Unless you have not inhaled through your nose today, you are surely aware that it is April 20, the high holy day for pot smoking.
Now, this is Happy Hour, a column dedicated to alcohol. So it's not high and not dry in here. But it's a bummer to be left out.
With all this booze and the pot so plentiful, we got to work testing a hybrid concoction—a kind of mari-wine-a—that could just be the perfect elixir to satisfy an appetite for intoxication. Enter the dragon.
It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Is there a skunk in here?
Let's get this out of the way: 1. Consuming this substance may be harmful to you. Proceed at your own risk. 2. Possessing cannabis is illegal in the vast majority of US states (and countries of the world). Don't break the law! In some places, medicinal marijuana is legal. This recipe offers an alternate way for people with a prescription to ingest medicinal marijuana. This is only for them, got it? So you can just stop reading right now you dirty potheads!
Okay, they're gone.
Green dragon is a cannabis tincture. Essentially, you're using alcohol to macerate the desirable chemicals in the plant, which is similar to how bitters are made. But hang on there, sparky, you can't just toss a fistful of weed into a bottle of Jack and chug it. There's more science to it than that. But the good news is that it's pretty fast and easy.
What You'll Need
- a stove and oven
- a small pot
- the other kind of pot (about one-eighth of an ounce/3.5 grams)
- high-proof potable alcohol
- a half-pint jamming jar (built to withstand boiling temperatures)
- a fine-mesh strainer
- a digital quick-read thermometer (a candy thermometer will do)
- knife/cutting board (or a pot grinder, or small blender)
- a fan
- a kitchen timer
- chopsticks (wooden takeout version)
- a couple of twist-ties
- a cheese cloth
- a funnel
- a vial and dropper
The key ingredient is the medicine itself. The stronger the plant, the stronger the resulting solution. The desired strength is a personal preference. Same goes for the booze—the higher the proof, the better. Bacardi 151 (which is 75.5 percent ABV) worked for us. Over at Green Dragon Soda, some alternate recommendations, including citrus extract, can be considered.
1. Chop. Remove seeds and stems, and chop it up using a sharp knife. The finer the better. Alternatively, you can pulverize it in a small blender, or a hand grinder (check a dispensary if this is an unfamiliar tool).
2. Bake. Put the chopped medicine onto a stiff, folded sheet of aluminum foil. Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and bake on the middle rack for 5 minutes. This heat is enough to draw out the THC, but not hot enough to vaporize it. When you pull it, out you may notice that the weed has darkened in color. This is good. (Warning: this step will make your kitchen reek like a Bay Area DJ booth for a little while.)
Note: Next time I try this, I'm going to experiment with baking at a lower temperature for longer. I have a feeling you may be losing some of the desirable cannabinoids at 325, but more testing is required. That said, this method works quite well.
3. Pour. Add 2 ounces (a 1/4-cup) of your high-proof alcohol into the heat-ready mason jar, then add in the toasted plant material and give it a little stir.
4. Make a double-boiler. Now comes the tricky part. High-proof alcohol is extremely flammable, so you need to be very careful here. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water. You need to make sure this doesn't boil over. It is not safe to put the jar directly on the burner, so you're going to make a little double-boiler. To do that, break the chopstick in two and lash it together with a couple twist-ties. Put that in the small saucepan. Use it to keep the jar slightly elevated from the bottom, which may get too hot. Put the jar (uncovered) on top of the chopsticks, then add water to the saucepan (being careful not to get any in the alcohol/medicine mixture). Add enough that the water line comes almost up to the alcohol line.
5. Boil. Put your digital thermometer into the alcohol solution, open your windows and/or turn on your fan. Alcohol vapors are flammable, so you want to make sure there's at least some breeze passing through. Set your burner to low, and watch as the temperature of the alcohol slowly rises. Once it reaches 165 degrees (Fahrenheit) start a timer for 20 minutes. You want to keep it in between 165 and 170 for the entire 20 minutes (pure alcohol boils at about 173, so you don't want it that high). The easiest way to do that is by using a fan. If the temperature starts to creep above 170, blow on the boiling water for about five seconds. The temperature will dip again almost immediately. You need to be standing by for the entire 20 minutes, adjusting the burner/fan and keeping it at optimum temperature. Babysit it, basically.
6. Strain. After 20 minutes, turn off the burner and carefully lift the jar out of the water. Let it cool down a bit then. Pour it through a fine-mesh strainer and funnel into a vial. If you're feeling ambitious, and you really want to get every last drop of liquid out (do it!), put the remaining solids in the cheese cloth and squeeze the hell out of them. Some people like to strain the whole thing through a paper coffee filter, which will give you a clearer solution with fewer particles, but I think you lose too much that way. You can get a nice little vial with an dropper in it at most herbal stores. You'll notice that green dragon is not actually green. It should probably be called Black Dragon. Regardless, congrats, you're done.
Start with one milliliter, maximum. That's roughly 20 drops. It sounds like nothing, right? Maybe, maybe not. As with anything else when you're eating cannabis, the strength can vary greatly (some brownies do nothing, some will make you think your heart is going to explode). There is no way to know until you try it.
Depending on the potency of the plant material, and how much of it you used, one milliliter may be a strong dose. This method is a much more efficient means of extraction compared to smoking. In other words, this recipe has just yielded you between 30 and 40 doses, depending on how much weed you used, and how much alcohol you allowed to evaporate. Be careful, and start slow, especially if you aren't used it (lightweights beware). If you want to be precise, get a baby medicine syringe from a pharmacy so you can measure it out. Add the liquid to a little water or another beverage, and drink it. It tastes herbal. And it's surprisingly refreshing!
From the batch we made (in California, legally), we found that a 1 milliliter shot was a great dose. You're not going to get drunk off of this. If you drank enough of it to get drunk you would probably lose your mind.
I took the shot, met some friends at a bar, and added no alcohol on top of the green dragon . After about half an hour, I was feeling it strongly. At 45 minutes, I was good and high. I worried that it would keep increasing from there, but it didn't. It just plateaued and kept me right at that perfect level for about four hours. It felt great, and I was able to maintain a coherent conversation the entire time (which I'm not typically capable of when stoned). We didn't talk about Doritos or Kung-Fu movies. We talked about relationships and the American theatre scene. I did eat 1.5 pizzas, though.
The next morning I was quite lucid and not hungover. I may have just found a way to quit smoking.
Anyway, if you try this, be safe, be careful, and be legal. We'll be back on the straight-up sauce next week at Happy Hour.
The most thorough guide to making green dragon that we've found is the one created by Master Wu in the cannabis.com forum. He provides a lot of great detail there. If you're interested in non-boiling methods, check out greendragonsoda.com.