Alcoholism runs deep in both sides of my family. To prevent possibly continuing those patterns as I get older, I’ve become more interested in exploring other options for social drinking; Alcohol-free wines and spirits have become significantly more accessible in recent years, and cannabis-based mocktails is one of the most interesting trends in this space. Picture a zero-proof drink with all the layers of flavor we’ve come to love in a cocktail, but with a THC and/or CBD mixture that can be customized for the exact high you’d like to experience.
While this trend is spreading, conversations around race and cannabis need to remain at the forefront of this movement. With Black cannabis entrepreneurs accounting for less than 2% of businesses in this multi-billion dollar industry, the politics around all things cannabis still live in the shadow of the effects of DARE (an anti-drug program that was very popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s that also helped to push the criminalization and stigmatization of recreational cannabis to children), the Reagan-era’s war on drugs, as well as a longer legacy of racism in the United States. Here are some POC-owned cannabis businesses offering beverages based in equity and education:
Rose Mary Jane (Oakland, CA)
The first cannabis mocktail I ever tried was in Rose Mary Jane, a Black woman-owned, equity-owned canna-bar and lounge in Oakland, California. This location is also a community event center and a dispensary for cannabis products, with a focus on local producers such as Maat Apothecary (their spiced honey is a favorite of mine) and New Life, a flower hybrid that’s ideal for being social and adventurous. In the near future, Rose Mary Jane’s team plans to host classes for people interested in all things cannabis.
“We have the consumer choose the kind of feeling they want to have, like calm, creative, relaxed, [or] adventurous, and create a cannabis mocktail designed for them”, says general manager Sway, who goes by their first name only. “Like if you want to go for a walk around Lake Merritt, we can make a great creative mocktail to stimulate your mind and help you explore.”
Rose Mary Jane also carries a number of ready-to-drink THC and CBD beverages, some of which make their way into mocktails that guests can order on-site. Using the THC Orange & Cream soda from Mary Jones, almond milk, and a few other ingredients, the team creates a THC creamsicle mocktail for their customers. Plus, they have over 70 RTD options for customers on their website.
Drip BK (Brooklyn, NY)
On the other side of the country, a Brooklyn-based, cannabis speakeasy is a local treasure for those who know where to look. Mitchell Senat is the owner of Drip BK, a cute and casual cafe that offers beverages, pastries, and a little taste of Haiti, and also owns Gravity BK, a space-meets-Caribbean themed canna-speakeasy tucked away on the same premises.
Think of Drip BK as the Clark Kent to Gravity BK’s Batman. You don’t need to know a special knock or password to enter this cannabis-focused speakeasy — all you need to do is message Gravity BK on Instagram and ask for an application to become a member of the speakeasy, follow the instructions on the application, send it back, and wait for your results.
Inspired by his experience in the underground cannabis scene in Barcelona, Senat brings the secrecy, intimacy, and communal foundation of what he encountered there to Brooklyn’s Little Haiti. He also incorporates his admiration for Jamaica’s rich history around cannabis into the design of Gravity BK.. Three of Gravity BK’s most popular mocktails include the Purple Rain, the Passion Fruit Mojito, and Higher Level Tea, all of which feature citrus-forward terpenes. Terpenes are chemical compounds found in all plants, and a few animals, that affect the taste and smell of the plant. In cannabis, terpenes can make specific strains taste fruity, savory, chocolatey — the options are endless.
Haejin Chun is the chef and founder of Big Bad Wolf, the cannabis consultant for Food Network’s CHOPPED 420 (a spin-off of the popular cooking competition show CHOPPED, but focused on cannabis-infused cuisine), one of the creatives behind Big Bad Queens, a private women’s supper club, and so much more. Chun shared how cannabis history in Asia dates back, at least, 1800 years, the stigma against the plant permeates through many Asian and Asian American families, including her own. Through her work, Chun strives to reclaim her community’s pride in the art of cannabis. “I tend to gravitate using asian ingredients in all my beverages: like teas, other herbs, and fruits like lychee, mango, persimmons, and pomelo”, says Chun. Some of her favorite creations include Ginseng-Ginger mocktails, infused honey-boba matcha latte, and her Kimchi margaritas. San Fran-based readers, you’re welcome in advance. To support Chun’s work, follow her on Instagram at @BIGBADWOLFSF and @BIGBADQUEENS, and keep an eye out for her new cookbook in fall 2023!.
Chef Solomon Johnson is a bicoastal cannabis chef whose career rocketed into prominence after winning his episode of CHOPPED 420 on the Food Network. Since then, Johnson has written and self-published a cookbook (Swoop The Kitchen) which will be on shelves by September 2023 and is available for pre-order. His most popular CBD mocktail is his Adult Strawberry Lemonade, complete with fresh strawberries and ginger beer.
Even with this recognition within the industry, the reality for Johnson and countless other Black and brown cannabis enthusiasts, is that having cannabis is only punishable if you look a certain way.
“I have been wrongfully jailed and released for small amounts of cannabis in my neighborhood,” says Johnson. “I’ve been pulled out of my car in the middle of the day by police, handcuffed, and placed face down in oncoming traffic while cops tear my car apart, only to find ashes and a grinder. It’s embarrassing and frightening, and my story is not uncommon for other Black and brown people.”
We’ve all heard the phrase “drink responsibly” before, usually in reference to preventing people from drinking and driving, but I want to challenge all of us to expand its connotation. When it comes to drinking cannabis spirits, being intentional about where you spend your money and give your support is crucial. All marginalized people within the cannabis industry, especially Black people, are fighting institutional and societal roadblocks to get their products to the public and share their work. In this time where the politics behind what we eat and drink are unfiltered and center stage, you have officially been implored to drink responsibly. (Full Story)