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THC/CBD Infused Beverages: The Basics

There’s an art to crafting delicious drinks for your friends, clients or family. When it comes to creating cannabis-infused beverages, mixologists such as my self are tasked with a heightened challenge of inviting an ensemble of phytocannabinoids and terpenes to enhance the profile of the drink. While working with these confusing ingredients, you may seem intimidating at first, but once you learn the basics your well on your way to easily master mixing up your own cannabis-infused drinks at home.

Techniques for Integrating CBD or THC Oil into Drinks

When creating cannabis-infused drinks at home, one primary goal is making sure the CBD or THC that you integrate into the beverage doesn’t separate out from the rest of the ingredients that you’re working with. Combining oil with liquids can be extremely challenging, however, there are a few techniques you can use to create the most well-balanced drinks possible. Similar to cooking, these emulsification techniques allow you to combine unlikely ingredients to prevent separation. Here are a few common ways to integrate CBD or THC oils into your beverages.

If you’re planning on making a cannabis-infused smoothie, shake, or cocktail, blending is a fantastic way to integrate infused ingredients into your drinks. By blending, the machine does the work for you, breaking apart the CBD or THC oil droplets so they mix into the other liquids and ingredients seamlessly.
Hand mixing via a whisk or stirring using a mixing glass and a bar spoon is another technique you can use to emulsify ingredients together. While not as efficient as using a blender, if you thoroughly mix or stir the ingredients together, you can temporarily emulsify the oil drops into the drink. I’ve found it’s best to mix or stir drinks for about 1 minute to properly combine.
When using CBD or THC oil in a drink, another technique you can use is muddling. Muddling works best when you combine cannabis oil with different fruits or herbs, simple syrup or juice at the bottom of a glass, and then apply pressure with a muddler to muddle/emulsify the ingredients together. This technique also releases the flavors of the fresh ingredients that you’re working with, allowing the muddled mixture to bind with your liquid ingredients more easily. If you use this technique in a shaker tin,
be aware that you’ll encounter some loss of cannabinoids after straining the liquids from the solids, but overall it’s a good method for combining the ingredients.
Using a cocktail shaker tin to integrate CBD and THC is another technique you can use when crafting cannabis beverages at home. This works best for drinks that include fruit juices and citrus, plus other “cloudy” ingredients such as egg whites and dairy. Remember, the more you vigorously shake, the better the CBD or THC will mix into the other liquids. If you’re using an oil, separation will occur over time, but you can easily re-emulsify by putting the drink back into your shaker tin and vigorously shaking once again.
WARNING: Never put carbonated ingredients, such as club soda or sparkling water, into the shaker tin! If you do, it could explode and you’ll have a big mess to clean up

Creating Your Infused Bar Pantry

There are a number of ways to get cannabis into your drinks. No matter which you choose, it is vital that it is decarboxylated (‘decarb,’ for short). This is because the active compounds in marijuana only become active with heat, which is why smoking is so effective.

Tip: Decarbing is easy and can be done in your kitchen. It is, however, a pungent process and if you are concerned about neighbors or visitors, you will need to take precautions.

With decarbed cannabis, you can create a variety of liquid mixers to go into your drinks:

thc infused drink
  • Cannabis infused liquors. Created similar to other homemade infusions, but with heat. Bobrow has tips for the process and recommendations for strain-liquor pairings in his book.
  • Canna butter, cream, or syrup. Quick ways to drink your medicine in any beverage. Adding lecithin helps your body absorb the cannabis compounds more quickly.
  • Cannabis tinctures. These concentrated liquids are popular among medical marijuana patients though they can be very strong. A single drop is often all that is needed for a drink. 
  • Cannabis bitters. Just like the bitters we use often in the bar, these too are very concentrated and a few dashes go a long way.

Tips For Starting Your Cannabis-Infused Drink Experience

The real problem with drinking cannabis, even if it’s not mixed with alcohol, is that there are so many variables. Your body, the strain of marijuana, and the potency of the drink itself will become key factors. No one can tell you how this drink or that drink is going to affect you. The unpredictability of drinking cannabis drinks leads to a few precautions:

  • When beginning to experiment, do so in a safe environment such as your home just in case you do get too high. Do not drive, it’s just not cool (or legal).
  • Start with non-alcoholic drinks and small dosages of cannabis-infused ingredients such as tinctures, syrups, and creamers.
  • Wait! Just like edibles, your stomach needs to absorb the cannabis compounds, so don’t think that you need a second drink after 15 or 30 minutes. Practice patience.
  • Limit how many cannabis drinks you have each day. Playing it safe and sticking with a single infused drink per night to start off your journey.

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