Non-alcoholic cannabis cocktails are making their way into the culinary mainstream
Story by Christina Campodonico
Photos by Ted Soqui
Can a mocktail give you a buzz?
Chef Matthew Stockard knows it can — with a little THC and some thoughtful preparation.
Executive chef with the catering startup Ganja Eats, Stockard advocates for an alternative way of consuming cannabis that appeals to medical users and high-end consumers alike: infusing it into food and drink.
Since developing a marijuana-infused barbecue sauce about 10 years ago, he’s refined his cannabis cooking techniques and recipes into butters, sauces, preserves, oils, dressings and vinaigrettes designed to complement the flavors of food rather than overpower the senses, as might be the case with smoking pot or nibbling on mystery brownies.
“I just found that my method gives you a nice, slow, mellow high. It’s not a rush. It doesn’t hit you and take you on a rollercoaster ride,” he says. “It’s a nice, steady rise that keeps you mellow for a long time, and then it drops you off at your front door real politely at the end of the night.”
Stockard will be guiding the cannabis-curious through a “Canna-Cocktail” class on Saturday at The Work Bar, an event space in Del Rey.
Using his cannabis-infused simple syrup, he’ll show participants how to make alcohol-free mimosas, mojitos, Arnold Palmers, Adioses and Long Island Iced Teas with buds and fruity additives.
Stockard notes that the aim of the class isn’t to walk away higher than a kite, but to really understand the health benefits of mixing marijuana with food — and, in this case — drink.
“This stuff isn’t for stoners. We’re doing this for medicinal purposes,” he says of his marijuana mocktails, but acknowledges a growing interest among culinary connoisseurs.
West Hollywood vegan restaurant Gracias Madre has been serving cocktails with cannabidiol oils since last year. In February, the Los Angeles Times highlighted eight L.A. chefs offering private cannabis dinners or cooking classes — including Chef Christopher Sayegh (aka The Herbal Chef), who according to Los Angeles Magazine hopes to open L.A. County’s first cannabis café (called Herb) along Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.
Food writer Lesley Balla, a contributor to Zagat and Angeleno magazine, has noticed an “explosion” of cannabis-related culinary events in Los Angeles since California residents voted in November to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 or older.
Legalization “is not only opening the door for chefs and bartenders to play with this new ingredient, I think it’s opening the door for people who maybe haven’t smoked pot ever or in a really long time,” Balla says. “I’ve seen a lot of culinarians getting involved, everywhere from the edible market to holding dinners on private property and special events — all the way to bartenders using cannabis products for their cocktails.”
Tamara Anderson’s Culinary and Cannabis — the forum for cannabis-related food and drink events that’s hosting Chef Matthew’s “canna-cocktail” class — is jumping on that trend, but also espousing the philosophy of marijuana as medicine.
“We’re all about teaching people how to use cannabis outside of smoking,” says Anderson, also a nurse. “We tie in the fun, but you get education at the same time.”
For Anderson, events like this are something of a personal mission. She originally founded Culinary and Cannabis after her son was diagnosed with a rare medical condition and a number of related physical symptoms mitigated by medical marijuana edibles. She delved into research online but struggled to find a platform for talking about marijuana’s culinary capacities and chefs who were doing innovative work with it.
“There was no place to go to find that information,” she says.
Since her son’s death in March and the passage of Proposition 64 in November, Anderson’s redoubled her efforts to publicize the culinary capabilities of cannabis.
“Now, I’m really pushing for people to learn more about it,” she says.
Her company’s series of “Canna-Classes” throughout this summer are one avenue for doing that, she explains — especially since those new to cooking with cannabis may need a light starter or introduction.
“Some people can’t have a whole [cannabis-infused] meal, but they can have a cocktail,” Anderson says.
Jamie Solis, editor-in-chief of the cannabis lifestyle magazine Culture,
said culinary applications for marijuana have been on the rise since California voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and the magazine publishes new recipes each month.
Don’t expect mainstream bars to begin serving cannabis cocktails anytime soon: state law expressly prohibits any business licensed to sell marijuana from also serving alcohol.
But high-end culinary infusions with marijuana, including canna-mocktails, are quickly becoming more mainstream.
“This is not a new trend,” Solis says, “but it will gain more attention and traction as cannabis becomes more normalized — not just in California, but across the nation.”
“Pschedelicatessen with Chef Matthew” happens from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday (July 22) at The Work Bar, 4576 S. Centinela Ave., Del Rey. Tickets are $60 at culinaryandcannabis.com.