Cannabis cocktails and tonics are all abuzz

SN&R’s Ngaio Bealum visited San Francisco to try the latest in elevated elixirs and CBD-infused beverages

Cannabis-infused beverages are rising in popularity and could replace alcohol-based drinks in the near future.

Cannabis-infused beverages are rising in popularity and could replace alcohol-based drinks in the near future.

Photo by Ngaio Bealum

“Hey, you wanna come to San Francisco and participate in a cannabis-infused beverage tasting at Foreign Cinema?” Sacramento foodie and cannabis writer Ed Murrieta asked in an email.

“Hell yes!” I replied, and away we went. It was pretty fancy. Foreign Cinema bar director Nicky Beyries made a few cocktails for us to try. There was water for cleaning the palate and even a bucket for folks to spit out their drinks, so as not to get too high. As if. (I drank just about everything.) It was very much like a wine tasting, proving once again that weed is definitely on its way to being a fancy-pants and tasting notes kind of thing.

There were some standouts: The Turmeric Ginger Mule mixer from Proposition Cocktail Co. (no THC, but 15 milligrams of CBD per 6.7 ounce bottle) was probably my favorite. It had a nice lime and turmeric flavor, with a hint of ginger that gives it a little kick. I could see myself making a cocktail I would name “The Anti-inflammatory:” a little ice, some soda water and the Turmeric Ginger Mule lix. The afternoon would be off to a good start. Proposition also makes a “Smokey Margarita” mixer with lime, chile and smoked salt. It was pretty good, with a nice smokiness, but I would have liked a little more lime.

Tinley Beverage Company presented a variety of drinks. We tried a trio of “elixirs” packaged to look a bit like bottles of rum with three different flavors: coconut, almond and cinnamon. Think Malibu, Amaretto and Fireball. Each serving (about an ounce or so) contains “one micro-dose” of THC (probably like 3 milligrams or so). I really liked the cinnamon one, which would be great in some coffee or a Mexican-style hot chocolate. The almond elixir definitely tasted like amaretto liqueur. It was cool, but I really enjoyed the coconut. It had a great flavor, despite a strong Stevia aftertaste. Beyries made a cocktail with the Tinley’s coconut flavor, some passion fruit syrup and a little bit of lime. It was heavenly and tropical. I would definitely stock this in my home bar.

I was already a few drinks in and the details are a little fuzzy, but the overwhelming feeling from the suits in the tasting room was that their brands (we tasted samples from five different businesses) were going to replace alcohol-based drinks as the go-to beverage for people looking to unwind after a hard day.

Ngaio Bealum (center) with his tasting party at Foreign Cinema in San Francisco.

Photo by Ngaio Bealum

There were also a few carbonated concoctions. Aurora Beverages had three different drinks that mixed fruit and herbal flavors together. Each bottle contains no THC, but 15 mgs of CBD. I thought they were all just OK—not enough fruit or herbs blended throughout, at least for me. The Citrus Cayenne had good grapefruit flavor, but no real cayenne spiciness. The Rosemary-Grapefruit needed more rosemary and grapefruit. The Lavender Spice was nice, with notable lavender and orange notes but maybe a little too bitter of an aftertaste.

Tinley served a really nice “High Horse,” its take on a Moscow Mule (why not a Mendo Mule?) that had great ginger flavor and good bubbles. The Canna Co. had mini cans of low THC “session-” style drinks, with the Rosemary-Grapefruit being better than the Blood Orange-Cardamom (I didn’t taste any cardamom!) and the Lemon-Lavender being the best of the three.

Lagunitas Brewing Co. had two offerings of its “High-Fi Hops” drinks: A very tasty tropical and hoppy beverage with a nice low dose of 5 mgs of THC and 5 mgs CBD, and bottle with 10 mgs THC and no CBD that tasted almost like beer. A great choice for a hot day.

Cannabis infused beverages are all the buzz these days. It’s not just start-ups. Big names such as Lagunitas are also getting in on the action. It makes sense. Studies show that alcohol consumption decreases in states with legal weed, and there are plenty of businesses ready to create a new kind of (stoned and) happy hour.