Adding CBD to food and drinks isn't exactly groundbreaking anymore, but you might be surprised during a trip to the liquor store for cocktail ingredients. A Colorado bitters company, Strongwater, has been stocking liquor stores and bars with CBD bitters for over a year now, and the brand's main potion peddler thinks young people will find a new use for it as they drink less alcohol compared to older generations.
Strongwater sales director Alexandra Kayir thinks consumers should view bitters more like vanilla extract, adding the alcohol-based liquid to seltzer water and coffee just as much as booze. However, she's done a good job of getting the liquor industry to embrace the concept, too, with Argonaut Liquor, Molly's Spirits and Total Beverage all selling the CBD bitters, and restaurants such as El Five, Linger, Root Down, Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, Steuben's, Ace Eat Serve, Señor Bear and Secret Sauce using it in their cocktails upon request. We caught up with Kayir to learn more about the use and acceptance of CBD bitters.
Westword: Why shift to CBD in your beverage line?
Alexandra Kayir: The CBD line was something we'd been interested in for a while. It was becoming more accepted statewide, and a lot of people had been interested. But rather than having a product that seems contrived — do you really need CBD popcorn? — what set us apart was having a cocktail mixer that's water-soluble. Most of the similar products are oil-based and float in your drink like little droplets. We think we're the first to come out with CBD bitters and cocktail mixers. It doesn't cloud, it doesn't separate, and most important, it doesn't taste like crap.
Why do you think consumers would want to add CBD to their drinking experiences? Is this a mental or physical addition that you're aiming for?
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Most people who go to bars are socializing and want to try something new, so we're giving them an opportunity to do that. Where I get most excited, though, is seeing it offered in non-alcoholic cocktails. Some people want to relax or unwind without alcohol, so they're getting creative with mocktails, like maybe a Topo Chico with some fresh fruit and CBD bitters. If you go to El Five, they'll make you a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned, where they steep a really strong iced tea and add our bitters to the Old Fashioned syrup. I think people are using it to unwind, just like alcohol, and going non-alcoholic is a growing trend as people start avoiding alcohol more.
You can certainly mix them together, or maybe it's one or the other. There's no fear of overdosing on CBD, but we suggest a lower dosage, because alcohol is already a sedative as it is. A 50-milligram CBD cocktail does seem a little dangerous. But I'm seeing people picking up on a non-alcoholic option with CBD bitters.
Yes, the bitters are alcohol-based, but the amount you're putting in per serving has less alcohol than a fermented kombucha when using a half-teaspoon as suggested. The suggested amount is fairly low, so mixing it with alcohol might have more relaxing and anti-anxiety benefits. You might have a bit more magnified effect.
What kind of drinks do you make with these? Are they traditional drinks with a CBD take, or anything new?
We have five total flavors: tasteless natural, which is the most versatile and won't affect your drink's flavor. We have orange, which is great for margaritas, martinis and any of the classic whiskey cocktails. We also have an aromatic flavor, which is based on our signature blend. It has cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, sassafras and allspice. That's great for an Old Fashioned, Manhattans, tiki drinks and any of the classics.
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We also have a bourbon cherry, which is made with Kentucky bourbon and Colorado cherries. It's great for whiskey and bourbon, obviously. And the floral is for lighter spirits. It's made from ten different Colorado wildflowers, but it's predominantly lavender; almost all of them are naturally relaxing, so it gives some herbal benefit to the CBD. That blends well with vodka, gin, herbal tea and sparkling water and wine. You could even add it to your Bloody Mary, and I've seen coffee drinkers add it to their coffee. The aromatic blend can make coffees and teas almost taste like a chai.
Let's say I'm making an Old Fashioned with your CBD bitters. How much CBD will end up in the cocktail if I'm only using the standard amount (a few drops)?
We're tested by a third party for potency. A lot of oil-based products advertise a certain amount of CBD, but what they're actually advertising is oil content and overall CBD potency. Because we use isolate, we can guarantee the amount of CBD we claim on the bottle, which is 250 milligrams.
We suggest about 5 to 6 milligrams per drink, which would be the equivalent of around 10 to 12 milligrams of overall oil. That amounts to a half-teaspoon of bitters, so not that much at all.