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Spirited Drinks With The Cocktail Whisperer Warren Bobrow

Cocktails and cannabis, together at last.

Published
4 months ago
December 16, 2017 4:00 pm
By Zoe Wilder

Warren “The Cocktail Whisperer” Bobrow has lived many lives. After graduating from Emerson College in ‘85, he worked in television as an editor at PBS in New York City. That position led him to TV and radio engineering in Maine, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Unemployed and poor in Portland, before it was chic to live there, Bobrow took a job as a dishwasher and salad prep cook in a local restaurant, which ignited a passion for the culinary arts.

Shortly thereafter, Bobrow was accepted into culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, where he eventually founded Olde Charleston Pasta, the state’s first manufacturer of fresh pasta. However, Hurricane Hugo destroyed the plant, leading him to explore several professional cooking gigs before beginning a 20-year career in private banking.

While an admirable attempt, the savings and loans world was not for him, so Bobrow returned to New York City to study food writing at the New School University and the French Culinary Institute. He found himself catapulted into a career that, admittedly, he knew nothing about.

“But I was very comfortable doing food, wine and spirits journalism,” shared Bobrow, excitedly.

On this new journalism track, Bobrow took pleasure in interviewing industry professionals, covering his favorite subjects. And in 2016, the tables turned.

“I spent my time interviewing fascinating people, never realizing I was one of them until I pitched my editor with Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks and Buzz-Worthy Libations,” he explained.

Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics is Bobrow’s fourth out of five mixology books, and it explores the world of cannabis-infused cocktails, researches the history of cannabis as a social and medicinal plant, and features a collection of 75 recipes with essential instructions on how to create the beverages successfully.

From sparking herbal infusions to cooling lemonades, morning beverages, afternoon pick-me-ups, after-dinner drinks, mood-enhancing tonics and gut-healing shrubs, the Cocktail Whisperer’s got you covered.

There was nothing else on the market quite like it,” beamed Bobrow. “Cannabis Cocktails is a life form unto itself.”

Constantly delighted by the gifted mixologist’s five books, countless articles, many recipes and genuine good nature, High Times and MagicalButter wanted to know more about what’s inspired his colorful career. Enjoy learning what excites one of the most intriguing members of today’s cannabis world.

High Times: What inspires your craft cocktails?

Warren Bobrow: I got into making craft cocktails by dreaming in flavor. I was already a trained chef, so this flavor thing comes easily to me. And, I love a well-made cocktail… one with balance, without too many ingredients and absolutely made with craft spirits. That is essential. No caramel, no sugar, nothing…

HT: What’s your favorite spirit and why?

WB: I probably like mezcal the most because it’s the most mysterious, and it adapts to many moods. It’s metaphysical and it takes to my special THC infusions with alacrity. There is mysticism in every sip. A close second would be a special bourbon whiskey from a small Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP) and blender by the name of Barrell Whiskey. Their bourbon is precisely why I love fermented spirits. It speaks a language of ancient grains and delightful memories. So the two, mezcal and bourbon. But, don’t get me wrong. I love gin too, especially Barr Hill from Vermont. Distilled from raw honey and local grains, I used their gin extensively in Cannabis Cocktails. It was so easy to work with!

HT: You were working with an alcohol company, but they weren’t too pleased with your affinity for cannabis. What happened?

WB: I wasn’t just working for an alcohol company, I was working for a multinational, global alcohol company. I believe they realized that my own personal Cannabis and Cocktails brand, although yet undiscovered, was a great distraction from their extremely fine products. I have four other books, not focused on cannabis, and I’m proud of the work I did for them in the traditional liquor space. I learned amazing things. This place for my passion took me around the world. It’s an experience I’ll always cherish. I was even given the honor of teaching a “Master Class on Rum” at the Moscow, Russia Bar Show. That changed my life! It’s true that many bartenders smoke cannabis, but I really don’t think that the world is ready for legal cannabis, even with all the attention it’s getting.

HT: Why not?

WB: The license to print money by selling alcohol is too large, and cannabis represents a fear factor. It’s not yet completely understood by big liquor. The company I worked for treated me fairly by letting me find my own way. I have become far more passionate about my craft since leaving and working for myself. It’s much easier to keep my world intact, rather than segmenting it.

HT: What inspired you to begin focusing on cannabis?

WB: In 2013, I wrote Apothecary Cocktails. It was a take on the original snake oil salesman, the apothecary, the person who healed through the use of herbs and spice. It’s folk healing, really. I have a deep family history in this field, and I wanted to pay homage with ingredients that were actually used in folk healing. However, the one ingredient I wanted to use—but wasn’t permitted to use—was cannabis.

America was just not ready yet for cannabis and alcohol, even though that was the preferred method of dispense back in the day. I’ve enjoyed cannabis for many decades. Not being a spring chicken, I can only say the first time was in the early ‘70s. With a smile, I remember the first pot brownie I ever ate. It was in 1971, at a…wait for it… a good ole’ Grateful Dead show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. I’ve only been working with cannabis and alcohol for a couple years. Although, the groundwork for my recipes is much older.

HT: Do you have a favorite strain, grower?

