Is Cannabis-Infused Alcohol the Next Hot Trend?
Cannabis aficionados shouldn’t be surprised to hear that a micro-distillery in Humboldt County, in the heart of northern California’s Emerald Triangle, is brewing batches of vodka infused with Cannabis sativa. Humboldt Distillery, which makes organic vodka and spiced rum in addition to pear and apple brandies, recently introduced “Humboldt’s Finest,” a limited release premium small batch vodka that’s been infused with legal U.S.-grown hemp.
At Leafly, we have two questions. How’s it taste? And will it make you intoxicated in more ways than one?
Humboldt Distillery claims the finished product has “an aroma reminiscent of fresh cannabis” and serves as a fine substitute for gin in cocktails. That makes sense, as the hemp would contribute an herbaceous quality similar to gin’s shrubby juniper flavor.
The answer to the second question is a definite “no.” Hemp refers to the non-psychoactive varieties of Cannabis sativa L, meaning the plant contains less than 1% THC. So why would alcohol manufacturers bother to infuse their booze with hemp?
The most obvious reason is marketing. Cannabis is, to quote Mugatu, “So hot right now.” With legalization in the headlines, it makes sense for alcohol manufacturers to slap a weed pun on their labels to attract a double-take from shoppers.
Of course, anyone familiar with the cannabis industry knows that a legal cannabis-infused spirit that produces psychoactive effects is about as likely as D.A.R.E. adopting the slogan “Drugs Are Really Entertaining.” Given cannabis’s federal illegality, alcohol manufacturers would be prohibited from transporting a truly infused product across state lines.
Plus, I’m betting that most brands would think twice before taking on the legal risk of selling a beverage that’s doubly able to impair your state of mind. Studies have found that when consumed together, alcohol may increase THC concentrations, making that joint or bowl feel stronger than usual. (Anecdotally, I call this sensation “sweasy,” or a mix of “sweaty” and “queasy,” which I learned the hard way after a night of vaping coupled with a few too many vodka gimlets.)
“Humboldt’s Finest” isn’t the first brand of cannabis-infused liquor to hit the shelves. Here’s a roundup of other special spirits you may have noticed:
Victoria Spirits out of British Columbia has a “Left Coast Hemp Vodka” that’s distilled with organic Canada-grown hemp seeds. Its tasting notes describe the flavor as “hazelnut and a hint of spice,” with a “long, clean and refreshing” finish.
Also hailing from Canada, Mary Jane’s “Primo Hemp” vodka and gin are available for purchase at select Alberta liquor stores, or you can special order them if you live in another province or territory. (Sorry, Americans, no True North hemp booze for you.)
Surprise surprise, another Humboldt-area brewer has hopped on the hemp bandwagon. Humboldt Brewing Company has a hemp ale that’s brewed with toasted hemp seeds to “add a unique, herb-accented flavor.”
Red Hook Brewery tipped its cap to Washington’s legalization milestone by brewing a limited edition “Joint Effort” amber/red ale in 2013. The brewery even made pull handles that looked like bongs. One reviewer described the flavor as “Lightly caramelly with some resiny hops and a light funky je ne sais quoi that might indeed be the hemp seeds.”
Germany makes a hemp brew called “Cannabia” that’s been around since 1996. It’s a typical German Pilsener with a flavor that beer aficionados have described as “piney” with “herbal crispness.”
Melissa Etheridge is making a line of psychoactive cannabis-infused wine, although for legal purposes she has to refer to them as “wine tinctures.” She told CBS News in December 2014 that the wine provides the standard alcohol buzz while the cannabis contributes a “delicious full body buzz.”
Mary Jane’s has also made hemp wines, currently offering a “BC Buddy” hemp-infused red wine that it recommends “[serving] cool.”
The ‘Green Dragon’
If you’re looking for the real deal and seek a true cannabis-infused liquor that will deliver the effects you’d expect then you, my friend, are chasing the Green Dragon, a slang term for alcohol that’s legit-infused with cannabis, not hemp. Both Vice and the Stoner’s Cookbook have recipes you can try at home, but follow Vice’s suggestion to “please enjoy responsibly!”, as you don’t want to end up like this sweasy author after too many grams and gimlets.