When Tony Lemos took the job as lead bartender and innovator at Pop Sushi, he told owner Jimmy Nguyen that he wanted to put CBD-infused mocktails on the menu.
Is that even legal? More importantly, is it safe?
It’s true that there’s still a lot we don’t know about cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, but everything we do seems on the up and up. If you’re reading this magazine, I’m pretty sure you know this already, but THC is the cannabinoid responsible for that funny feeling you get after taking a monster rip from the gravity bong. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, and it contains virtually no traces of its buddy THC when derived from industrial hemp – less than 0.3 percent, to be exact. With CBD, you won’t get that heady feeling (and it probably won’t give you the munchies, either).
People use CBD for all kinds of things, like promoting sound sleep and lessening anxiety. Other uses include reducing inflammation or alleviating aches and pains, and from a medicinal perspective, this stuff is like gold. CBD has proven an effective anti-seizure medication for some children, and it shows promise in treating everything from cancer to neurodegenerative disease. There’s still an incredible need for more research, but it seems like you can’t go wrong by adding a few drops of CBD to your daily life.
Lemos was introduced to the product when he worked at Nectar of the Goddess, a hemp farm in Hesperus. They produce their own full-spectrum CBD oil, and they also developed a few cocktail bitters with the product. The bartender in Lemos was intrigued. He already loved incorporating seasonal, local products into his cocktails, so why not play around with CBD?
Then he read that it might be able to protect the liver and mitigate alcohol damage, and it kind of hit home. He basically grew up in the hospitality industry, and as a bartender, he’s spent a lot of time around alcohol. Liver damage is absolutely a reality in this line of work, so wouldn’t it feel great to serve his customers something that might be able to heal them? Why not go one step further and infuse it into healthy products, like Durango-brewed Solavita Kombucha, or hand-pressed apple cider from Fenceline out in Mancos?
These mocktails would offer people a mindfully crafted, great-tasting, non-alcoholic option that still lets them wind down and relax after a long day. All without a hangover.
I have to say, I didn’t miss the alcohol in these drinks. I loved the way the oil coated the top of the drink, too. The pure CBD oil had a slightly earthy, grassy characteristic, which blended seamlessly with the homemade kaffir lime cordial in the Coco (my favorite mocktail on the list). The flavored CBD bitters were great, too: the spicy mole bitters added the perfect amount of spice to mulled apple cider, and black chai bitters created depth with the cucumber and mint flavors in the Thai Goddess. I did get a slight buzz, but not in an intoxicated way. I felt relaxed and talkative, and I had no problem chatting up the complete stranger sitting next to me at the bar (we’re besties now, btw). It was calm and mellow, and I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.
Although it’s fun to be unique, Lemos hopes more bars will take up the mocktail train, which prompts me to circle back to that first question: are CBD cocktails legal? With the recent federal legalization of hemp, hemp-derived CBD appears to be off the no-fly list, but we all know that new laws come with hiccups. It’ll be a while before we come out of this with a clear understanding of the rules.
CBD is generally well-tolerated, but you should absolutely consume it responsibly. It’s smart to start with a one- or two-drink limit on CBD-infused products.
If you’re interested in experimenting at home, be aware that there are varying degrees of quality when it comes to CBD. Do a little research. I was pretty pleased with the Nectar of the Goddess I tried at Pop Sushi, and I’ll definitely be purchasing one as an early birthday present to myself.