The Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) – Ontario in partnership with Lifford Cannabis Solutions invites the hospitality community to join us for this monthly event series. Please join us at Lifford Wine & Spirits (471 Jarvis Street) on the third Wednesday of the month to learn more about how cannabis will impact the hospitality industry.
Warren Bobrow, the Cocktail Whisperer, is the 6x Author of Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today, Whiskey Cocktails: Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails & Elixirs, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations and his celebrated, 2017 release, The Craft Cocktail Compendium. Bobrow presented at the 2018 SXSW on Disrupting the Cannabis Kitchen and Cannabis Cocktails. He was the Mercedes-Benz Me Conference Mystery Speaker on Wellness, also at SXSW 2018.
Covering cannabis at the top of the line in quality, and all within the journalistic side of the cannabis business has certainly opened my taste-buds to a broad array of flavors and ‘terroir’ that I thought only existed in the wine world. It’s truly eye-opening to imagine all that time that I spent tasting fine wine growing up, only to discover in later years a much broader array of flavors like wine, inherent to cannabis. I discovered many similar attributes to fine wine, and vice-versa. Descriptors such as crushed minerals, fruit salad, pine forest, sap, salt-slicked could all mean different impressions of fine wine from around the globe. Now imagine taking those same and even more descriptive language when it comes to cannabis tasting notes. Such as the new catch phrase, terpenes. Imagine my delight to fall into a series of samples from Bayflower in San Francisco. Not that I was in San Francisco, (I wasn’t), but close enough in Eureka (a few hours up the coast), is where I experienced their own unique terroir; quite literally, the taste of the place. Here I had in at my disposal some of the most gorgeous locally grown, (legally, of course) cannabis. And suddenly as if by osmosis I had several lovely new samples from Bayflower! Wonderful! Thank you!
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.
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.
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.”
[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!
[Excerpt] According to New Jersey-based mixologist, author, and “cocktail whisperer” spirit expert Warren Bobrow, cannabis-infused cocktails like Durkin’s Dank & Stormy are the future of mixology, what he expects to become a growing trend as the decriminalization, legalization, and normalization of marijuana occurs nationwide. Bobrow recently met Durkin during the 2016 Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami that took place April 15 through 17, where the two discussed the potential for professional collaboration. “We were talking about cocktails with cannabis infusions and how recipes like mine — mixed with premium liquors — can be a match made in heaven,” says Bobrow. “When you mix marijuana and alcohol together, they play beautifully together.”
He should know; Bobrow’s most recent work is called Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics, a 160-page book featuring 75 cocktail recipes that use cannabis. When it hits store shelves June 1, it will be the first of its kind, according to Library of Congress records. “To be clear, I’m not promoting this from the distillers’ level but rather on the bartending level — creative bartenders interested in the homeopathic history of cannabis as a medicinal tonic, the same recipes that were being used right up until the 1940s,” says Bobrow. “I believe, with this book, I’m in the right place to help make history.” Durkin hopes to make history too — as the first Florida distiller to legally brand and sell a cannabis-infused rum. Despite the fact that he can’t promote, bottle, serve, or even make Sour Diesel Fwaygo as such, more than anything else, Durkin says his goal is to open people’s minds to a different — and equally pleasurable — cannabis experience. “From a bottle instead of a bong,” says Durkin. “It’s a great way for people who have never smoked — or don’t want to smoke — to experience all the benefits of marijuana.” While it may seem ludicrous to think the federal regulators will ever allow the two substances to be combined and sold in the same product, the idea actually isn’t that far out there. Right now you can find a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing it to be regulated and taxed like alcohol, meaning The Food and Drug Administration would have the same authority over marijuana as it does for alcohol. As the regulatory landscape surrounding cannabis changes, distilleries already skilled at making a quality, cannabis-infused product will have the upper hand, adds Durkin. “First and foremost, I’m an advocate for legalizing marijuana,” says Durkin. “I believe that — in the next 5 to 10 years — cannabis will be a federally regulated substance and — like Warren — I see an opportunity to make an innovative and delicious product, while also making history.”
My fourth book, “Cannabis Cocktails” comes out June 2016, and includes 75 recipes for spirit-cannabis drinks, tonics, syrups and bitters, along with non-alcoholic options. I outline 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.
It can be pre-ordered by clicking any of the three links on the side of the page, or by clicking on the below photo!