The second installment of Bong Appetit—a new MUNCHIES show exploring the intersection of cannabis and cuisine—follows leading Los Angeles mixologist Daniel K. Nelson as he hosts a high-end cannabis cocktail party in his Hollywood apartment. Nelson has designed the bar menu for several top Los Angeles watering holes, including the Writer's Room and his current venture, The Black Cat, but he first came to the Weed Eater's attention back in 2012, when he prepared the cocktails at a legendary weed dinner hosted by chefs Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen and Laurent Quenioux of Bistro LQ that made headlines, from High Times to the Los Angeles Times.
For that highly auspicious occasion, as in this new video, Nelson made use of a nitrous-powered whipped-cream charger to quickly infuse the essence of marijuana into various kinds of liquor, then heated the infused contents in a double-boiler to activate the plant's psychoactive compounds—a technique that yields a tasty Green Dragon (a slang term for any THC-infused alcohol) in an hour, revolutionizing a process that previously involved up to a month of steeping, and even then typically produced a liquor so low in potency that imbibers generally ended up way too drunk before they got even a little stoned. That's because, while marijuana's "active" ingredients bind easily to fats and lipids (like butter!), they don't connect nearly as easily with alcohol, so high pressure from the nitrous is used to rapidly accelerate this binding process by agitating the booze and weed on a microscopic level, making for a quick fix that's also much easier to accurately dose.
And to whom do we owe thanks for this game-changing innovation? Well, the nitrous-powered technique for infusing flavors into alcohol was originally devised by Dave Arnold of The International Culinary Center back in 2010, and then, very shortly after, legendary New York bartender Don Lee tried it on weed with highly positive results.
"I've never actually served it in a bar, its just not worth taking that risk, but if you go out partying with a bunch of bartenders, and one of them hands you a flask, you know it's going to be something special," Lee tells the Weed Eater." And so the nitrous-powered Green Dragon became this thing that I would carry around in a flask to share with other bartenders. They'd usually want to know how to do the technique, and it just kind of spread by word of mouth."
At least until 2013, when Popular Science published a feature on the growing trend. Lee used a pseudonym for that story, but now says he's ready to come out of the cannabis closet. In fact, after plying his trade at PDT, Momofuku, and many other leading mixology hotspots, not to mention popularizing "fat washing"—a technique that's been used by perfumers for over a 100 years—as a way to get the taste of everything from bacon to sesame oil into booze, Lee has graciously agreed to push the cannabis cocktail conversation even further by creating three strain-specific original libations using the distinctly different flavors of three of his personal favorite marijuana varieties.
For just as a Green Apple Martini calls for a specific varietal of that decidedly heterogeneous fruit, Lee has now made the first serious attempt The Weed Eater knows about to do the same for marijuana-infused cocktails. So see below for those amazing concoctions, including Lee's extensive tasting notes. Meanwhile, by dividing marijuana into generally piney, citrus, and skunk aromas, and then concocting a drink to fit each category, he's given us all a sensible place to start experimenting—no matter what kind of herb you've got on hand.
Just follow your nose! But also be careful when blending together these two potent intoxicants.
"Combining alcohol and marijuana tends to amplify the effects of both," Lee warns. "So no driving, and definitely don't operate any heavy machinery!"
STRAIN SPECIFIC CANNABIS COCKTAILS
OG Kush (Hybrid)
Tasting Notes: Pine, Woody, Vegetal
Pairing Spirit: Gin
The Last Word is a classic cocktail, reportedly developed during Prohibition by clandestine bartenders working at the Detroit Athletic Club. Nowadays, there's a bartender up in Seattle who does a gin infusion where he adds a small amount of chartreuse to it to round out the vegetal taste, so this seemed like a really great way to bring all of those flavors together with the OG Kush, which has a super piney—almost resiny—note to it. OG Kush also has a very vegetal note, so that works really well with gin, because Juniper also has piney notes.
Tasting Notes: Tropical Fruits, Berries, Candy
Pairing Spirit: Rum
Skywalker is definitely the least well-known of the three strains I chose to work with, but it's a wonderfully tropical and fruity variety that's almost got a candy-like sweetness. I taste mango, papaya, and pineapple in those buds—all flavors that make me think of sugar cane, which is what rum is made from, so I thought let's go with a hand-shaken daiquiri. But keep in mind, there's still going to be a vegetal component in any weed infusion, and so if I did this infusion into a white rum, that would be too noticeable. Therefore, to hide that flavor, I chose a fairly rare rum that's actually distilled from pineapples, so it's got this super pineapple-y, tropical note that will play perfectly with the Skywalker strain. I also decided on a hand shaken daiquiri, not a frozen daiquiri, so you can really taste all the components.
Sour Diesel (Sativa)
Tasting Notes: Skunk, Chemical, Gasoline Fumes
Pairing Spirit: (Peaty) Scotch
When I think of the primary aromas you get out of marijuana, we've already used the tropical notes with the Skywalker and the piney/woody notes with the OG Kush, and so the last really strong smell I find with weed is that super skunk aroma, which I associate with Sour Diesel. It certainly sounds negative when you describe it as skunky, chemically, or like gasoline fumes, but that is the smell of Sour Diesel, which is of course also where it gets its name. So again, in trying to play up those flavors—instead of hiding them—I thought of a peaty Scotch like the Talisker ten year that's not too smoky, but has a strong amount of peat. And I thought that kind of ocean-like taste would pair really well with the skunkiness of the Sour Diesel. Also, keep in mind, with any weed infusion you're going to be introducing some bitterness, because it is a plant and you're releasing its chlorophyll, which is bitter. It doesn't really work well in an application that's too spirit-forward, so if you wanted to use this Sour Diesel infused scotch in a kind of Old Fashioned format, you'd really have to bump up the sugar content to counteract that bitterness. Rather than do that, I thought it would make more sense to round the infused scotch out with a really sweet vermouth that also has a rich vegetal backbone that will play well off that bitterness. The result, as they say, is greater than the sum of its parts.