Warren Bobrow, better known as The Cocktail Whisperer, is the published author of four books in addition to his contributions as a writer to liquor.com, our own totalfood.com and countless others. He has also taught at the New School in New York City and at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine. His latest book is Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics that was released this past June through Fair Winds Press. Much more than just a collection of cocktail recipes, Warren’s new book explores the history of cannabis use in drinks, the over-politicized arguments over its legality and other pertinent topics.
Could you expand on your background and how you got to this point?
I am mostly a self-trained chef, I went to Johnson and Wales for a short time as well as the ACF apprenticeship program. I was working in the television business but that was not working. I went to work as a pot scrubber in restaurant and that set me on the path to become a chef. I am now an ACF-certified Chef and I love to cook. It is catharsis for me.
What were you doing before the Cocktail Whisperer blog and brand took off?
I was working as a chef in Charleston when I lost my business to Hurricane Hugo. Then I moved back to my home state in New Jersey and worked as a bank teller and in private bank for a long time. Then I started Cocktail Whisperer.
What inspired you to write this book?
Ever since I was a young man I have enjoyed the use of cannabis. I have seen cannabis cookbooks released and I wanted to raise the bar by taking cannabis and infusing it with the cocktail business that I am in. I love cocktails and I love cannabis. They are two things that I think “play well together in the sandbox”.
Is it difficult to get people past the stigma that cannabis is bad for you or somehow wrong?
It is really tough, especially where I am. I grew up in Morristown, New Jersey which is a very conservative place. The mindset is not pro-cannabis. It is arrest, incarcerate and throw away the key. And it is unfortunate because there are valid health benefits to this much maligned plant. Drugs are not bad and people should keep an open mind. Especially those who drink or smoke cigarettes.
What was the process of researching for this book?
The research was done outside of the state of New Jersey, where cannabis is still illegal. I am used to experimenting with culinary ingredients and different flavors so I applied that same mentality to the book. Nothing had ever really been written about it before. I was in new territory. I was careful, my advice to anyone would be to experiment in a place where it is legal and just be careful and responsible.
Could you talk about the other elements of the book other than recipes?
I am constantly trying to destigmatize the use of cannabis. I give a robust history in the beginning with science and humor. This book is for anyone interested in cannabis or anyone who is unsure of how to use it. The introduction was written by Jerry Whiting. Him and I found each other quite organically. He is well extremely well-respected in the healing field which gives the text a lot of credibility from that end.
What advice would you offer people buying the book who will be making these cocktails?
Put it in the hands of your “budtender” to give you knowledge and fill your individual need. Remember that making cannabis cocktails is completely different from smoking cannabis. I give the cure to drinking a bit too much of a cannabis cocktail in the book.
My thoughts are follow the Thai food principle. You can always make something more spicy but you cannot make it less spicy. Start small and build up from there. Remember also that no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose but too much will make you feel awful.
How do you respond to critics who say you’re messing around and that this is your opinion, not fact?
It is fact. I researched this and studied the health and holistic healing benefits, both of which are immense. This book is not a recreational book and was not written as one. It is a way for people to discover new ways to enjoy themselves and to discover some new methods for holistic healing.
Was this an easy book to pitch to your publisher?
Of all the books I have pitched this was the easiest sell. I came up with the idea to write the book at a food show in New York City and when I told my publisher I wanted to write it they asked for a proposal to put in front of the board. The rest is history, they loved the idea since its was going to be the first book of its kind.
How has the response been to the book so far?
Writing this was not an easy thing to do. Many people have purchased the book and love it, however it has brought a certain amount of controversy into my life and anxiety that I did not necessarily want or need. But there is nothing I can do about it, I am just moving forward and surrounding myself with positive people who understand what I am trying to do. Most people love the book and the response has been terrific.
Did you consider that controversy when you were writing the text and did it give you any pause?
I didn’t have any other ideas! It was all I could think of so no, it never crossed my mind. I just saw it as an opportunity to do something unique and interesting.
