Mad mixologist Warren Bobrow is, you could say, continuing a family tradition. "My grandfather was in the snake oil business," says the author of four ornately-titled cocktail books (including Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks from Yesterday and Today, Whiskey Cocktails: Rediscovered Classics and Contemporary Craft Drinks Using the World's Most Popular Spirit, and Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails: Restorative Vintage Cocktails, Mocktails, and Elixirs).
He says his grandfather, Matthew Rosenhaus, was among the creators of Geritol, a boozy patent medicine ultimately investigated in 1959 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and its manufacturers hit with heavy fines for making misleading claims about its health benefits.
Growing up in Morris Township, his mother used to "give me Geritol Junior with my orange juice in the morning, which was 50-proof spirits, so you can imagine I was feeling really good getting ready for school." His upbringing, he says, "absolutely piqued my interest" in the world of spirits.
From cocktails to cannabis
He's currently turned his attention to the herb that seems to have most captivated American consumers these days: cannabis. His new book is a collection of "cannabis-influenced" cocktail and drink recipes, including tonics, syrups, shrubs, bitters, and infused oils.
Some of his favourites? "One of the great drinks that I'm really enjoying at the moment," he tells Civilized, "is made by muddling Mezcal infused with the sweetly-skunky taste of the hybrid Colorado Chem, grilled orange slices, and strong coffee, sweetened up with raw honey and served in a Collins glass."
This summer, he also suggests sipping, "iced, medicated Vietnamese sugar cane juice" made with THC-infused condensed milk and served with coconut-water ice cubes." These, and 70+ other recipes, are all included in the new book.
He says the benefits of drinking, rather than smoking, cannabis, are fairly clear.
"Smoke is offensive," he says. "That's why cigarettes have been outlawed in so many public places. No one wants to smell it. Why not give someone the ability to medicate in liquid form? Although, as you can imagine, there are differences in the effects. I suggest following a few rules of thumb: never more than one cocktail per hour, and that people use the Thai food principle: you can always get it more spicy, but not less spicy."
What if you get carried away and find yourself feeling sweaty, dizzy, precariously paranoid? Bobrow's got a home remedy for that, too: "chew three peppercorns and drink freshly squeezed lemon juice," he says. "The terpenes mimic those in cannabis, and it counteracts the effects of a too-large dose."
He's relates the story of taking a 30mg coconut cannabis oil capsule before doing a presentation at Disney's already-trippy Epcot Theme Park.
"It didn't affect me, so I took a second capsule. Well, when it hit me and I was in trouble, and I was at Disney. Everything was swirling, and all I was seeing was people walking around with little microphones sticking out of their heads, and they were all looking at me (only they weren't)," he laughs. "It was really uncomfortable. All I could see was the fresh lemonade stand. I got lemonade, went up to a restaurant and asked for peppercorns, and I chewed them. And then I proceeded to have the best day ever."
All this is to say that Bobrow's cannabis cocktails aren't for the faint of heart: he "sometimes gets accused of making drinks that are a little strong."
So exercise caution, he says. "Anyone who picks up this book is looking for an alternative to smoking, I expect them to be experienced."
Order Warren Bobrow's book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations from your local independent retailer, or for $26.95 from Amazon.