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Guide: How to make cannabis drinks at home

The first time I tried a commercial cannabis-infused beverage, many moons ago, it made a lot of promises: fast-acting, consistent and controlled dosing, a euphoric and short-term experience; a bona fide alcohol replacement. If you were also part of this early cohort of weed-drink guinea pigs, you’d agree that these lofty marketing promises were not met. 

Sure, the liquid carrier may have led to a faster onset, if the formula had been properly incorporated, and I might have been inclined to put down a beer if I could expect a consistent buzz. But more often than not, I ended up with a mouth coated in oil droplets and sediment that didn’t really make me feel anything. 

Thankfully, legalization and scientific application have made it easy these days to infuse everything, from seltzer water to coffee to fake beer, with the cannabinoids of your choosing.

While the options are abundant, canna beverages are beholden to state regulations. Many brands consider a can or bottle to be a single dose, so they usually max out at 10 mg, and often go lower to ensure consumers aren’t overwhelmed. After all, a drink or edible high and a smoking high vary greatly. 

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Which cannabis-infused beverage is right for you?

But what if you want a beverage based on a specific strain, or flavors not yet found on shelves? Plenty of people still make edibles at home to better control the experience they want to have. A cannabis drink shouldn’t be any different, so we asked the experts on two different methods.

How to make a cannabis simple syrup

Maybe you’ve got a soiree to host or want to try a different kind of cocktail experience after a pandemic that catalyzed an increase in drinking at home across the US. 

Jamie Evans, also known as the Herb Somm, has been exploring the intersection of cannabis, wine, and fine dining since 2017. Evans worked for years in the wine industry before recognizing the parallels of wine pairings and profile evaluation with weed, and has even launched her own alcohol-free cannabis wine, Herbacée.

Jamie Evans Herb Somm Landscape (photo credit Chris Greenwell) (4) (2)
(Courtesy of Chris Greenwell Photography)

“As I started learning about cannabis, I started seeing that there are so many similarities, and we can approach cannabis from a gourmet angle, thinking about flavors, aromas, and how you can incorporate it into a meal,” she told Leafly. “A lot of times you’re seeing these commercial bevs, and you don’t get to pick. At home, it caters to what you need.”

Evans’ favorite method, by far, is infusing drink staples like bitters and simple syrup, which she recommends making from cannabis flower. This not only incorporates into most drinks without texture or taste issues, but also gives you, the amateur mixologist, the power to make a drink tailored to your preference. A Mimosa-infused mimosa, anyone? 

“You can infuse bitters, simple syrup, things we normally combine into a cocktail, and tie them into a drink pretty seamlessly. It takes a lot of experimentation,” she said. But don’t worry: “Once you know the techniques, it gets simple.”

Adding a commercially-made cannabis beverage to a tried-and-true recipe is easy, but you might not live in a state with a market for them. Adding a tincture dose or dehydrated cannabinoid isolate to your drink means you know exactly how much you’re getting, but the formula may disrupt the drink’s texture and taste. And with isolates, you don’t get the entourage effect. Evans recommends drinks that can be blended or shaken if you go this route, like smoothies. 

front cover of Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home
(Courtesy Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group)

Her new book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, breaks down some additional methods of cannabis infusion in any beverage of your choosing. Each method has its pros and cons, and readers will find some better than others depending on the kind of drink they want to shake, stir, or muddle up.

Cannabis-infused simple syrup recipe

Depending on your preferences, this recipe can be modified with other ingredients of your choice. Evans recommends using mid-grade cannabis flower to start, so you aren’t shelling out $60 an eighth in case there’s a kitchen snafu. These infusions can last for months. This is adapted from a recipe by Jamie Evans.    

