Back in 1981 my wife Lisle and I began experimenting with alcohol extracts of Cannabis for medical needs, and created a number of simple recipes using using Cannabis buds and good quality brands of liquor. These recipes later became part of “Marijuana Foods”, published by Simon & Schuster in the early 1980’s. The book is still being published in its original form by Ronin Press in 2017 under a new title. While the language of this old book is outdated, the extract recipes are still valid, and are still a pretty cool way to enjoy Cannabis.
Herbal Marijuana Liqueurs (from Marijuana Foods by Bill Drake 1981)
The delightful taste of sweet sinsemilla can be captured deliciously in any liqueur, but there are several combinations that work like a charm. These delightful little potions are probably among the nicest ways of using Marijuana either medicinally or for sheer pleasure. Preparing a good marijuana liqueur is a two-stage process.
First you must prepare the alcohol extract of marijuana. Vodka makes an excellent base, Scotch is sophisticated, grain alcohol is effective but harsh, blue Agave tequila is a treat, and heavy, dark rum is excellent, particularly 181 proof. Any 60 proof and above alcohol beverage can serve as an extract base, but the more sugary varieties low on alcohol (40-60 proof) do not do as good a job as the higher proof whiskies, rums, tequilas, vodkas and the like.
Decide how potent you want your liqueur to be. A ratio of 1/4 – 1/2 ounce of good buds to 1 quart of alcohol base results in a super effective liqueur. For weaker marijuana, you may have to use an ounce or more of marijuana to a quart of base. If you don’t have homegrown sinsemilla, any other good-tasting, good-smelling marijuana will do. The taste of the marijuana you use in making liqueurs is important, so stay away from musty-smelling marijuana and from wild weed.
To Prepare The Base
Heat the alcohol in a double boiler on an electric burner. Remember, you can’t heat alcohol directly on an electric burner and you can never use a gas burner.
When the alcohol comes to a slow simmer, turn off the heat. If you have a candy thermometer, use it to determine when the alcohol has reached 180 F, and then remove from the heat.
Now add the Buds and let them steep for 30 minutes, then pour the mixture into either a large-capacity Thermos if you have one, or a couple of big canning jars with sealing lids if you don’t.
Add a pinch of powdered Vitamin C ester. Don’t use a crushed Vitamin C pill, but instead use pure crystalline Vitamin C ester available in most health food stores or pharmacies. The Vitamin C helps keep your extract base clear; without it you often get a muddy brown liquid.
Put the cap on loosely until the bottle is fully cooled, then close it tightly and set the jug aside. Let the liqueur mellow for a 24 hours with the marijuana steeping, and then decant the liquid into a fresh, clean jar or bottle, setting the marijuana aside. This will be your Marijuana alcohol extract base, or perhaps your final product.
The marijuana you’ve set aside should not be thrown away. For reasons we haven’t been able to determine, the tincture extraction process just described sometimes absorbs all the potency of the marijuana, while other times it absorbs most but not all of it, and the buds remain potent enough to make quite respectable marijuana butter.
Flavoring The Alcohol Base
After producing the tincture, you can decide whether to make it sweet, to add other flavors, or to leave it as it is. To make an easy, classic sweet liqueur base, take equal parts of honey and water. Heat the water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and stir in the honey. Be discriminating about the honey you use. Many supermarket honeys have little taste and sweetness. That’s because the bees have been fed on sugar and water only – no flowers. Many other honeys may have a taste that works well on toast but is a disaster in blend with the flavors of the food it’s sweetening. Good organic clover, sage, tupelo, or orange blossom honeys are wonderful. By the way, when measuring honey, if you first lightly coat the spoon or cup lightly with a bland oil like grape seed oil the honey will all pour right out.
Extracting Herbal Flavors
Now to think about which herbs to add to the liqueur . . . If you’ve had the pleasure of growing your own herbs, you need no prompting to use fresh herbs in every endeavor. If you don’t have any fresh herbs on hand and want to try a few good marijuana herbal liqueurs right away, there are many flavorings that you can use instead of fresh herbs.
Prepare the herbs for flavoring in the appropriate way. Generally, fresh aromatic leaves are lightly crushed in the fingers, seeds are ground till cracked but not reduced to a powder with a mortar and pestle, peels are lightly bruised with a wooden mallet on a cutting board. Place the herb in a heatproof glass jar and add a pinch of vitamin C.
Then, heat the alcohol as described for the marijuana base, using the same precautions – NO OPEN FLAMES – and pour over the prepared herb till it’s just covered with hot alcohol. Close the jar lightly and let the mixture set for 24 hours in the dark.
After the 24 hour blending period, uncap the alcohol marijuana tincture and add the herbal alcohol tincture, and the sweet syrup if you intend to do so, then re-close the container tightly and let it stand for 10 to 14 days.
Orange, lemon, and grapefruit peels are such wonderful flavoring ingredients. It’s always important to use skins from fruit grown without toxic sprays, and packaged without toxic dyes, because the liqueur-making process will concentrate these chemicals right along with the essential oils and essence of the citrus peel.
