He is, it goes without saying, a popular, popular man at dinner parties.
Direct infusion is not the only way to get marijuana into a drink, however. Tinctures, or liquid cannabis extracts, have existed since the early 19th century, and provide a more subtle green flavor since they are highly concentrated and only a little is used. Though conceived for pharmaceutical purposes, more “creative” applications for these extracts quickly appeared. An early example of cannabis tincture being used in what we recognize as modern mixology is the Gringo Killer, found by cocktail historian David Wondrich in the 1927 cocktail guide Barflies and Cocktails. Authored by Harry McElhone, owner of Paris institution Harry’s New York Bar, Barflies is one of the ur-texts of bartending, containing recipes for classics like the Sidecar and the Monkey Gland (both credited to McElhone in some form), as well as drinks like the Gringo Killer, which was probably never made or served at Harry’s New York. Credited in the book to “Mexican Johnny O’Brien” (possibly referring to famed rogue sea captain “Dynamite” Johnny O’Brien), the drink contains a savage mix of pulque (a milky, viscous alcoholic drink made from the sap of the maguey plant, a relative of agave), tequila, brandy, and “liquid marijuana,” and was “guaranteed to put a tarantula to sleep for a year.” Tinctures have regained popularity thanks to medical marijuana laws, and a quick search online turns up a cornucopia (a pharmacopoeia, even) of cannabis cocktail recipes. McElhone needn’t settle for the Gringo Killer as his sole legacy in this arena, however. There is, after all, the Bloody Maryjane, based on another drink attributed to him—the Bloody Mary—with a marijuana tincture replacing the vodka.
All of these applications point to a far richer culinary legacy than Alice B. Toklas’ brownies might lead us to expect. If legalization of marijuana comes at the same pace as smoking continues to get marginalized, we could be entering the age of ingested marijuana.
When that age comes, it could appear, rather than with a puff of smoke, in a glass, on a plate, or maybe even poured over a chiffonade of nasturtium flowers.
Matthew Kronsberg is a producer and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He has covered a variety of topics for Gourmet Live, including “The Serendipitous Road Trip” and “The Rock Star Tour Diet.”