upbringing. So this influence had a major hold upon my dreams and ambitions. And growing up on a farm in Morristown, NJ that was my family’s gentleman’s farm- with horses and crops sharing the fields- certainly influenced my future endeavors. I was encouraged strongly to learn about farming, especially organic and Biodynamic techniques.
I learned to cook at the knee of Estelle Ellis, who was our family cook when I was a boy. I’ve also taken ACF and Sommelier’s classes and attended Johnson/Wales when it was located in Charleston, SC. I’ve spent time in kitchens all over starting as a pot scrubber then graduating to a dishwasher. I’m trained professionally as a saucier, soups- stocks- sauces.
How did you get into mixology?
I’ve been mixing only since 2011 or so. Mixology is new to me. I started as a bar back at 50 years old! No jobs for bartenders without experience, so again I started at the bottom and worked my way upwards.
How did you transition into making cannabis infused cocktails?
I’ve always enjoyed weed, since 14 or so when I smoked it at a concert at Madison Square Garden. I’ve also cooked with it. Made brownies. Got really stoned. I transferred my interest and passion for ingredients to Cannabis and my talent in the cocktail arena. The Cocktail Whisperer is my moniker.
How have your family and friends reacted to your involvement in the cannabis field?
My father was so disturbed when he learned of my 4th book that he disowned me. I have friends who appreciate what I’ve accomplished but in the broader reach the liquor people are concerned about weed and the weed people are concerned about liquor.
What challenges have you encountered starting out? And what challenges do you still encounter now?
Being poor. Unable to make a living. Going into bankruptcy…that sort of thing. But finding my way and hopefully making myself a success on my own and with my own talent. Challenges? Drugs are BAD!
“It would be nice to see the day when I don’t have to worry about getting arrested for my craft.”
Who are your favorite chefs?
Martha Lou of Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, SC and Marco Pierre White– the youngest three Michelin star chef in the world. Such passion! Bar influencers, I’d say, Jerry Thomas, Chris James, Gaz Regan, Francis Schott, and Dale DeGroff.
How do you make a great cocktail?
[Use] the best craft spirits money can buy… spirits not tainted by caramel coloring, added sugar, glycol, you know- garbage spirits- I don’t use them. I suggest you don’t either. It makes sense to use craft spirits, because what I do is the highest form of craft.
What is your signature drink?
They are seasonal of course, but for the winter- I love a Bourbon Milk Punch made with Barrell Bourbon that has been infused with Cherry Pie ( a strain of Cannabis) with vanilla, heavy cream, Demerara syrup and milk with ice and Angostura Bitters. I’m also thrilled by the Mezan Guyana Rum with Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup finished with bitters infused with THC.
“The weed world is an intellectual one.”
What advice can you give to chefs/mixologists who want to get into this industry?
Be prepared to be under the influence of Cannabis and have to explain things. What kind of things? Hmmmm. just let your creativity show. And don’t cut off your fingertips while talking. Knife skills are so very important.
Remember, in most places in the country, cannabis is illegal. You must NEVER bring cannabis infused liquors into establishments with liquor licenses. Why? That should be pretty clear. Follow my instructions, experiment and by all means test the results on yourself- not on your friends!