Warren Bobrow, Entrepreneur, Visionary, Cannabis Taste-Maker
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Grab his books: https://www.amazon.com/Warren-Bobrow/e/B00FGILS16/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
[00:00:01] You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt.
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone this is Thinking Outside the Bud. I’m Bruce Eckfeldt, I'm your host and our guest today is Warren Bobrow. And Warren is an accomplished cocktail whisperer. He's an author. And there's several books Apothecary Cocktails, Mocktails & Tonics, The Art of Spirited Drinks. And he's got I think his most recent one is the The Craft Cocktail Compendium. I've got that right. And we're going to talk about his experience as a mixologists we're going to talk about his experience as an entrepreneur and in cannabis. So Warren welcome to the program.
[00:01:00] Bruce thank you very much for having me. I love doing this kind of thing. This is very exciting to share my passion and I did write the first book on the topic, Cannabis Cocktails , Mocktails & Tonics: The Art of Spirited Drinks & Buzz-Worthy Libations.
[00:01:14] That's the full title because you have so many several books to your name here and I know that you've been at this for a while really and I don't mean to lead you but really I've only been writing since 2013. So very important to state this has not been a lifelong ambition for me. It only came to me in recent years.
[00:01:34] Interesting. Everyone I've talked to on this program and this kind of a cannabis entrepreneur kind of his business has a fascinating background. So what are we kind of start there. Give us a sense of what were you doing before those before you started looking at the cartel space at the cannabis space. Give us a sense of the journey that you've been on and then then we can talk a little bit more about the work you're doing today.
[00:01:55] First I'd love to. And I've had a most convoluted background. I am truly a black from an exceptionally well-heeled family. Patent pharmaceutical business. My grandfather who of my mother's side who is my direct influence manufactured what I would commonly call snake oil and it influenced my book apothecary cocktails. The product in question was known as Jethro Tull sold in every pharmacy in America out around the world and it made him a fabulously wealthy man at a time when no one had very much money. And it was proven to be no more than whiskey ethyl alcohol coloring and flavorings. Sort of shook up the family diametric but I believe that it did influence me in a good way because it led to all the things that we read about in books. That was my experience growing up. So I'm lucky because of that and put it but you know nothing was ever given to me and I I really have to preface that writing in the book cannabis cocktails did everything including get me to sound.
[00:02:58] Yeah I find that when folks start getting into the cannabis world their family and social dynamics can change quite a bit and it sounds like it was fairly severe for you that was difficult.
[00:03:10] Of course first it was no surprise because I'd been using cannabis and smoking all forms since I was about twelve years old. So I'm 50 almost 58 years old now. So I put in my time. Yeah.
[00:03:21] What's it been like for you at being you know a cannabis user for so long in the last ten years or so as you know this kind of wave of legalization and socialization of it. I mean what's your take on it.
[00:03:33] Well there's still an incredible stigma here in New Jersey and that is where I'm speaking to you from and I travel extensively in California and Nevada. And you know I haven't been out to Colorado yet but I go to Oregon Washington state and these places don't really have a stigma. But here in New Jersey even though I have a medical cannabis card I'm constantly reminded of the fact that it's illegal and I could get arrested and put into the system and you know it creates a lot of angst for me when I'm outside of New Jersey. I was just up Massachusetts last week and everything is much different than New Jersey really thrives upon vilifying cannabis.
[00:04:12] I mean you think this is temporal I mean because you know we've got legislation pending in both New York and New Jersey on legalization at various levels. Do you think that's going to change or do you think is that steeped in the culture.