WB: I’m lucky to receive medical cannabis in New Jersey where I live. It’s life-changing. So when I infuse liquors, I use the same genus (sativa or indica) in the infusions, as I enjoy in my Genius Pipe. But, the process is far different in infusing the liquor, which I’ll go into later.

As far as strains go, I love tangy and bitter flavors over sweet. New York Sour Diesel evokes flavors of fuel and lemon zest with bursts of pine sap and crushed minerals. I love that first thing in the morning, a wake-and-bake if you will. Mid-day, I enjoy the use of a hybrid like Bubble Gum from Garden State Dispensary. The aromatics and flavors belie the name, which evokes sweet, but this strain is far from it. I’m also very fond of a strain named Fat Albert, grown up in New England by an extremely talented ‘folk healer.’ This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

HT: What is it that makes the combination of spirits and cannabis so special?

WB: The discovery of a type of technology that kept me from blowing up my apartment building! I used to do my infusions over a double boiler on a hot plate, hardly a technical process. And, my decarbs were awful. The toaster oven wildly fluctuates in temperature. My discovery of the MagicalButter (MB2e) machine was life-changing, and it makes me look like a pro, every single time. From butters to salves to infused craft spirits, these are only a few of the ways that the MB2e has improved my life.

The combination of cannabis with craft spirits is the most intriguing. Since I’m known as the Cocktail Whisperer, it’s my responsibility to create tasty little craft cocktails using the finest ingredients that money can buy and infuse the good stuff into their flavor profiles in a low-key method. In other words, the MB2e makes me look like a pro! Shhh… don’t tell anyone.

HT: Why do you enjoy creating cocktails using the MagicalButter machine?

WB: The simplicity of operation makes for the brilliance in the infusion. The sturdy construction, nearly silent operation, quality materials, immersion blender and heat jacketed chamber make for even heating and absolutely precise infusions. As a cook, I can explain how to use the MB2e to make fantastic soups, stocks and sauces. And, if you want to infuse them, nothing could be simpler and more delicious. Clean up is always a breeze, and the light show is a funky town trip into trippy, smile land.

HT: What’s your favorite infused beverage highlighted in your book, Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations?

WB: My favorite one is the Vietnamese specialty, Nur’ó’c Mía—Iced, Medicated Vietnamese Sugarcane Juice. The MagicalButter Machine comes in handy for the cannabis-infused condensed milk. Plus, the high fat of the condensed milk infuses like a dream. And, I use coconut water ice in the mix, so when the ice starts to melt, the complexity and flavor balance of the cocktail courses through your body with glee. It’s refreshing and lovely but never drink more than one per hour. They creep up on you quickly. Add an ounce or two of non-caramel colored rum when using a more sedative strain for a trip down the lazy river.

HT: Care to share any mixology pro-tips for those who will be recreating your recipes this holiday season? 

WB: Yes! First of all, drink responsibly. It’s the same as responsible cannabis smoking. Safety first. Next, take time to make fresh ice or buy fresh ice from an ice house. Your drinks won’t taste like last week’s garlic pasta that you forgot in the fridge. Ice has a peculiar way of tasting like everything has gone bad in the fridge. Don’t ruin your hard earned money by using bad ice when making my craft spirits recipes. Also, I love to make coconut water ice for rum mint juleps or absinthe frappes, infused with THC of course. I like the world-class absinthe my friend Ted Breaux let me use for Cannabis Cocktails.

HT: How’s the cannabis scene in New Jersey and New York? 

WB: It’s way underground. Sure, there are people doing some amazing things in the cannabis space, like Joe Dolce and Brave New Weed or the Hemponair. Class act there. Not many people will share that they’ve been arrested for smoking in the street. The scene, at least in New York City, is that you smell it all over the place, but it’s still illegal there. People still get arrested for it. In New Jersey, I never ever smell it. Anywhere. There are only 15 or so thousand of us with medical cannabis licenses in New Jersey, so the chance of me smelling the legal stuff in the street is pretty slim. Our local police should have better things to do than arrest people for cannabis, but even with my license, I’m still very careful about smoking outside, even though it’s permitted by law. Try explaining that to a policeman convinced that he’s made his big bust of the day.

HT: Are there any other cannabis companies you’d like to highlight?

WB: Definitely Craft 1861. Also Kurvana. I use an Eyce silicone pipe. They rock! Jane West is amazing. Humphrey’s mini joints with ice water hash. Omg. Humboldt Legends. In my limited scope, these are my passions.

HT: Any big news you’d like to share?

WB: I’ve been chosen to attend and sit on a panel during SXSW alongside Abdullah Saeed of Bong Appétit and Ardent’s Shanel Lindsay. It’s a massive honor, really. From an executive secretary in a bank, a nobody, to SXSW? The event is named “Disruptive Tech in Your Home Cannabis Kitchen.” I’ll be doing a deep dive on my method of complete non-confrontational medicating by making tasty infusions using state-of-the-art technology in the infusion industry. The MagicalButter machine is a part of that discussion. Taking whole decarbed buds and placing them into the MB2E couldn’t be any more precise or simpler—perfect every single time. And, with the cost of cannabis in New Jersey, I want to make sure I don’t fail… ever. I’m supporting myself on my passion.

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