The first time I mixed up a cannabis drink, things didn’t go well.
In my head it seemed easy — I had bartending skills and a bottle of commercial tincture from my local dispensary. But the slick of tincture floating on my carefully crafted drink mocked me. My mistaken idea was thinking that waving the tincture dropper like a magic wand over my beverage would make it better.
Reading the new book “Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home” ($19.99; Fair Winds Press) got me to give it another try with much better results.
Author Jamie Evans, Bay Area-based founder of culinary-meets-cannabis blog the Herb Somm, offers primarily recipes for nonalcoholic drinks that incorporate cannabis, though her book does include a dozen boozy cocktail recipes with warnings of the combined effects. I mixed up one of the boozy recipes, called a Toasty Toddy, which is blend of toasted spices boiled into a tea spiked with whiskey and sweetened with cannabis-infused honey. It was good with the whiskey but was tasty enough that I could have easily skipped the booze. Everyone is different, but my preference is to enjoy my alcohol and cannabis at different times. Cocktails make me social, cannabis does not, and combined they just make me confused.
The book begins with advice on hosting and mixing the drinks, where to start if you are a complete beginner (“Start low, go slow,” Evans advises), and discussions of the phytocannabinoids CBD and THC and their effects. While Evans does caution that CBD in particular is not a cure-all, the wellness and food-as-medicine angles show up in a few places. For instance, the section on terpenes highlights some of the most common components found in cannabis, their aroma and taste, and their purported beneficial properties.
The culinary information was much more interesting to me, especially when Evans frames terpenes as a parallel to wine, a unique approach that includes a series of exercises to help you parse and identify the aromas and flavors in cannabis flower.
The cover and name of the book imply drink recipes, but the information Evans provides on working with and incorporating cannabis into beverages is perhaps the best thing about the book. Even simple things like thinking about the base of the commercially made tincture you buy (alcohol versus oil based) can save you the fate of my first oil slicked disaster.
Reading “Cannabis Drinks” I realized that I had reduced my ideas about cannabis entirely to the isolated effects of THC and CBD. I know my preferred dosage in edibles and the effects I enjoy most in certain strains, but I had never considered how its smell and taste could enhance a drink. Even as someone who enjoys cooking, I never thought about using cannabis for its flavor. It’s like knowing a lot about caffeine but not about the taste of coffee.
While making a batch of cannabis-infused simple syrup from the book, I was struck by the aroma of the simmering liquid. It reminded me of the nice mint tea I brew at home, and I could imagine how well it would work with spices or other ingredients. The syrup didn’t have the skunky aroma of the cliché but rather was culinary and herbal enough to change my assumptions.
Critically, Evans provides formulas and guidance to calculate the dosage of the syrup and milligrams per drink of CBD and THC. The effects I experienced from mixing up a Raspberry Rickey, a fizzy lime and raspberry mocktail from the book, were similar to the effects of my usual edibles in the same milligram range. If you have ever had too much, you understand the importance of knowing how much THC you are consuming.
One mistake I made with the infused simple syrup was trying to scale it down and make a quarter batch. The long cooking time crystalized the sugar in such a small volume of liquid, and I was glad that I had created a spreadsheet to calculate the amount of CBD and THC based on Evans’ formulas. I was able to measure and add more water to the syrup and still have a grasp of the dosage.
The drink recipes themselves are appealing, if a little complicated, many with a lot of sub-recipes, many of which are the active cannabis infusions that contribute the CBD and THC. The recipes are arranged by style: coffee, tea, juices, shakes, smoothies, nonalcoholic mixed drinks, and cocktails.
Some of the drinks are really creative, such as the Garden of Eden: blended green juice that includes fresh cannabis leaves for those of you who grow at home. One of my favorites was also one of the easiest, the Raspberry Rickey, which is a refreshing mix of lime, raspberries and soda water sweetened with homemade cannabis-infused syrup that adds a light herbal flavor. I made this a few times after testing the recipe as a nice end-of-day refresher.
I appreciated the fact that the recipes try to be as versatile as possible and offer alternative instructions if you prefer to mix them with tinctures instead. The difference in flavor between the Raspberry Rickey made with commercial tincture and the homemade infused simple syrup were subtle, but it’s worth the effort to make your own infusion.
While the drink recipes are fun, what makes this a great book are the instructions, formulas and guidance to create your own cannabis-flower-infused syrups, honey, shrubs and tinctures. You might want to set up a spreadsheet to help you find the sweet spot of THC and CBD you want in your final drink, but even if you don’t, you’ll at least learn how to mix up and enjoy a cannabis beverage.
Lou Bustamante is a freelance writer.
From “Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home,” by Jamie Evans
Yield: 1 serving
Target dose: 7.5 mg CBD/2 mg THC per drink, or your preferred dose (using a commercially made CBD or THC tincture of your choice; see note below)
¼ cup (33 g) raspberries
1 ounce (30 ml) fresh squeezed lime juice
½ ounce (15 ml) Rich simple syrup*
Lime wheel and seasonal flowers, for garnish
Instructions: In a shaker tin, muddle the raspberries and lime juice. Add the infused simple syrup and ice, then cover and shake for 15 seconds or until fully chilled. Using a fine-mesh strainer, separate the solids from the liquid over an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Top the drink with a splash of club soda and give it a good stir. Express the lime over the glass, then garnish with a lime wheel and seasonal flowers.
Note: Add your favorite unflavored tincture (at your preferred dose) into the shaker tin before muddling. Follow the directions as written.
Rich Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Instructions: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep for about 6 months.