Yield: about 15 to 16 ounces (465 to 480 ml)

Target Dose: 16 mg CBD | 4 mg THC per ounce (using a flower infusion)

Equipment

  • Digital scale
  • Peeler
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Small saucepan
  • Thermometer
  • One 16-ounce (480-ml) sterilized Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Fine-mesh strainer

Ingredients

  • 3 grams decarboxylated flower of your choice
  • 2 cups (480 ml) water
  • 1 cup (340 g) honey
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) food-grade vegetable glycerin

Directions

Step 1: Prep

Weigh out 3 grams of decarboxylated flower. Decarboxylating your flower involves exposing it to controlled heat in order to activate the THC and other cannabinoids and impart the desired euphoric effects. Set aside. 

Step 2: Boil liquids

Combine the water and honey in a small saucepan. Bring to a soft boil, stirring until the honey dissolves into the water. 

Step 3: Mix together

Reduce the heat to around 160°F to 180°F (71°C to 82°C) and add the decarboxylated cannabis.

Step 4: Infuse the cannabis

Simmer over low heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and add the vegetable glycerin—this will give the CBD and THC something to bind to. Continue to heat and stir for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Step 5: Strain and start mixing!

Pour the infused simple syrup into a 16-ounce (480-ml) mason jar, through a cheesecloth placed in a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids. Let cool. This syrup can now be added to any cocktail or mocktail of your choice. 

Seems simple (wink, wink) enough, right? Evans also shares two recipes with Leafly from her book for summertime sipping, below. One of these does call for alcohol, which not everyone may want to mix with cannabis, but it can easily be made as a mocktail. As with other intoxicating substances, Evans says the rule of thumb is “start low and go slow.”

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Infuse These 5 ‘Mocktail’ Recipes With Cannabis Tinctures

How to make a cannabis emulsion

One of the first things you learn in high school chemistry class is that oil and water don’t mix, at least not without some scientific intervention. An emulsion is a liquid concoction that combines water and an oil, which are bound together by an emulsifier to stabilize the mixture. Some popular emulsifiers include soy lecithin, eggs, and mustard, but don’t worry, there are no eggs in these drinks. 

Vertosa harold han lab
Turn your kitchen into a laboratory with this emulsion recipe. (Courtesy Vertosa)

Dr. Harold Han, President and Chief Science Office of Bay Area-based emulsion infusion company Vertosa, says that despite how complicated it may seem, anyone with the right equipment, patience, and a healthy serving of curiosity can make an emulsion at home. He didn’t try cannabis until he was 30 years old, but the shift in his perception was immediate. With a PhD in emulsion chemistry, Han helped found Vertosa to ease consumer access to and appreciation for cannabis beyond fearmongering and enduring stigma.

“As a consumer, if you have some interest or chemistry background and you have some equipment and emulsifiers, you can definitely make a homebrew or home emulsion that you can put into your beer or coffee. I actually encourage people to try it, because it’s fun,” said Han.

In addition to producing emulsion formulas for dozens of cannabis companies across the US and Canada, Han breaks down how he and his team at Vertosa turn weed into wine (or coffee or gummies or soda) on the Vertosa YouTube channel. Essentially, an emulsion requires a basic understanding of chemistry (the ingredients and how they interact) and physics (the energy needed to sustain that interaction).

(Via Youtube)

While the emulsion method requires some investment and practice, it’s one of the quickest ways to infuse your favorite water-based drink with a controlled dose of cannabis. 

Cannabis emulsion recipe

Ingredients and equipment

  • High-speed mixer 
  • Food-grade emulsifier (like polysorbate)
  • Oil-based cannabis tincture
  • Water

Directions

Different emulsifiers will call for different amounts in your emulsion, but Han says it really is as easy as mixing the water, oil, and emulsifier together, throwing them into a high-speed mixer or sonicator (a machine that uses ultrasonic vibrations), and mixing until you reach the consistency you want. 

Keep in mind this is a highly perishable product, and you may need to remix it between uses as it can separate. It also might not gel well with your beverage of choice, but half the fun is finding that out.

