A DIY guide to cannabis cocktails with bartender Shane Gifford
Eating & Drinking

A DIY guide to cannabis cocktails with bartender Shane Gifford

Cannabis beverages are on the market, available in cans or jars just like beer and pop. But there’s also an artisanal approach. In this article one local bartender shares recipes and tips on stirring some cannabis into your cocktails — or afternoon tea.

For some people curious about cannabis, the act of smoking is a deterrent. So one of the attractions of cannabis edibles, including drinks, is the lack of inhaling smoke. The effects of edibles tend to take a while to kick in, whereas cannabis-infused drinks tend to hit slightly faster. But the dosage can be controlled easily, and when cocktail party circuits return, weed drinks offer an alternative.

Health Canada finalized the rules around the legal sale of cannabis edibles in October 2019, and there are now plenty of new options for cannabis consumption on the market. But the Cannabis Act prohibits the sale of products combining weed with alcohol, so don’t expect to see these on a cocktail menu anytime soon. However, the door is open to anyone looking to hone their bartending and bud-tending skills at home.

Photos by Remi Theriault

The main ingredients in cannabis are fat soluble, so oils are an easy way to add them to a beverage. There are commercially made products with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC — the compound that gets you high) as well as cannabidiol (CBD — the non-intoxicating compound). Combining cannabis and alcohol can intensify the effects of both, so if you’ve never tried a cannabis product, it’s best to try it on its own first. With or without booze, the “start low and go slow” dosage rule is a good one to follow to keep things safe and fun. Remember, you may not feel the effects of a cannabis drink immediately.

Shane Gifford has been bartending in Halifax and Ottawa for over a decade, including at vegan eatery Jabberwocky. He’s been playing with cannabis infusions at home for most of that time and finds adding cannabis to his cocktails gives drinks “a heavier weight,” adding another dimension to both the flavour and the experience that follows. Gifford also sees it as a more approachable avenue to cannabis use. “There are fewer surprises with one drop [of oil] compared to one hit or one toke,” he says.

Gifford suggests using CBD oils that have a “grounding” effect. He tends to gravitate to cocktails with sativa oils, the strain of plant thought to have uplifting effects and a “cerebral” high, while the other, indica, is associated with relaxation and a body high — “in da couch” he reminds me with a laugh.

Gifford’s Industry Sour, left, and his cannabis take on the Bee’s Knees cocktail, right. Photos by Remi Theriault

For a non-alcoholic experience, Gifford likes to keep it simple: a cup of tea with a couple drops of a CBD oil or a teaspoon of weed honey. When it comes to cocktails, he suggests choosing liquors that pair well with the earthiness of most cannabis products. For example, in the Industry Sour, the herbaceous notes in Fernet Branca and Chartreuse layer nicely with sativa oil, while the Bee’s Knees recipe replaces regular honey for weed honey in the classic cocktail.


Industry Sour
This is like a bartender’s handshake — Fernet is a favourite ingredient among bartenders.
Ingredients: 1 ounce Green Chartreuse | 1 ounce Frenet Branca | 1 ounce lime juice | 1 ounce simple syrup | 2-3 drops sativa-dominant oil | weed leaf to garnish
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe. Float a couple of drops of Sativa oil on top and garnish with weed leaf

Bee’s Knees
Bee’s Knees is a classic cocktail with only three ingredients. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, Gifford suggests infusing your gin with cannabis too.
Ingredients: 1/2 ounce weed honey | 1 ounce lemon juice | 2 ounces gin
Method: Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe.