Marijuana and alcohol go together like driving fast and rolling down the windows. And especially if you’ve ever made weed butter, infusing liquor with weed is relatively easy to do…as long as you don’t burn your house down. No, seriously—alcohol, and even alcohol fumes, are extremely flammable. Before you even think of making weed-infused cocktails, you should know that you should NEVER infuse liquor over a gas burner or near any other open flame, under any circumstances. Work in a well-ventilated area and do NOT improvise. “Fiery drug death” is not how you want to go down. Use a bit of caution is what I’m saying.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to the fun stuff. You’ll need a microwave, some cheesecloth, and double boiler—which is kind of like a saucepan stacked on top of another saucepan. A cheap candy/deep-frying thermometer is also helpful, to make sure you keep your tincture at the proper temperature (so that too much alcohol doesn’t evaporate off). And if you have a gas stove, you’ll also need a hot plate, or a friend who doesn’t mind you using his or her electric stove. As I just said, liquor is extremely flammable and you should keep it the hell away from uncontrolled fire.
Most experts agree that at this point in the weed-infusion process, you need to decarbolize the pot. I’m not a scientist, so I’m not going to try to explain what decarbing means on a super-technical level, but long story short, it’s a chemistry thing that happens when heat is applied to the dry herb, and it allows all the of amazing, super-fun parts of the THC molecules to bind to the alcohol molecules better. You can heat the weed in a very lowly-lit oven (around 240ºF for up to an hour), but I greatly prefer the microwave method pioneered by Warren Bobrow, the author of the excellent, seminal book Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails, and Tonics.
Microwaving weed to decarb it is not only quicker and easier, it keeps the weed vibrant and green and imparts much less toasty taste. To microwave your weed, simply place whole buds in a microwave-safe bowl with a small microwave-safe plate on top of it. Heat for a minute and a half on high, then flip over and turn the buds. Return to the microwave and repeat two more times, turning between, for a total of three spins in the microwave for a minute and a half each. Then, break the weed into small pieces using your fingers or a weed grinder (available at head shops).
How much weed to use depends on how potent you want your infused liquor to be. I usually use one 1/8-ounce bag of high-grade weed for one 750-milliliter bottle of booze, but you can bring that up or down depending on how you want the liquor to taste, how fucked up you want everyone to get, and—of course—how much of your precious herb you’re willing to drink rather than smoke.
Be warned, however, that once someone has a marijuana-infused cocktail they’re going to want two, or three. So infuse wisely, and drink slowly. Very slowly. Marijuana and alcohol together change the way your body interacts with them, and you might be surprised with how much it effects you—even experienced eaters of edibles say the high is different. To make sure you don’t overindulge, you might not want to drink weed-infused liquor if you’ve already been drinking. And if you aren’t a regular weed smoker (or eater), just have one drink and wait to see how it affects you before you move on.
After you’ve grinded your decarbed weed, it’s infusion time! While some experts recommend buying a whipped-cream maker charged by whip-its and using that to rapidly infuse the booze before you heat it, I’ve found that skipping that weird and expensive step doesn’t seem to make a difference…at least, the pot-infused booze I’ve created without it tasted great and worked on all levels.
Fill the bottom half of the double-boiler halfway with water and heat on the electric stove or hot plate until it starts to boil, at 212ºF. Then turn the heat to low. In the top half of the boiler, pour in the bottle of booze of your choice and add the ground-up, decarbed ganj. Stir and cover. If you have a good stove, you can usually leave it on “warm” or the lowest-possible heat setting and let the liquor gently infuse over the next couple of hours. If you have a testy stove (like me), you’ll have to watch the alcohol carefully to make sure it doesn’t boil, which will start to happen around 170º. (Optimally, you want to keep the liquid in the top of the double boiler at around 150-160ºF.) If it does start to bubble and boil, immediately remove the top pot from the double-boiler and turn the heat off, then turn the heat back on after a few minutes and return the top of the double-boiler to the heat. If your stove doesn’t go low enough, you may need to alternate between turning the heat off and turning it on low every 5-10 minutes. Luckily, a double boiler keeps the heat relatively consistent on the infusion itself, and after 2-3 hours you’ll have a beautiful, herby spirit full of THC goodness.
Pour the infused liquor through some cheesecloth stretched over a funnel and back into its bottle. An eighth of an ounce of weed often imparts more of a yellow tone than green, so you might want to add a drop or two of green food coloring for dramatic effect. (No one will ever know!)
You can really infuse any kind of liquor with marijuana, and it tastes great in any almost cocktail recipe, especially one with herbal notes. Here are a few of my favorites.
Magic Dragon Margarita
Mezcal is my favorite liquor for infusing, and according to a stoner chemist I met at a bar once, it contains the perfect pH and chemical makeup for the marijuana molecule to bond to the mezcal molecule. Science!
2 ounces weed-infused mezcal
1 ounce lime juice
¾ ounce triple sec
½ ounce simple syrup
Lime wheel garnish
Directions: Shake with ice until cold and blended. Strain into double rocks glass rimmed with salt and filled with ice. Garnish with lime wheel and, if you’re feeling generous, extra bud.
Forgotten Last Word
Don’t expect to remember what you just said after drinking this pot-infused twist on the classic Prohibition-era cocktail the Last Word. The weed-infused gin pairs beautifully with green chartreuse, which has a similar herby flavor.
¾ ounce weed-infused gin
¾ ounce green chartreuse
¾ ounce maraschino liqueur
¾ ounce lime juice
Directions: Shake with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass.
During Prohibition, medical whiskey was sold the way medical marijuana is sold in many states today. Whether you have a prescription or not, this cocktail based on Sam Ross’s Penicillin will cure what ails you.
2 ounces weed-infused Irish whiskey
1 ounce honey syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce ginger juice
Lemon wedge garnish
Directions: Shake with ice until cold and blended. Strain into double rocks glass with ice. Garnish with lemon.
Jennifer Boudinot is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Her most recent book, with Dylan March, is The Book of Dangerous Cocktails: Adventurous Recipes for Serious Drinkers (St. Martin’s Press).