Cannabis and Cocktails: Tips from the Cocktail Whisperer
Ada’s Technical Books
425 15th Ave East
Seattle, WA 98112
Join Ada’s as we welcome The Cocktail Whisperer Warren Bobrow to learn the history of cannabis as a social drug and its growing acceptance to becoming a medicinal. Look beyond cocktails and create successful tonics, syrups, shrubs, bitters, compound butter and exotic infused oil to use in any drink.
Warren Bobrow is the creator of the popular blog cocktailwhisperer.com and the author of Apothecary Cocktails, Whiskey Cocktails and Bitters, & Shrub Syrup Cocktails. Warren has taught classes on spirits and cocktails all over the world, including an advanced class on rum at the Moscow Bar Show.
Warren will be signing copies of his book: Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics, a collection of 75 recipes of cannabis-influenced cocktails ranging from cocktails incorporating cannabis infused liquors to drinks featuring cannabis bitters and tinctures, and drinks flavored with cannabis smoke. Books are available for purchase in the store or on our website.
Batch #55 is just the first of many high-minded cocktail mixers that Le Herbe plans to release. The company’s product line already includes pot-infused tea, coffee and coconut water.
In a statement, Le Herbe CEO Marc LaRouche speaks of a bright future for cannabis cocktails in America: “Instead of creating cannabis clubs that allow smoking or vaping, we think it would be much easier to utilize the 650,000+ restaurants in the U.S. and just add cannabis beverages to the menu,” he says.
The suggested retail price will likely vary by location, due to disparate state tax rates as well as the cost of cannabis oil.
Warren Bobrow is a brand ambassador, former bank executive and the author of four cocktail books. His latest is Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations.
And if there were any doubts as to the possible commercial success of a book on cannabis drinks—I’m in New Orleans this week—and it’s totally sold out.
One caveat Bobrow offers is that he cannot tell people the correct doses for the different strains or the risks inherent in using cannabis tinctures. He offers up the Thai food spice principal: Start low, as “you can always add more spice.” He suggests waiting an hour between drinks.
VUE spoke with the author about his training, his book, and reinventing himself at 50-years-old.
VUE WEEKLY: How did you get your start with cocktails?
WARREN BOBROW: I trained as a chef in the ’80s. I started in television, that didn’t work out so well. I always wanted to work in a kitchen so I got a job as a pot-scrubber. I worked my way up the line as an apprentice to become a saucier. Cocktails came easy to me after being trained in flavours.
VW: When did you know you wanted to write cocktail books?
WB: That came about after a Ministry of Rum event in 2010. The founder, Ed Hamilton, encouraged me into it. I left corporate banking in 2009, and there was a short window before I met Hamilton. I took classes with celebrated writers and instructors Andy Smith, at The New School, and with Alan Richman, at the International Culinary Center of New York. The writing came easy to me. There is good writing out there, but I truly felt I could do better. I was going to write about food and wine. I didn’t look at cocktails until I talked to Ed Hamilton.
The only ingredient missing from my last book Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today was cannabis. Cannabis is a very dicey subject. I didn’t want to make the book a ‘get-high quick guide’.
VW: What’s been the hardest part of this journey?
WB: I’m 55 now and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life until I was 50. I was 48 when I lost my banking job and I worked for two years without a pay cheque. When I left they gave me severance and I used that to reinvent myself. This has not been easy, financially.
VW: What’s your favourite cocktail to make from the Cannabis Cocktails book?
WB: It’s a well-made Absinthe Frappé. Good luck getting one in most places. The absinthe is usually terrible, the ice is even worse. I love to use Cuvée Edouard absinthe, and got permission to use it in the book. I infuse it with THC. I also love a Sazerac with the THC infused absinthe.
Imagine, if you will, a liquor company that is able to source a single barrel of whisky at a time. In an age where liquor companies are trying to produce more and more of their product to slake the thirsts of thousands of thirsty drinkers- there is one company that is decidedly set on satisfying only a couple of hundred- it that!
Enter the Blackadder. You many remember the BBC Television show by the same name. If you do, you’re half way there. The Blackadder was a dark comedy on British television and in many ways the philosophy of this television show is evident in every sip of the Blackadder!
There is stuff in every bottle of Blackadder. This stuff is from the inside of the casks! Blackadder is not filtered or blended. It is bottled at Cask Strength.
