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CBD Takes Its Place Behind The Bar

February 1, 2021

As cannabis legislation moves forward throughout the country, the growing acceptance of cannabidiol (CBD) products is having a big impact on the bar. In markets where marijuana legalization has been passed, bartenders are adding CBD to their cocktail menus, attracting a wide range of consumers—both established recreational users and those who are new to cannabis—to this growing drinks subcategory. CBD is touted for its calming effects, pain relief, and its ability to relieve symptoms of depression, and it’s more widely available because it lacks the psychoactive effect associated with THC-based marijuana products.

Along with listing a CBD-enhanced Old Fashioned on its signature drinks menu, the bar at Fort Lauderdale restaurant Lona Cocina & Tequileria offers a CBD rinse for any drink it serves. Bartenders use approximately 1-ml. of Medterra CBD oil to coat the inside of any cocktail glass before they pour in the drink for an upcharge of $3, and the option has been well received, as has the CBD Old Fashioned ($35), made with Don Julio 70th Anniversary Añejo Tequila, Luxardo Cherry liqueur, Angostura Orange bitters, and Medterra CBD. Lona Cocina & Tequileria general manager Kira Calder says the Old Fashioned appeals mostly to upscale Tequila drinkers, but she adds that a CBD rinse is often requested by younger legal-drinking-age consumers.

“We’ve had a CBD cocktail on our menu for over a year, and the increase in interest has grown quickly over the last six months,” Calder explains. “The oil doesn’t have a taste, so it can be added without changing the flavor profile of a cocktail. When we first introduced the CBD Old Fashioned, guests were intrigued but frequently asked if it would get them high. Now, CBD is more commonplace and there’s a better general understanding.”

In Colorado, a state at the forefront of legalized recreational cannabis, many consumers are well versed on the use of CBD. For Kalinda Reed, the bar manager at coffee and cocktail lounge Pressed in Palisade, Colorado, CBD has become a great conversation starter. “I use CBD behind the bar as much as I can,” Reed says. “We make homemade CBD syrups and add CBD oil directly into cocktails. It’s a great way to educate people about the CBD world.” The bar uses Colorado Biodynamic CBD oil, which is a sister company to Pressed.

“The taste of CBD oil is lowkey and slightly earthy,” Reed adds. “The best way to tone down that flavor is to use citrus, honey, mint, or liqueurs. Any spirit can go with CBD. It’s become a lot more popular in recent years. I hope it continues to grow and become a bigger bar trend.”

Chicago’s Godfrey Hotel also offers guests the option to add CBD to any of its signature and specialty drinks at the IO Rooftop Lounge for a $4 upcharge. The bar uses Dommlife CBD, making its own enhanced simple syrup and putting oil directly into cocktails. The Grapefruit Spritzer ($15), comprising Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit & Rose vodka, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, and lemon and grapefruit juices, topped with Avissi Prosecco, is a popular choice for guests who want a CBD-enhanced drink.

“There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but now guests seem pretty hip to CBD,” says Grant Gedemer, corporate food and beverage director for The Godfrey Hotel Chicago parent company Oxford Hotels & Resorts. “We’ve had CBD cocktails for at least a year now. It’s a popular add-on for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks.”—Laura Pelner

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