Legal Cannabis Sales Threaten Liquor Industry

By  January 30, 2017

The alcohol industry organization, the Wholesale Spirits and Wine Association (WSWA) is unhappy about legalized cannabis. At their recent 72nd meeting, a seminar entitled, “Everything You Need to Know about Marijuana Legalization,” took place in a packed room with an invite list filled with names from the government and the cannabis industry there to discuss the explosion of legal cannabis and what they can do about it.Alcohol wholesalers attended this seminar because they can no longer ignore the fact that cannabis legalization is sweeping the country, and their long-held dominance over the world of intoxicants will be changing in the future.Their anxiety over legal cannabis sales threatening liquor industry profits isn’t unfounded, as early metrics point to that specific market effect in states like Colorado, where adults voted for the right to choose marijuana as a safer alternative.Recent articles in the Mark Brown newsletter show beer sales in certain markets have been adversely impacted by the legal sales of cannabis, and the Cowen Insight states, “In adult use cannabis markets, there are clear signs that cannabis is weighing on beer category trends, with CO, WA and OR underperforming the overall beer market by ~260 bps, YTD. Mainstream beers are the biggest drag, while craft is also slowing.”On January 12, Institutional Cannabis Investors held a gathering of investors at Cowen and Company in NYC, a 100-year-old Wall Street investment banking house who recently initiated coverage for the cannabis market. This groundbreaking event means that legal cannabis is now a big enough money-maker for traditionally conservative Wall Street to use as an investment vehicle.New risk factors have been placed on stalwart liquor companies such as Molson Coors, Constellation Brands and Brown Forman, according to an article on Bloomberg that quotes Cowen analyst Vivien Azer saying: “The rise of marijuana is affecting many large companies in the alcohol industry, making it critical to study the topic.”

Cowen and Company’s recent 110-page report on the state of the cannabis industry further proves that cannabis sales do take a bite out of liquor sales, a fact that the powerful liquor industry cannot ignore.

Azer authored an article entitled “Legal Cannabis is Weighing Heavily on Beer’s Buzz,” stating “In our initiation on the U.S. Cannabis industry, we asserted that increased use of cannabis presents a risk to alcohol, in particular distilled spirits (that over-index to men) and mainstream/economy beer. Data for Colorado (Denver only), Washington and Oregon support this conclusion.”

The Nielsen (liquor industry) report shows definitively that beer volumes in Denver have fallen specifically because of legal cannabis sales at all levels of the industry, and Cowen and Company’s research further states: “To be sure, admitted annual adult cannabis use of 14% falls well below the 70% that drink alcohol, and the 25% that smoke cigarettes. However, with the category having added at least 10 million consumers over the last 12 years, and with momentum building in terms of popular support and legislation, the cannabis industry is poised to generate meaningful growth. Over the last decade we have seen incidence climb for both alcohol and tobacco, across the total population, though alcohol looks to be under pressure.”

Alan Brochstein, chartered financial analyst from the investment research firm New Cannabis Ventures said, “My own view is that the legalization of cannabis for adults is a long-term issue for the alcohol industry as consumers are allowed to substitute one intoxicant for another. The impact will be slowed to a great degree by the lack of legal social use. This is why I am watching the developments in Denver so closely, as three years after legalization, one still can’t go to a restaurant or bar and enjoy cannabis publicly.”

It would appear that the liquor industry will be paying close attention to cannabis as an unwelcome competitor going forward.

While society should be celebrating the reduction in drunks on the street, fewer car accidents caused by intoxicated drivers, falling rates of domestic abuse and increased productivity due to fewer hung-over workers, it seems that those negative consequences of alcohol abuse must be tolerated as long as the investor class continues to line their pockets with liquor profits—unless, of course, they can co-opt the cannabis market and cash in on that as well.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

Marijuana Mixology: 3 Classy Cannabis Cocktails from Warren Bobrow

Noted mixologist and marijuana enthusiast Warren Bobrow has combined his two passions into one fantastic book that’s sure to be a fixture on the shelves of hedonistic cannaphiles everywhere.Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics contains 75 recipes for all types of fantastic drinks subtly infused with THC. Beyond his classy options for inebriation, Bobrow shares considerable knowledge on the origins of healing tonics and how alcohol-based cannabis tinctures were once a vital ingredient in the apothecarist’s pantry.

