CALIFORNIA: Alcohol has always been my drug of choice, since my very first White Russian. From guilty-pleasure drinks to perfectly crisp martinis, something about the ritual of making and sipping a cocktail had me sold early on.
I never gave marijuana much love, and even in college I always chose watery beer over those fat, clumsy joints. But now that bartenders across the country are experimenting with weed-spiked cocktails, I’m paying attention—and so should you. The “Julia Child of Weed” has already been anointed, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we discover the “Charles H. Baker of Marijuana.”
As a growing number of states take steps to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, bartenders and bud-tenders are coming together, much the way chefs have begun experimenting with high-end, gourmet edibles spiked with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the potent part of the herb). Mixologists are trying out two kinds of potables: cocktails spiked with THC (where legal), and cocktails designed to mimic the actual green, skunky flavors of marijuana.
Compared to edibles, where oil- or butter-based extractions are favored, tinctures (herbal essences that are extracted by alcohol) are the preferred vehicle for drinks. Bartenders use Everclear or another high-proof alcohol to draw THC from the plant, which is a process similar to that used to make bitters. The most popular seems to involve grinding and then baking the bud at a low temperature (a process called “decarboxylation”) before steeping it in alcohol for a stretch of hours to days. The liquid then is strained and stored, often in a container with an eyedropper or dasher attachment. I’m coining the term “cannabitters” right here and now.