Photo courtesy Warren Bobrow.
It’s once again the season to be merry, and for a lot of adults, that means more cocktails at holiday parties and family gatherings. But some people would rather light up around the Christmas tree than drink alcohol and be subject to the inevitable after-effects. Those folks are in luck, because Warren Bobrow, a cannabis cocktail master, is here to make that tradition a thing of the past.
Bobrow has used his unmatched cannabis mixology know-how to write a book on the craft called Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations. He’s also a master menu-creator when it comes to infusions with cannabis. CULTURE chatted with the “Cocktail Whisperer” about how to keep things merry and bright this season with a little bit of liquid cheer.
How did you first get interested in mixology, specifically with cannabis?
I had experimented with mixing cannabis with craft spirits after visiting New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail in 2016. I had scheduled a book signing at the Pharmacy Museum for my third book of six, Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails.
At the same time, the museum was holding an exhibit on cannabis in the early apothecary. My dream was hatched! As a master mixologist and cannabis smoker since the tender age of 12 and the eldest grandson of the owner/manufacturer of Geritol, my inspiration was at hand with several books on healing measures, such as my first book, Apothecary Cocktails. The only ingredient missing in that early cocktail book (2013) was cannabis. In the early apothecary, cannabis was probably the only ingredient that actually did anything!
What about cannabis cocktails do you think invites creativity and experimenting?
The feeling of the crossfade is the most intriguing thing. You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.
Tell us about your writing career—how did you start writing?
I was initially a trained chef from dish sink on up. I have an incredibly deep knowledge of food journalism and writing. Clementine Paddleford was an early inspiration, as was Penelope Casas. I’ve always been comfortable writing in blogs, but never in the “real world.”
After losing my fresh pasta business in hurricane Hugo in 1989, I was forced by necessity to pay off my loans by working in a series of private banks for 20 years, all the while nurturing a career working in wine and spirits on my days off and as a private chef. But it was not fulfilling. I needed to write, but I didn’t know how.
I ended up taking some food writing classes, one at the New School with Andy Smith and the other at the then French Culinary Institute for Alan Richman. Alan said I would be making a big mistake by going back into banking. He was right!
How did you first start using cannabis, and how did it influence your life and creative process?
I was at a good old Grateful Dead show in 1972 at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. The cannabis may or may not have actually been cannabis. It might have been gerbil droppings for all I knew. But there was something in there that made me more relaxed than I had ever been. Our plant brought me relief of the pain of being Warren. It helped me focus and drill down into my own history.
What is your favorite strain or product, and what’s your favorite cannabis cocktail?
My favorite cannabis cocktail is the Mezzrole Cocktail, named for Mezz Mezzrow, a jazz-era musician, who not-so-coincidently was Louis Armstrong’s weed dealer in the ’20s and ’30s. A particularly well-rolled cannabis joint was known by the “Hep Cats” as a Mezzrole. A joint or a reefer might get you arrested if you asked the wrong person for one, like a policeman. But a Mezzrole was the hip codeword for reefer in the Jazz Era.
“You just don’t get that euphoric feeling from CBD; that’s why I hardly work with it. I like the feeling that I get from THC. And I believe for the entourage effect to be most pronounced, you need THC and CBD—not just CBD. It’s a balance. Like life itself.”
What do you think the world of legalization will look like in five or 10 years? Do you think ordering a cannabis cocktail in a bar will ever become the norm?
I hope that the stigma dissipates somewhat along with legalization as it spreads around the country. Unfortunately, there are many preconceived notions about cannabis cocktails. Most importantly, “Will I get destroyed?”
That is a real possibility, but I suggest taking the Thai food approach. Never would you go to a Thai restaurant for the first time and order your food five star, Thai Hot. It’s just not done; you’d be destroyed! Cannabis cocktails are the same. You want to start really slowly. They hit pretty fast, so less is definitely more. You can always add, never subtract.
But should you take too much, some CBD or a combination of peppercorns and lemon juice work just fine. Don’t be like those folks on VICELAND Live (I made them a THC/CBD cocktail with Barrell Bourbon and oven-caramelized blood orange juice) who had way more than one per hour. Each drink was at least 100 milligrams of THC . . . They had several in the first 15 minutes or so . . . and then they went out on live TV. It was memorable.
Is there anything specific you want to announce, focus on, or highlight right now?
I’m doing a mocktail for TSO Sonoma in December, and I’m releasing a live-resin, ready-to-drink mocktail into the market shortly in California. Stay tuned! It’s unlike anything available with an onset time of just a few short minutes, and it’s delicious. My tried-and-true recipes. I’m always focusing on the sales of my book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Indigo Books in Canada and most indie bookstores globally.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t be afraid of cannabis cocktails. They were making them over 100 years ago in pharmacies. They work for me with my glaucoma, and I hope they offer a non-confrontational approach to “taking your medicine.” At least no one would know that your Vietnamese iced coffee had both THC-infused, condensed milk and Rhum Agricole from Martinique in it.