Is it the New Year already? It seems like Thanksgiving of 2017 was just yesterday. But what makes this time of the year most exciting for me is the creativity in the drinks. Sure, I’m tasting all sorts of mixed drinks- but the ones that I really want to taste are precisely the ones that mean memories for me. Those would be the hot ones. The drinks that go down my throat and make each sniff or sip something unique and friendly. We survived the holidays, now we need some comfort at the end of the day- or if you are exceptionally optimistic- first thing in the morning. You see, a hot toddy is not just for the after dinner / before bed experience. Some even are just as refreshing and calming for a breakfast slurp. Not that I’m advocating morning drinking! Far from… But at the end of the day- where night turns to day- I’m looking towards drinks that have a robust nature to them. Tea based is a good place to start and no other tea works for morning than a rambunctious Lapsang Souchong tea from China. This tea is heavily smoked and takes to botanical gin with a ‘how do you do’ that is reminiscent of Singapore before the Opium Wars. It’s served as it should be in a perfectly formed, hand-made, porcelain teacup. A simple sprig of chive rests gently over the steaming liquid- bitter chive against smoky tea. The vivid green color against the brownish steaming tea. Quite elegant and this drink is absolutely perfect as a breakfast sipper during brunch. And served in a teacup, no one knows your business- it’s steaming, right? Of course, I used the Breakfast Gin from FEW Spirits.
The Reformed Spirits Company, makers of the World Renowned, Martin Miller’s Gin has created a crystal clear, uncolored, ‘Irish Cream’ liqueur that is mesmerizing in mouthfeel, quality and overall finesse. What they have created, using Irish Malt Whiskey, is a bourbon, chocolate, milk punch without any caramel color added at all. In fact, what they have done is rectify an authentic spirit base with a plethora of marvelous flavors that say rich and creamy in the glass without a drop of artificial color to further confuse the consumer with layers of provenance that just doesn’t exist.
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.