It was the perfect afternoon for day drinking: Not too warm, a pleasant breeze, the weekend within easy reach. On a sun-dappled Los Angeles patio around 3:00 p.m., I found myself pleasantly buzzed from both alcohol and cannabis. But I didn’t even have to resort to chugging a beverage while surreptitiously toking under the table—it was all from sipping a single photogenic cocktail. And it was all completely within the law.
Welcome to Gizmodo’s Happy Hour. Substance abuse for nerds.
It’s a proven fact that weed and booze are complementary intoxicants. These are two things we’re likely to enjoy at the same time, but vary rarely combined into a single entity. So when an LA mixologist started shaking my two favorite things together and straining the results over ice, I knew I had to try it. I made my way to Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, the most upscale of the Cafe Gratitude family, a famous chain of vegan restaurants.
Self-professed pothead Jason Eisner has been experimenting with cannabinoids in cocktails for years after using oils to soothe his own sports injuries. But his recipes—three drinks so far—have only recently made their way onto the menus at Cafe Gratitude’s restaurants, where they’ve been embraced by customers who like their tingly buzz and claim they harbor all sorts of wellness benefits.
Unlike the active ingredient in your pot brownies, Eisner’s drinks produce a much more mellow high. The cannabinoid you’re most likely familiar with is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is derived from the marijuana plant’s buds, resulting in an often intense psychotropic experience. What Eisner uses in his drinks is cannabidiol (CBD), which is actually derived from other parts of the plant, like the stem. It’s completely legal and can be easily found at health food stores in LA. And it doesn’t have any of the side-effects of THC like paranoia.
On its own, the CDB oil tastes pleasantly intense. It has a very pale green color that reminded me of lightly filtered extra virgin olive oil and almost had the same grassy scent. But what was amazing was how it different it tasted from cocktail to cocktail, sometimes assuming a more buttery flavor, sometimes adding a citrusy hint. I especially enjoyed the Stoney Negroni, where the CBD seemed to enhance the drink’s natural bitterness—and since CBD stimulates the appetite, it is truly the perfect ingredient for an aperitif.
Several hours after sipping cannabis cocktails, I have to say I’m in much better shape than I would have been after my regular day drinking routine. Since CBD gives you more of a body high than anything, you don’t have the weariness that pure alcohol punishes you with (I did notice I was a little thirstier than normal, though). In essence, it’s the perfect breakfast cocktail ingredient, as it will add pleasant vibes to your morning without the afternoon regret—or without passing out cold.
Cannabinoids are a classy way to get your buzz on that I hope will catch on in more places. I enjoy the effect of marijuana but I’m not as into smoking it anymore. And it’s much more pleasurable to sip it over ice than vape it in the alley. I can’t wait until it’s more socially acceptable to drink my weed.
Watch Jason Eisner make the three cannabis cocktails and share more tips for making your own at home!