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Rise of the Cannabis Mocktail 

A blood orange-ginger spritzer with THC-infused honey.

Photo by Aoife Moloney

A blood orange-ginger spritzer with THC-infused honey.

Two long years ago, the pandemic ushered in an era of uncertainty. In the beginning, housebound folks in isolation and essential workers alike flocked to the only certain pleasures we had: food and drink. The powers that be eased restrictions and soon, alcohol to-go was pouring out from those restaurants able to stay open and adapt. An enjoyable pre-pandemic pint transformed almost overnight into growlers and crowlers to go, not to mention Fiesta Grill's famous gallon-size margarita (thank you for being early pandemic MVPs, Fiesta). Some of us even joined a local Wine Fairy group where fairy wine-mothers gifted bottles and gift baskets to perfect strangers. We were clearly all in need of connection and ways to cope, and alcohol was an early answer for many of us.

But, as all things do, trends are changing. Even before COVID-19, two trends started taking hold: a reduction in alcohol use and a rise in cannabis consumption. According to Bacardi's 2021 Cocktail Trends Report, one of the top five trends of last year was mindful consumption, with an estimated 22 percent of global consumers drinking less and 55 percent of those mindful drinkers choosing low-ABV options. The more recent 2022 report shows a continued low to no-ABV trend in mixology, highlighting craft ingredients over spirits for the "sober-curious." The second trend, higher cannabis consumption, is being seen across the board in legal states. With the legal cannabis industry declared essential, users purchased more during the pandemic than they did in the years immediately preceding it.

While I can't speak for everyone following both these trends, I can say that, for me, the pandemic and navigating through my 30s provided an opportune time to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol. I'm precisely the demographic that report speaks of: "exploring new flexible approaches to sobriety ... happy to switch between sober nights and drinking occasions." I've also evolved as a cannabis consumer; instead of mostly smoking flower and concentrate, I've broadened my usage to incorporate edible and drinkable infusions, some more successful than others ("The Beautiful Disaster of My Medicated Mozzarella Fail," March 18, 2021).

As social gatherings increase, local drink slingers are offering more craft options with limited or no alcohol. But for those curious about infusing cannabis into their mocktails, options are few and far between, as strict state guidelines disallow alcohol and cannabis to be sold on the same premises. Papa & Barkley Social and a new consumption lounge in the works located in Eureka both plan to introduce mocktails to their menus this year, making it easy for users to dose themselves with products purchased in the attached dispensaries. But until then, those curious about cannabis-infused mocktails must experiment at home.

Fear not: I have a few tried and true recipes ranging in ease for you to try your hand at. These recipes are sans alcohol but they will still taste great for those who want to add spirits to the mix — everything in moderation, right? Keep in mind there are many forms of cannabis infusion to try, even THC-free ones that won't get you high. Below are options for adding THC (for mild intoxication), CBD (non-intoxicating effects) and terpenes (for non-intoxicating flavor unique to each cannabis strain).

THC-Infused Honey Ginger Blood Orange Spritzer

Head to the North Coast Co-op for some Bruce Cost ginger ale with blood orange and Meyer lemon. Kikoko's 10 mg THC Honey Shot made with manuka honey is my pick for a standard dose of THC and a nice head change.

Ingredients:

Ginger ale

Cannabis infused honey

Juice from ½ blood orange

Sugar and fresh or candied blood orange slices to garnish (optional)

Add the juice and honey to the ginger ale and stir, then pour over ice. To make it fancy, pour into a glass with a sugared rim and add candied blood orange slices for garnish.

CBD-Infused Lemongrass Bloody Mary

Make your Bloody Mary a meal (or a stoner snack). Clowning Cocktails, a new Humboldt-based company set to launch this summer, has the perfect dry, shelf-stable Bloody Mary mix in packets. (Full disclosure: It's co-owned by my friend Aaron Weshnak ... who is a clown.) Until then, experiment with garnishes (I used chicken wings because why not?) and Bloody Mary mix. This one's a CBD-only cocktail unless you add gin instead of the water.

Ingredients:

6 ounces tomato juice

2 ounces water

Bloody Mary mix, to taste

Papa & Barkley's Releaf Drops with lemongrass ginger

Add tomato juice and water to your Bloody Mary mix. Shake and pour over ice. Add CBD drops and stir. The lemongrass and ginger add botanical complexity. Skewer and stack as much garnish as your appetite can handle.

Blueberry Muffin Terps Lavender Fizz

This recipe is a little more complex. You can make the syrup a day ahead. My pick for the Blueberry Muffin terpenes is the Vivid Select Terps from S.T.I.L. in Eureka. They add full flavor but are not intoxicating.

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh blueberries

1½ cups water

¾ cup sugar

2-3 sprigs fresh or dried lavender, crumbled

Juice of 1 lemon

Sparkling water

1-2 milliliters Blueberry Muffin terpenes (or more to taste)

1 lime for juice and garnish

Blueberries for garnish

Start by making a syrup. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook down the blueberries with the water and sugar, using a potato masher to release the juices while it cooks. Bring the pot to a boil, then add the crumbled lavender and lemon juice. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Strain well to separate the syrup from the blueberry mash. (The mash can be saved to eat on top of waffles!) Cool in the fridge for an hour or as long as overnight.

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in ¼ cup of the blueberry lavender syrup, then top it off with sparkling water. Add in the terpenes and a squeeze of lime. Stir and garnish with a slice of lime and skewered berries. Serve with a reusable straw.

Happy drinking, Humboldt!

Jessica Ashley Silva (she/her) is a foodie and a cannabis enthusiast. She works as a technical and creative writer in Arcata's Cannabis Innovation Zone.

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