Spicy melon margarita cannabis drink recipe

Spicy Melon Margarita (photo credit Colleen Eversman for Cannabis Drinks)
The Spicy Melon Margarita of your dreams. (Courtesy Colleen Eversman for Cannabis Drinks)

Recipe by Jamie Evans, The Herb Somm, featured in her latest book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home (published by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group)

Yield: 1 Drink

Equipment

  • Blender or food processor
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • One 8-ounce (240-ml) sterilized Mason jar
  • Saucer
  • Citrus juicer
  • Old-fashioned glass
  • Shaker tin
  • Jigger
  • Hawthorne strainer

Ingredients

  • Watermelon Juice
  • 1/2 small seedless watermelon

Chili Salt Rim

  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder or standard chili powder
  • 1 lime wedge

Spicy Melon Margarita 

  • 3 ounces (89 ml) watermelon juice, pulp removed
  • 1 1/4 ounce (38 ml) fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) Infused Rich Simple Syrup (page 89 in Cannabis Drinks book, or use the recipe above)
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) tequila blanco
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) mezcal
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aperol
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced into rounds (set 1 slice aside for garnish)
  • Ice
  • Jalapeño or lime round, for garnish

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the watermelon juice 

Place the watermelon flesh into a blender or food processor and purée for 1 minute or until the watermelon chunks

turn into juice. 

Step 2: Strain

Using a fine-mesh strainer, separate the pulp from the juice over an 8-ounce (240-ml) Mason jar. Discard the pulp and set the jar aside.

Step 3: The chili rim 

Combine the salt and chili powder in a shallow saucer. Rim the glass with a lime wedge, then dip the glass into the salt mixture. If you have Tajín on hand, this works great, too!

Step 4: Bring it all together

Add all the ingredients into a shaker tin, including 3 ounces (90 ml) of watermelon juice and the jalapeños.

Step 5: Shake

Add ice, cover, then shake for 25 seconds. 

Step 6: Pour 

Fine strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with jalapeño rounds or a lime wheel.

Ginger Rabbit cannabis drink recipe

Ginger Rabbit - Cannabis Drinks
Get your herbs and veggies with the Ginger Rabbit. (Courtesy Colleen Eversman for Cannabis Drinks)

Recipe by Jamie Evans, The Herb Somm, featured in her latest book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home (published by Fair Winds Press of Quarto Publishing Group)

Yield: 1 serving

Target Dose: 8 mg CBD | 2 mg THC per drink (using Infused Ginger Simple Syrup, find the recipe in the book) or your preferred dose (using a commercially made CBD or THC tincture of your choice, see note below)

Equipment

  • Muddler
  • Shaker tin
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • Collins glass
  • Bar spoon
  • Reusable straw

Ingredients

  • 1 (1-inch or 2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) fresh-pressed apple juice
  • 4 ounces (118 ml) fresh-pressed carrot juice
  • 1½ ounces (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce (15 ml) Infused Ginger Simple Syrup (find the recipe in the book)
  • Ice
  • Splash of ginger beer (Q recommended, see note)
  • Carrot greens, edible flowers, and a slice of lemon, for garnish

Directions

Step 1:

Muddle the ginger and apple juice at the bottom of a shaker tin. Muddle well to extract as much ginger flavor as possible. 

Step 2:

Add the carrot juice, lemon juice, infused ginger simple syrup, and ice. Cover then shake for 15 seconds or until very cold.

Step 3:

Using a fine-mesh strainer, separate the solids from the liquids over a Collins glass filled three-quarters with fresh ice. Top with a splash of ginger beer, give it a good stir with a bar spoon, then garish with a sprig of carrot greens, edible flowers, and a slice of lemon.  

Amelia Williams's Bio Image
Amelia Williams

New York-based freelance cannabis journalist Amelia Williams is a graduate of San Francisco State University's journalism program, and a former budtender. Williams has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle's GreenState, MG Magazine, Culture Magazine, and Cannabis Now, Kirkus Reviews, and The Bold Italic.

View Amelia Williams's articles