[00:04:23] I don't think it's going to change at all. In fact I think it's going to become more like what happened after Prohibition and you know there's still dry counties in New Jersey so this is no surprise to me we have something here called Home Rule and there are certain towns that have already banned you know recreational cannabis so it makes me very angry I have deep personal attachment to the area so I don't see myself moving any place. But emotionally and psychologically and physically it creates great anxiety for me and anger. But my background is is creative I have a degree in film from Emerson I went to culinary school I founded a fresh plus a business in Charleston South Carolina which I went on to losing in Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Now that 20 year career in private banking I owed my father and grandfather money I had to pay them back. You know I was a trained chef. I started as a pot scrubber dishwasher and I worked my way up. It was my passion and not to be able to do that. And life was a great problem for me because my passion is creative not business. So when we took entrepreneurial many of the great entrepreneurs in the. Business are great business people and they've been the business school. They understand numbers. My passion is people places and things.
[00:05:37] And you know I write for Forbes and they want to talk metrics with me. I'm like What the heck are you talking about. I'm a taste maker I work with flavors I work with people I have the gift of gab and I'm able to in the cannabis business because this is the world that I've always wanted to be. So what excuse do I have. I'm not going to work in banking anymore. I'm certainly not going to be a chef. I'm too old for that. And you know that I became of a bar back to learn how to become a bartender at 50 years old working around people were half my age running circles around. So I'm young at heart and I'm young and face and know I'm an old man inside that I'm having a great time I do I'm super passionate about it I love it.
[00:06:17] So let's talk about when you first started seeing or working on cannabis as kind of a professional side. When did it first come up. Was the first sort of foray into the cannabis space as a business person as entrepreneur.
[00:06:29] Gosh that's that's a really interesting concept idea. I was working as the brand ambassador for a Russian company called Murcia and they weren't so happy that I was thinking about writing the book cannabis Scott. So they sent me in the Moscow bar show and I did a master I taught a masterclass about rum untainted on UN flavored on colored rum at the Moscow bar show. But I had my copy of cannabis cocktails with me that had not yet been published but it was like the the thing that they give you from the publisher just to check for errors and oh yeah.
[00:07:03] But you know I had it in my hand anyway and the word got around that you know in Russia certainly that I was typing this and then I lost my job soon thereafter. But I had to do something I really wanted to be around people I got the travel bug my territory when I was working as a brand ambassador and the liquor industry was every and anywhere. I was down in New Orleans every year for Tales Of The Cocktail you know certainly my passion I literally quit drinking cold turkey after work and liquor. You know I love having a glass of wine at dinner and maybe a beer or two. But that's the extent of it. You know I was strict incredibly much and Eastern Time with hangovers. I mean you can't help it if you're if you have two or three cocktails you're going to feel like hell the next morning. So I was concerned about that. I was concerned about my health. Most important like so all of those reasons compiled together with the fact that I've been using cannabis since I was a young man and it's since I was a young boy. And it seemed like it was osmosis For me it was something that I was so passionate about and I saw other people making money doing it and doing the tastemakers side of the business which is kind of where my career's going. So February 27 set your calendars I'll be appearing on Vice land live in it's a new TV show that starts on February 25th but February twenty seventh at 9:00 Eastern. I'll be appearing at vice land line. So that could potentially blow up my career for you forever. I'm really excited about it. Certainly get my face out there in front of people and they'll see my smile and they know that I mean it. And you know life hasn't been all so easy for me. I went bankrupt I lost my house my respect you know what else could go wrong. So I get a chance to be on TV it'll be great.
[00:08:52] Oh that's funny. I find that those events yes you don't know which way they're going to go but it's going to be exciting.
[00:08:57] When I well I get you know I have to make CBD cocktails because that's the law. But I'm going to make them a cocktail which will ruin them for their bartenders. And in that sense I would fulfill the reason why I do this today is because I saw the drinks that are out on the market and the people were making they were just entirely too sweet. They were completely out of balance. They had no craft ingredient. I work only with craft spirits when I do work with with the spirits and I'm really interested in handmade handcrafted and that's you know that was the premise of my book cannabis cocktails. It wasn't just going to the store and buying a bottle of Tito's you know I know Tito's you know has an open mind to the cannabis business but I didn't use his stuff. I used you know small craft distilleries that were in Vermont or in Kentucky or or wherever I happened to use it. And then I taught you in the book to infuse the cocktails with pure THC. So it's a it's a very interesting thing it's a it's certainly a bad boy image but I'm really I'm a guy so you know I don't mean to give anyone a trouble trying to do a good job. I love it really. The reason why I wrote the book you know getting back to the entrepreneurial side was purely from the medicinal basis. I wasn't looking to write a recreational book. My publisher is very conservative. They certainly weren't going to mess around with a book that could be labeled as something that was dangerous even though that came on came later on. But but really it was more personal reasons I had developed a coma. I live in you know of course. New Jersey smoking a joint the street will get you arrested. I wanted to be able to take my medicine and not be antagonistic at the same time.
[00:10:36] Let's talk a little bit about cartels and then let's talk about the whole introducing of THC CBD into him to tell you about the craft of cartels. So when you look at developing a cartel what are the factors for you that go into making a good cartel a clean glass start.
[00:10:53] Step one.
[00:10:55] Well that's really important because if you go to a bar and the bartender is sitting talking on his cell phone rather and polishing glasses you should leave. The next thing that I think it's very important is in the bartending dichotomy is that the eye should be of a good quality that it doesn't smell like garlic or you know something that's rotting in your in your refrigerator.
[00:11:16] You know it's nice and so off writing devices are important and if you're using fresh herbs they shouldn't have blood on them. You know that kind of thing is important. I like using bitters. I'm very interested in building cocktails through flavor and depth and character and quality.
[00:11:31] Explain. I think just for the audience so we can get a little bit what arbiters how are they made. Why are they important.
[00:11:36] Cocktail bitters were originally invented for stomach disorders and they were found to work in craft cocktails because they had depth and balance to a drink rather than the drink being one dimensional they add multiple dimensions of flavor. I'm classically trained as associate so I can explain to you how to make soup from scratch. You don't put everything in one pot and turn it up to boil and hope for the best. You add a little bit of this a little bit of that. You build it together and suddenly voila you have a wonderful craft cocktail. I like simplicity I've worked in busy cocktail bars where you have 15 people that walk up in front of you and everyone wants something that's different that's no fun. So I try to keep things relatively simple for the person who is who's trying to learn the drinks got the other thing that goes into it of course you know the craft spirits the the mixers I like. I only use fresh juices. I never use anything that's pasteurized bottled canned everything is from scratch and I teach you how to do it in the book.
[00:12:36] Now when you look for craft spirits anything you're looking for in terms of either region or type of distillery or qualities and off across America you would find that in my book that I pair of the craft spirits with different strains or cultivars if you will of cannabis.
[00:12:51] So each flavor can give each of the cannabis cultivars has its own term pins it has its own benefits of flavor and they would be paired with the individual craft spirits that I believe that they pair best with. So Miss Cal I would go with something here which is a very mysterious da I love masks.
[00:13:12] The key you know unsure is sip. I would pair it with a deep dark indica that really made me want to just be on the couch and Im about the future and about my great success that hasn't that's invaded. Hopefully someday someone notices me. You know that kind of thing.
[00:13:32] I love it. So that's sort of. Cartels like when you start introducing either CBD or THC into these cartels what are the consideration these like to categorize are THC cartels in their CBD. Cartels are they. These are mix like how do you look at introducing the cannabis products into cartels very carefully.
[00:13:49] First off I when I first wrote my book I didn't know any better so I was getting from whomever and wherever not safe. Now I only use the triple or sometimes even quadruple tested medical cannabis very import.
[00:14:04] And why is that. I mean were you finding in terms of the product.
[00:14:07] Well if it's so grown with chemical pesticides that could be poisonous. I mean I know it's there. I know it's irresponsible now I didn't know that and I made mistakes. I think everyone does. I especially made mistakes but I'm willing to accept my mistakes and go forward and I know on the bad way. And it certainly took me a lot you know enough time. The other thing is CBD cocktails.
