Please watch the Mystery Talk I was fortunate to participate in at SXSW – “Learning how to make the most of Leisure Time”
Travel just about two hours by airplane- due West from the New York/Metropolitan region, and be prepared to find great ice! (As shown above) And much, much more! There is a craft spirits, culinary and craft cocktail revolution- ‘not so quietly’ reinventing itself in Columbus, Ohio. The finest culinary and alcoholic ingredients in the land are no longer only being only shipped to the big cities to the north and on both sides of this ‘fly-over’ city. Local cooks and mixologists are raising the bar on what is delicious- and what has not been discovered yet by the rest of the country. New money and massive amounts of raw, entrepreneurial creativity is gushing into this former rust-belt town. Each passing day is creating great pressure on existing bar and restaurant businesses- to ‘raise the bar’ and to do it really quickly or be left behind by changing tastes. There are gleaming new restaurants, distilleries, micro-breweries and craft cocktail bars all over town- some of them carved into former bank building lobbies, as if the employees of the bank just got up at the end of the day and their places were immediately replaced, not by investments, but by toothsome food and drink.
“What’s in the bottle is not what’s on the label,” says Warren Bobrow, handing me a small apothecary jar of amber-colored fluid. Inside is a top-shelf rum, he says, infused with high-grade marijuana — specifically, a strong indica-dominant hybrid known as Granddaddy Purple.
Currently 23 states and Washington DC have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana; in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, it is legal to purchase marijuana for recreational use. Many more states are introducing bills that will govern some form of legalized marijuana in the near future. And with that legalization, we are embarking upon a world of possibilities when it comes to marijuana… and cocktails.
In Oregon (where the prohibition officially ended in July of 2015) business is booming. “There’re more cannabis shops than coffee shops. It exploded. It’s everywhere,” remarks David Shenaut, Bar Director of Portland’s Raven & Rose. He paints a picture of an Oregon where the local papers are publishing guides on pairing beer with your various varietals of pot.
“Like flavor pairings, to enjoy side by side. We’re talking about a new classification of cicerone or sommelier. It’s like a sommelier of marijuana.”
With 4/20 just around the corner, it seems the perfect opportunity to discuss the merits of stirring cannabis cocktails. I’m usually hard pressed to find bartenders who really know the physical differences between stirring and shaking a cocktail—any cocktail. Now, add to that equation fragile ingredients that you may not want to pulverize and turn into overly green (read: botanical) flavors like cannabis, and those differences become even more important.
One of the most unpleasant of all overly-green flavors is mint. When it is excessively manipulated, the aromatics and essences resemble that of mud. And no one wants to drink mud. You may have witnessed this yourself in batched up Kentucky Derby cocktails, where the mint is added to the ice the day before, frozen, and then topped with bourbon just prior to serving. The end result is a muddy mess that screams for a fresh glass, new mint, and clean ice.
The market for botanically enriched, “health” drinks have exploded over the past few decades or so. There are hundreds of products on the market that promise wellness and health, but nothing could prepare the consumer for the coming wave of micro-dosed; CBD and THC liquids made specifically for wellness. It’s true! All that is required is a healthy thirst and the desire for something different. Case in point with the Monk line of drinking botanicals. This ultra-luxury line of tiny 4 oz bottles are scientifically calibrated to micro-dose just the right amount of CBD/THC to the careful imbiber. Careful because the dosage of CBD/THC is in the micro amounts- nearly undetected after enjoying the scant few sips of this ‘magical’ elixir. What each bottle represents are flavors and health-giving qualities similar to the days of the early apothecary, when fragile herbs and spices made their way into preparations that the pharmacist concocted to order. Not unlike the early preparations that made their way to the cocktail bar with drinks meant to heal the gut, like the famous Sazerac, or perhaps you’d be interested in knowing why Angostura is so helpful when you have a stomach ache, or are seasick? It all comes around again with the deep desire to write the first book about creative mixology that uses cannabis. There is a large distinction between non-Cannabis augmented health drinks and quality products like Monk’s Drinking Botanicals. What we have here is a modern framework, one that is more flavor-driven as opposed to effect-driven, with varieties like the brightly aromatic and refreshing grapefruit/cayenne. This delicately spicy, yet not overly sweet concoction is precise and carefully combined to offer amusement, candor and excitement into every careful sip. Careful because the cayenne element is not overwhelming, but it is right there in front of the brightly delineated richness of the pink grapefruit juice. The combination resembles a fine craft cocktail- especially with the balance and the depth of the ingredients. They almost taste as if the grapefruit was freshly squeezed and infused with the cayenne peppers.
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.