Fennel grows wild in many parts of the country, but nowhere so prolifically as in northern California. Marijuana Marin is an appropriate name for this mellow liqueur.
Take 2 tablespoons of sun-dried fennel seed, and crush lightly with a mortar and pestle to release the aroma.
Take the peel of 1/2 orange, preferably a ripe, sweet organically grown Valencia, and slice into 1/4 inch strips.
Bruise with a mallet, but don’t crush.
Put the fennel and orange peel into a jar or Thermos bottle, and sprinkle in a pinch of vitamin C. Cover the contents with warm alcohol, close the jar or Thermos tight, and set aside for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, pour the mixture into the prepared marijuana base (vodka is best), along with honey/water syrup to taste – approximately 1 cup will do for 1 quart of fresh alcohol – and steep for two weeks.
After two weeks, strain off the liquid and store it in a dark bottle in a cool but not cold place. This is a nice dessert liqueur with custards and pies.
Cannabis Creme de Menthe
It’s so easy to grow a little mint, particularly in the spring and summer in a cool, moist place around the house, that it’s hard to imagine anyone who can’t get some nice fresh mint to use in making this fine cordial.
Use 3 tablespoons fresh crushed peppermint or orange mint leaves, 1 tablespoon lightly crushed caraway seeds, and the lightly bruised peel of 1/2 organic orange, cut into 1/4 inch strips. Sprinkle all with a pinch of vitamin C.
Steep in hot alcohol for 24 hours in a closed heatproof jar or thermos, using just enough alcohol to cover the herbs.
After 24 hours, strain off the liquid and discard the fennel seed, the mint, and the peels. Add the liquid to the appropriate amount of marijuana alcohol base (vodka is best), depending on your own taste for the right proportion.
Then add 1 tablespoon fresh crushed mint to the marijuana base mix. Add honey/water syrup to taste, in the ratio of about 1 cup syrup to 1 quart alcohol, then set the whole thing aside to steep for two weeks. Finally, filter out all the flavoring herbs, and store the liqueur in a dark bottle in a cool dark place.
When the Scots gave us Scotch, it’s unlikely that they were thinking about whether or not it makes a good base for marijuana liqueur, but with the right luck in mating marijuana to whiskey blend or, better yet, to the proper taste of malt Scotch whiskey, you can produce a fine liqueur reminiscent of Drambuie, the drink devised by the Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Smell your buds to get an idea of whether you want a light Scotch blend like J&B or a heavy malt whiskey like Glenfiddich. Then make of marijuana base using 1/4 ounce sinsemilla buds and a whole bottle of Scotch whiskey.
Also prepare 2 tablespoons crushed aniseed, sprinkle with a pinch of vitamin C, and cover with warm Scotch, and allow to steep in a closed heatproof jar overnight.
Next day, add 1/2 cup honey syrup, the steeped aniseed and its liqueur to the pint of marijuana base. Steep closed for two weeks, then decant, carefully straining out the tiny aniseed using several layers of cheesecloth.
Store the liqueur in a dark bottle in a cool dark place.
Many people prefer tequila to any other alcohol base for marijuana. Its woody aroma with a suggestion of lemon makes an excellent background for marijuana liqueur.
Take 1/2 ounce of fine buds and pack them into a 1.5 (or so) quart Thermos bottle. Heat 1 quart of good tequila not the cheap stuff, in a double boiler as described earlier, on an electric burner only, and using the same precautions.
Sprinkle a pinch or two of vitamin C over the buds, then pour the hot tequila over them, and close the Thermos. Allow to stand and blend for two weeks.
After two weeks, drain off the emerald aromatic tequila, and store it in a dark bottle in a cool dark place.
Don’t forget – don’t throw away the marijuana. Test a little of it to see if you can make marijuana butter with it.
Lemon Ganja Brandy Liqueur
Brandy also makes a good base for marijuana liqueurs, but it will do a better job of picking up the potency if it is blended half and half with a good vodka.
Make 1 quart marijuana brandy extract using 1/4 ounce sinsemilla buds, 1 pint brandy, and 3 pints vodka. Sprinkle with a pinch of powdered vitamin C. Heat to a low simmer in a double boiler – no open flames.
Add 3/4 cup fresh lemongrass or lemon verbena, lightly crushed. You may substitute the fresh peel of an organic lemon if you want, but the two lemon herbs have a nice subtlety.
Lemon Grass is available at many Asian markets, whereas Verbena can be easily raised indoors or out. Decant into a large Mason jar and allow to cool. Steep for 24 hours, then filter.
Add 3/4 cup honey syrup to the marijuana brandy base. Allow to stand closed for two weeks. Re-filter the liquid and store in a dark place.
Glasnost Chili Liqueur
Pour a quart of Stoly pepper vodka into the top of a double boiler. Add several buds or approximately 1/4 ounce Marijuana, plus a few twists of lemon peel.
Barely simmer over low heat for half an hour (no open flames), then transfer to a thermos and allow to steep for 24 hours.
Decant into a nice bottle, straining out & reserving the Marijuana for butter, and store away from the light. Label the bottle clearly – this is potent stuff!