Chapters include basic instruction on infusing alcohol, preparing tonics, shrubs and tinctures, and then using these base ingredients to infuse afternoon liveners, after dinner drinks, warming beverages to chase away the chill and cooling beverages to soothe the brow. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to infuse cannabis into absinthe, make marijuana simple syrup or add THC to a cocktail cherry, look no further than this indispensable volume.

Creating a diverse supply of cannabis-infused milks, tinctures, oils, syrups and shrubs allows a mixologist to add a new dimension to craft cocktails, which Bobrow describes as “an alternative means for dispensing the medicine that’s incredibly intriguing.” In-depth instructions on infusing cannabis into various types of liquors emphasize safety in preparation and while imbibing. Plenty of mocktail recipes for different types of THC-infused drinks offer opportunities for those seeking an alternative method of inebriation to completely substitute cannabis for alcohol.

“Less is more,” Bobrow cautions, relating tales of his own overwhelming experiences that led him to cut back the levels of alcohol in this collection of drink recipes, aimed at finding a harmonious balance between bud and booze. Bobrow’s foolproof tip for a come-down cocktail involves a “glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice and chewing three peppercorns,” which helped him feel much better after an enhanced evening at Disneyland went way too far up “Space Mountain.”


Some cannabis cocktails use a tincture to deliver the right THC dose.

An authority on cocktail history, legend and lore, Bobrow explained, “as I started experimenting with bitters, I realized you can add balance and depth to a craft cocktail and have it be healing at the same time.” Aromatic bitters were traditionally used to treat an upset stomach, and their curative qualities pair well with cannabis.

A “shrub” is a fruit-infused syrup made by combining fresh berries or preserves with some type of vinegar and sugar to preserve seasonal flavors and incorporate them into cocktails. Bobrow’s Quick Strawberry-Balsamic Cannabis Shrub steeps ground, activated cannabis with strawberry preserves and white balsamic vinegar to create a sweet sensi syrup for use in drinks like Dr. Bamford’s Mystery Mocktail, a concoction of shrub, seltzer, bitters and mint described as a “sophisticated and refreshing warm weather apertif.”

Cannabis-infused milks find their way into a variety of coffee drinks, while a THC-infused maple syrup adds psychedelic sweetness to a Maple Syrup Sazerac, and cannacoconut oil adds a sweet sensi note to Bobrow’s version of a mimosa, dubbed “If It Keeps on Rainin’, Levee’s Goin’ To Break.”

Each drink is elegant, idiosyncratic and full of subtle nuances, with every consideration taken into account, such as the size, shape and flavor of the ice cubes, as well as the shape of the glass holding your tasty beverage. Marijuana mixology is indeed an elevated art form, one that comes with ice made of coconut water, smoked ice cubes, spritzes of THC-infused absinthe and cannabis-infused cask-aged blended Scotch whiskey topped with a greenish cocktail cherry, garnished with a pot leaf.

Welcome to connoisseurship on a whole new level.

The marijuana mixologist favors not only handmade craft liquors from small producers using organic ingredients, but also the finest cannabis flowers.

“You don’t want to use schwag weed to make your infusions,” Bobrow explained. “You want to use the very best things you have at your disposal.”

Preferring skunky, citrusy OG Kush, Blue Dream and Pineapple Kush, Bobrow says that beer hops and cannabis are so closely related that “there’s no reason why you can’t use them interchangeably.”

A dedicated cannabis enthusiast and hardcore Deadhead, Bobrow isn’t worried about damaging his reputation in the mainstream mixology world. To the contrary, he’s excited to be able to embrace his passion and finally do what he truly loves.

“I’d much rather sit and smoke a little grass than drink any day,” Bobrow said. “When you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life.”

When you get home from a day of hard work (or not), reward yourself with the exquisite experience of a perfectly crafted cocktail enhanced with just the right amount of cannabis. Bobrow recommends pacing yourself and drinking no more than one cocktail per hour, since the point is to balance the cannabis and alcohol, not to go overboard.