The Blackadder is a one of the most unique single malt Scotch whiskies that I’ve ever tasted. My friend Raj facilitated this tasting by sending me four hand numbered bottles.
- Lochranza Distillery- 2011- Raw Cask- label reads that it contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as all the natural oils and fats. Mmmm, that’s what I like to hear. The Lochranza is bottled at 104.8 proof. At the bottom of the informative label it reads Sherry Puncheon. I suppose this means that the Scotch was aced (finished) in used sherry casks. Bottle 82 of 548, Bottled 14th of October 1996
- Mannochmore Distillery-1999-Raw Cask- label reads that is also contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as the natural Oils and Fats. Label reads Speyside malt whisky- one of only 304 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a single oak cask no.5400 bottled by Blackadder in November 2011. 121.2 Proof 12 years old
- Blair Athol Distillery- 1999- 1st September 1999. Reads: This Highland malt whisky is one of only 462 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a SINGLE REFILL SHERRY BUTT, marked bottle 66 out of 462. 114.6 proof 12 years old
- Blackadder Smoking Islay- The Spirit of Legend-11 year old Islay Malt Scotch Whisky Raw Cask- 118.8 proof- Distilled 12th April 2000, bottled August 2011.
All the whiskies read that they are bottled from carefully selected casks. They do not chill filter or otherwise filter their whiskies through small filter pads to remove sediment. No two casks of Whisky are ever exactly alike because of the type of oak used and the conditions under which it is stored.
Like fine wines, these naturally bottled whiskies may throw a little sediment. Now we’re talking!
I love wines with stuff in them. Why not whisky? Why not!?
Tasting Notes: I did all the tastings in front of a blazing wood fire after eating a rib steak sandwich with Swiss cheese and grainy French mustard on Pechter’s Rye bread. I used a tiny bit of spring water to open up the Whiskies. No ice. A Maine tumbled granite sea-stone (frozen overnight) provided a bit of chill- to cellar temp. Truth is this tasting is highly un-scientific. You will never read scores from me. I find them incongruous.
- Lochranza Distillery- I’ve woken up in a honey bee nest. My skin is covered in honey and the bees are giving me little tiny nips with their stingers. Not enough to hurt, just enough to know they are there. Pure smoke lingers on the periphery. It’s the beekeeper- smoking out the bees. It tastes of peat and smoke-honey and dark stone fruits. Luscious stuff- the finish just goes on and on.
- Smoking Islay- the fire in the fireplace is giving off that tell-tale smoky scent of wet wood. There is the scent of wet-dog and wet clothing and wet leather. Spanish leather at that. What does Spanish leather taste like? Come off your horse in the pouring rain, the last thing you remember before you bury your face in the mud is licking your saddle on the way down. That’s what Spanish leather tastes like. Candy sugar on the tongue and deep inside my throat gives way to sweet honey and freshly cut grasses. There is some citrus in there too. Almost a wine like nose- if the wine was a very well aged Muscadet that is. I love this stuff.
- Blair Athol Distillery- There is wind blowing through my hair- tinged salt water and more wildflower honey, a farmhouse comes into view and there is a fire in the chimney- yet the residents are not aware of the pending disaster. Approaching the house I realize there is no fire in the chimney, it is coming from a peat fire in the backyard. But no matter- there is fire and salt and smoke. Honey gummy bears on the tongue with little bursts of sweet rock candy in the finish. This is awfully sophisticated. Thick perhaps. Creamy.
- Mannochmore- What can I say about perfection. With a splash of cool spring water I am transported to a foreign country without grasp of the language. This Speyside whisky is frightening in its depth and grip. I taste more honey and salt- smoke and smoked salmon- yes Scottish smoked salmon in the finish. Salty. Salty Salty. Golden honey in color- there is stuff in the bottle. Scotch is not usually my go-to on spirits but with bottles of whisky as sensual and delicious as these in my cabinet, the frosty winter winds may blow- causing me no immediate harm. Thank you Raj for being so generous with gifts of perhaps the best whisky you can find.
I am honored to be mentioned in this issue of Cheers! magazine.