If you've driven around Denver lately, you've seen "CBD SOLD HERE" signs posted everywhere from pet stores to Walmart. But just how popular is CBD in the food and beverage industry?
There's no debating the trendiness of CBD-infused food and drinks right now. In an annual poll conducted by the National Restaurant Association, 77 percent of the chefs surveyed predicted that CBD-infused drinks would be the top food and beverage trend of 2019, out of 138 choices. The second-most-popular prediction among chefs? CBD-infused food.
There's a big difference between trends and staying power, however. While CBD continues to dominate Google searches, it remains a fairly obscure offering for the majority of food and drink purveyors trying it out. As 2019 ends, a number of the local bars and restaurants that had added CBD to food and drinks early on have already abandoned the practice, since it never really caught on with their customers. But others are still eager to get in the game.
Although CBD alone doesn't have any psychoactive effects, its association with the cannabis plant can lead people to believe otherwise. And its non-psychoactive effects can definitely be felt: While you may not notice any major changes after consuming a CBD coffee or doughnut (by far the two most common CBD offerings available outside of a dispensary), they could still be helping curb anxiety and light pain or inflammation.
When to kick-start a new or supplemental health routine with CBD? Here are half a dozen places around Denver where you can test out the trend for yourself.
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Urban Eatery and Daylight Donuts
14352 Lincoln Street, #107, Thornton
Urban Eatery and Daylight Donuts has partnered with Canna Comforts Health and Wellness to add CBD to its menu, and also carries several of Canna Comforts' products (oils, gummies and topicals) for sale. For $5, you can add a 20-milligram shot of CBD to coffee or baked goods. There's a small selection of doughnuts, which can be customized with optional raspberry, whipped cream or custard fillings. I opted for a maple-glazed doughnut without filling, and added an injection of CBD. While the doughnut itself was tasty, it was the only infusion I tried where you could really taste the CBD — probably because the injected oil pooled into little pockets rather than being spread evenly throughout the pastry.
Spraying the doughnut with a tincture or mixing the CBD into the dough, the two other infusion options, provided a bit more balance on my tastebuds. The CBD oil doesn't make it completely inedible, but you can tell where the oil has settled by the change in taste and texture, and the bursts of weedy flavor are an acquired taste, to say the least. Daylight Donuts was also the only place to ask for an ID when I was purchasing CBD products.
3301 Tejon Street
Señor Bear is another Denver eatery experimenting with CBD bitters. For a few extra dollars, bartenders will add a 5-milligram CBD shot to any drink on the menu. If you're a sucker for anything fruity and frozen, try the Congelado del Día (frozen drink of the day). You might not think a frozen drink would be seasonal this time of year, but by adding roasted pumpkin, clove, allspice and cinnamon to a peach and mango daiquiri, Señor Bear manages to create an ideal drink for those of us entrenched in cold weather yet still dreaming of summer.
Between lavender- and cherry-flavored CBD bitters, the bartender chose cherry to add to my drink, though it tasted pretty much the same with or without the addition. The bright drink was as appealing to the eyes as it was to the tongue — but I recommend thoroughly stirring the CBD in, or it will just sit in a puddle on top until the very last sip.
2030 West 30th Avenue
Wine will always be my drink of choice, so when I found out that Linger serves a CBD wine cocktail, it was bottoms up. However, it was mildly disappointing to discover that the drink was a non-alcoholic mocktail. Either way, the Frankie Say Relax, made with non-alcoholic red wine, spicy lime, rosemary and Supergood's Golden Oil, is one interesting beverage. Instead of straight CBD oil, this cannabinoid addition also includes turmeric, MCT oil and black pepper. Although Linger's menu still says the $12 mocktail contains 25 milligrams of CBD, that has since been cut back to 16 milligrams per drink.
With its zesty and savory aftertaste, the Frankie Say Relax is also worth trying for sangria fans. Even though it's served cold, it'll warm you up inside like mulled wine would. Linger also carries Dram CBD sodas, if you can't stomach the thought of drinking red wine over ice.
Habit Doughnut Dispensary/Carbon Cafe & Bar
1553 Platte Street
2200 California Street
Habit Doughnut Dispensary and Carbon Cafe & Bar's two locations offer the most options for consuming CBD. You can choose to add a mixable CBD powder, CBD bitters, spray-on CBD tincture or CBD-infused butter (which Habit/Carbon was out of when I visited) to anything on the menu, from cocktails to chicken and waffles. Each CBD "bump" contains 10 to 12 milligrams of CBD and costs an additional $2, making Habit the cheapest option for CBD additives. You can wash down all that grubbin' with a non-alcoholic and very poundable CBD kombucha on tap, with 20-25 milligrams of CBD per serving.
I opted to add unflavored CBD bitters to the Gin Bishop, a light and fruity cocktail made with Family Jones gin, honey, lemon, lavender and grapefruit bitters. While I was initially worried that a double dose of bitters would make the drink too sharp, I found that the flavorless bitters didn't affect the taste at all. I couldn't resist trying the CBD spray on a fried chicken sandwich, called the Rocket Man. The bird was deliciously juicy and crispy, and the flavor was unaffected by the CBD's addition. But the real star of the show here is Habit's melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts, with rotating daily flavors, plus a few classics available every day. Go for anything with chocolate ganache — and if you're looking for buzz, order it injected with the liquor of your choice, as well as CBD.
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1530 Blake Street
Many establishments offer CBD as an optional add-on to food or drinks, but Freshcraft is one of the few with specific CBD items on its menu: specifically, its CBD mocktails (to which you can also add alcohol). First up is the Lavender & Thyme Lemonade, made with lavender and thyme simple syrup, lemon juice and lavender-flavored Strongwater CBD bitters. Then there's the Strongwater Mule, made with Strongwater's aromatic CBD bitters, lime juice, ginger beer and flavorless CBD bitters. Both $8 mocktails are delicious and refreshing choices for non-drinkers and drinkers alike, but the Lavender & Thyme Lemonade is a clear standout that will make you feel like you're on a spa retreat. The bartenders will also add lavender or unflavored CBD bitters to any drink of your choosing, including beer. Additionally, Freshcraft carries Sparkling CBD Sodas and Dram CBD sparkling water.
1100 14th Street (inside Hotel Teatro)
The Nickel has two specialty CBD cocktails on its menu, the Super Limoncello Haze and the Chill Lebowski, and will also add CBD oil to any drink for $7; each drink contains about 12 milligrams of CBD. The Super Limoncello Haze, concocted with housemade limoncello, vanilla vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, lemon juice and whipped cream, quickly became one of the Nickel's most popular drinks — second only to its traditional Old Fashioned — once it was added to the menu. It's easy to see why: the richness of the whipped cream and acidity of the citrus taste like a liquid lemon meringue pie. It doesn't have an overpowering alcohol taste, but be warned: It will leave you tipsy. The Chill Lebowski is a combination of vodka, espresso, chili liqueur, egg whites, honey and chocolate bitters. As someone with little to no spice tolerance, I was skeptical of the Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, but was pleasantly surprised to only notice it as a subtle aftertaste. It essentially tastes like an espresso-heavy White Russian — hence the name.
With both cocktails, the CBD oil sits on top of the drink in droplets, as a garnish, rather than being mixed in with the other ingredients. Though the droplets make for an interesting-looking polka-dotted beverage, they remain floating on top as you down your drink, so you won't get all the CBD unless you fish it out with a spoon. The Super Limoncello Haze and the Chill Lebowski cost $19 and $21, respectively.