Fight the bitter winter with a warm, cannabis-infused bourbon

Alcohol infusions are not allowed commercially — they're all personal. | Photo by David Downs
Alcohol infusions are not allowed commercially — they’re all personal. | Photo by David Downs

We live in an era of abundant cannabis options. I appreciate that I don’t have to smoke when I’m feeling like I want to smooth the edges off a difficult day. The range of edibles is staggering – cookies and candy and straight-up extractions. There are so many infused drinks – coffee, tea, sodas. But why not a weed-infused Manhattan?  Or Boulevardier? Or your cocktail of choice? I like a nightcap, and I’ve used marijuana in the same way — could I infuse liquor and combine the tradition? Why not?  

After a cursory search for instructions online, I headed to my local dispensary where I had a long chat with the budtender. An experienced home cook, he gave excellent advice. “Low and slow,” he said, “That’s the trick. Don’t overdo it. When you’re done, wring out all the good stuff out.”

I bought an eighth-ounce of cannabis flowers and stopped at the supermarket for cheesecloth.

Then, I made a test batch with a fistful of mystery flower left by a friend who did not want to take marijuana on a flight, and the remains of a few bottles of bourbon. The result? A pint of mildly infused bourbon blend. After a few hours of cooking – babysitting the stove, mostly — I was sipping an infused cocktail and watching the sky change color.

A few weeks later, I cooked the commercially produced eighth-ounce in a bottle of Trader Joe’s Kentucky Bourbon. I’ve been using it to make even happier home happy hours.

Here’s how to make your own weed-infused bourbon (or other liquor). You can steep your flower in warm liquor  – the quickest process, just a matter of hours. Or you can cold brew, which will take a couple weeks to complete the infusion.

Either process is easy. But you’ll need to keep your wits about you while you work.

Before you start, a few warnings: While you’re decarbing your flower (more on this below), keep an eye on the oven – you don’t want to burn your weed. Also, cooking your boozy infusion over an open flame can be a fire hazard, so be extra-vigilant if you’ve got a gas stove. I kept a window cracked open while I was cooking and still got a little blurry around the edges – keep your space well-ventilated until everything’s turned off.

Finally, this is home cooking, not lab science, so there will be variation in the strength of your results. Mix your first drinks with a small amount of infused liquor until you understand the effects. Alcohol and cannabis have “synergistic” effects. That means 1+1 does not equal two; it equals four. Of course, don’t drink infused beverages and operate heavy machinery or firearms, etc. And label and secure infusions appropriately. Infuse responsibly.

— Pam Mandel