Dramatis Personae

The Dramatis Personae is my cocktail whisperer’s riff on the Vieux Carré, the classic New Orleans cocktail. My version calls for belly-friendly Creole bitters and uses calvados, or apple brandy, in place of cognac. Sound like an unusual cast of characters? It gets better. Enter a spritz of infused absinthe, stage right. Finish the Dramatis Personae by pouring a little infused absinthe into an atomizer or spray bottle and topping the drink with just a whiff of the medicated spirit. When you’re infusing your absinthe, try an Indica strain like Mr. Nice. It’s earthy and sweet, with pungent aromatics that enhance the aniseed and herbal notes in the absinthe.—Warren Bobrow

Ingredients:
Marijuana smoke, to flavor the mixing glass
1/2 ounce (15 ml) rye whiskey
1/2 ounce (15 ml) sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce calvados
3-4 shakes Creole-style bitters
2-3 shakes aromatic bitters
Spritz of infused absinthe
Ice

Before you fill your mixing glass with ice, turn it upside down and burn some cannabis under it in order to fill it with smoke. Turn it right side up, and immediately fill it three-quarters full with ice. (Now you’ve made smoked ice!) Add all the other ingredients except the absinthe and stir 50 times. Strain into a pre-chilled glass, and finish with a spritz of infused absinthe.

The Mezzrole Cocktail

I’m a huge fan of Manhattan-style cocktails; they make great aperitifs. This one is named after Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a jazz musician who lived in Harlem in the 1920s. And, as Mezz himself would have known, the term for a well-rolled cannabis cigarette was a “mezzrole”—so I just had to commemorate both man and medicine in this elegant cocktail. It combines cannabis-infused sweet vermouth, handmade cocktail cherries and quality bourbon into a small, but well-formed, libation that’s deeply healing. When you’re infusing your vermouth, consider choosing a Sativa-Indica hybrid strain called Cherry Pie. It’s redolent of sweet and sour cherries, and it complements the toasty, oaky flavors inherent in the liquors. As for making crushed ice, it’s best to place the ice in a Lewis bag—a heavy canvas bag that’s made for the job—before whacking it with a wooden mallet or rolling pin.—Warren Bobrow

Ingredients:
4-6 Greenish Cocktail Cherries (see book for recipe)
1/2 ounce (15 ml) cannabis-infused vermouth, such as Uncouth Vermouth’s Seasonal Wildflower Blend
Handful of crushed ice
1 ounce (30 ml) bourbon whiskey
Aromatic bitters

Muddle the Greenish Cocktail Cherries with a wooden muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, then top with the vermouth. Continue to muddle for 30 seconds to combine the flavors. Cover with the crushed ice. Top with the bourbon, then dot with aromatic bitters. Don’t have two: one should be more than enough.

A Bloody Good Remedy

Have you ever had a Bloody Caesar? It’s the Canadian take on the classic American brunch time eye-opener, the Bloody Mary, and it contains one unusual ingredient: clam broth. (If you’ve ever had Manhattan clam chowder, you get the idea.) And it’s startlingly delicious. The best part of A Bloody Good Remedy, though, is that it’s alcohol-free, so you won’t have to deal with a banging head on Monday morning. It’s lightly medicated, too: you simply prepare your tomato-clam mixer, toss it over ice, and then add a few drops of your favorite cannabis tincture. Try one that you’ve infused with Blue OG. Its blue-fruit notes and crushed-woodchip scent are a lovely, if unexpected, partnership with the saline flavors of the clam broth and the spicy tomato base. Oh, and go nuts when it comes to garnishes, the weirder and wackier, the better.—Warren Bobrow

Ingredients:
6 ounces (180 ml) store-bought tomato-clam mixer, chilled (or, your favorite Bloody Mary mix combined with 1 ounce clam broth)
No more than 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of your favorite cannabis tincture
Assorted garnishes, such as olives, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, lemon wedges, fresh chiles, an entire smoked herring or even fried chicken pieces

Fill a glass with ice. Add the mixer, followed by the tincture, and stir gently to combine. Strain mixture into glasses. Garnish as much and as creatively as you like!

(Photos Courtesy of Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing)