Seltzers. Sparkling wines. Ready-to-drink canned cocktails. Here's what to know about the budding new THC-infused drinks market and a few offerings to consider.
As cannabis becomes more mainstream, the ways in which it can be consumed will only become more varied. One of the latest trends is THC-infused beverages. They’re being touted as a new and casual way to consume that offer precise dosing in a form that is more socially adaptable than smoking, and more predictable than a batch of brownies. The drinks are also a natural progression of cannabis products in the culinary and mixology space, and the growing popularity of non-alcoholic alternatives. THC drinks come in many forms, including seltzers, ciders, wines, aperitifs, and ready-to-drink canned cocktails – so if you enjoy THC, they might be worth a try.
By 2025, cannabis beverages are expected to exceed $1B in annual sales, according to Brightfield Group, a trade group for CBD, cannabis, and wellness products. The nexus of development for the new beverage category is California for now. But Massachusetts, Illinois, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Rhode Island, and New York are all states where the sector is expected to take off in coming years.
“People have no idea these products exist, but in five-to-ten years they’re going to be a massive part of the cannabis market,” says Aaron Silverstein, President of the Cannabis Beverage Association (CBA), and VP of Production & Business Development at the cannabis-infused wine producer, House of Saka.
Alexi Chialtas, co-founder of the THC-infused beverage brand, WUNDER, sees cannabis beverage growth as part of a larger movement of being more conscious of what you’re putting into your body. “It’s about creating a world where people can have more choices of alternatives to alcohol,” said Chialtas, who plans to expand distribution beyond California this year.
What makes THC drinks particularly primed for growth is their intuitive method of delivery. “Drinks have been our most familiar mode of consumption for centuries,” said Chialtas. “And by the numbers, across the country, people view beverages as the most socially-acceptable way to consume cannabis.”
Sipping a THC drink may look and feel like the process of drinking alcohol, but it’s obviously quite a different outcome — and one that resonated with me uniquely as a father. When I have a glass of wine before putting my kids to bed, I tend to want to get through the nightly ritual as quickly as possible so my wife and I can zone out in front of whatever we’re streaming. An alcohol buzz can be impatient and numb. But, with a low-dose THC beverage at cocktail hour, suddenly I was aware that one night in my children’s lives, even just one bath time ritual, is a precious and fleeting moment that must be lived fully. Because the kids splashing with the bath toys will soon be teenagers who shower, and this will all be a distant memory. You’d better be present, I thought to myself, so you don’t let yourself squander the little moments that make up a well-lived life.
Now, I love wine, but that’s not a train of thought that I get from a few glasses of Sancerre.
Chialtas describes this effect through his hope of creating “moments of intention,” for consumers of THC beverages. He’s a father himself, so it’s an idea that resonates with him. “With alcohol, it numbs you rather than tunes you in,” he said. Another benefit of THC drinks is that you’re not hungover the next day, and there’s roughly five-times fewer calories in a THC/Cannabis beverage than there is in a beer.
Jim Baudino, a Board Member and Marketing Committee Chair of the Cannabis Beverage Association, and Partner at Sands Lane – a venture studio and strategic advisory firm with a focus on the beverage industry — says they’ve been able to tweak the onset, the duration, and the offset of the beverages so that it can be similar to that experienced with alcohol. The industry term used to describe beverages that can be consumed more like alcoholic beverages is “sessionable,” which means the intention is one can have a few low-dose drinks over the course of a few hours the way one might have a few beers, and regulate effects as they go.
Now, when dealing with THC of any kind, it’s important to go slow at first and understand your limits. “Drinking a beverage containing THC in the correct dose is unlikely to cause any health issues,” said Bonni S. Goldstein MD, Medical Director of Canna-Centers and author of Cannabis is Medicine, stressing the importance of the correct dosage. She pointed out that it is always important to read the label and understand how many milligrams of THC you’re taking.
“THC dosing is very important, and can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a terrible one,” said Dr. Goldstein. Anyone new to cannabis, she says, should ‘start low and go slow,’ meaning start with a low dose of THC (1 mg – 2.5 mg) and wait at least one to two hours to see the effects of this dose before taking more.”
Below are eight THC-infused beverages that cover a broad range of styles and flavors. Availability depends on your state’s cannabis laws.
These taste like really good natural fruit seltzers, and come in lower and higher dose options, with a mix of THC and CBD. I find the lower (4mg THC) variations, with flavors like Blood Orange, Lemon Ginger, and Grapefruit Hibiscus to be delicious and foster a nice mellow experience, while the “Higher Vibes” versions contain 20mg of THC for a more potent experience.
A cannabis beverage in an aperitif format, like your favorite French or Italian pre-dinner drink, Artet is a mix of cannabis and eight botanicals, for mixing with soda or other cocktails. Like all aperitifs, Artet lends itself to a social context, something to share with friends around a dinner table.
This 3-pack of cordials are named for the moods that the 'precision-calibrated' cannabis is formulated to inspire: Calm, Wonder, Delight, Balance, Create, Play, Love — each with a different THC intensity level. The small size of these makes them particularly convenient for travel or concerts.
This sparkling cannabis-infused non-alcoholic wine inspired by wines of the South of France gives you the olfactory experience of sparkling French rosé, but with a much different outcome. The dry taste will appeal to those who find fruity cocktails too sweet, while the after-effects will appeal to nearly everyone.
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