[00:14:31] I'm wondering why people want to do CBD cocktails first software from hemp. They're not from the THC cannabis plant so I don't get it. We're not going to talk about that. I don't write about them for for Forbes I made a conscious effort not to do that. Yeah everyone in their uncle wants me to review their CBD and I just it goes back to. Tom what the FDA did to my grandfather. I don't want to be that guy. I really don't. So I just wanted to. So THC I needed a way of introducing THC into a drinkable format that antagonize anyone. Back story is you know I don't want to get arrested now avoid prosecution.
[00:15:12] Yep sure absolutely. What is the format using an oil or what. How are you.
[00:15:16] Actually no oils oils would be. That would be of this gas taking al out of balance. I use technology but in the book you know currently the current state I use technology. Last state I used the way I learned how to cook and that was through double boilers and toasting the cannabis in the oven to D cart that to actualize the THC from THC THC from THC or whatever format you want to use. I'm not a scientist so know I don't I don't in those matters but I I created seventy five brand new ways of infusing THC into craft spirits that no one had ever done before in my own individualistic cocktail was first style. I want to ruin you for your bar tender. I want to make you think about the ice that you're using. I want to make you think about the glass where I want to teach people how to make beautiful drinks that just happen to have THC and that's it.
[00:16:13] So the way you introduce the THC as you actually put it into the spirit and then use the spirit as part of the mix. Exactly. So you remake the THC infused United duties THC at the mixed stage.
[00:16:23] No no it's in fruit fused either in the simple syrup or in the kit. I do Vietnamese iced coffee with THC infused condensed milk. I also get that freshly crushed sugar cane juice which is so salubrious. I mean it's incredible stuff that I mix just about you know two or three tablespoons of condensed THC infused condensed milk to it or cardamom bitters or chocolate bitters or whatever it is you know I think in flavor so I want to make things that are tasty and that are not off putting that have great aromas and they have wonderful feelings too.
[00:16:56] And in the post infusion how much of the kind of flavor character of cannabis is coming through. Are you taking all that out through the process.
[00:17:05] Oh great great question. I use the magical Butter Machine I also use the leave out which is an infused her I use the Arden which is the Decatur machine that kind of looks like a thermos. It's all of these things preserve the turpentine the essential oils the what we call in cooking the facts and the stuff and all the all the stuff it preserves the smell it preserves the flavor I'm very flavor conscious if you wanted to take away flavor use of a pen you know because they're adding in Turpin so nothing is natural and you know the idea stripping it all down and I'm trying to. I'm really really I'm really interested in craft spirits I'm interested in and made I'm interested in flavor and quality and luxury and my things are all very approachable. I mean I'm not saying that you can't use something inexpensive but it's going to taste therefore better if you use high quality and I recommend it. Yeah you're working.
[00:18:03] So tell me about him that you know the strains and the turkey and profiles and everything are all the rage these days. How do you approach this kind of the taxonomy or the organizing of all the different kind of product that is out there these days. Like what's your guide or how would you suggest people approach this.
[00:18:18] There's two things that I'm going to explain. The first thing was an article that I was planning on writing for Forbes and it was I had my cannabis DNA tested and I realized that the concept of chasing THC is flawed because myself and many many others evidently require a low THC high CBD strains for good health. So the whole idea of waiting to go higher and higher and higher and higher with THC is actually working the opposite of what our bodies require. Just saying that the bud tenders the topic of my article which I never wrote was your bud tender is lying to you. They are. How the heck do they know what your body requires. They can only tell you what they're being marketed to.
[00:19:03] So with that said there are hundreds and hundreds of cultivars and strains and and there's land races and there's hybrids and there's Stevens and there's indica there's all sorts of stuff out there.
[00:19:14] What I'm interested in is flavor but I'm very very interested in effect and my book is broken down into what I would call afflictions I can't. I'm not a doctor I don't think I've done it I'd like a television to tell you that each of my chapters are things like afternoon live and ERs potable pick me ups with gut healing shrubs and mood enhancing syrups know I'm having tongue in cheek it's kind of like the early apothecary. Like my first book apothecary cocktails was the only ingredient missing out of apothecary cocktails which America was not ready for in 2013 was cannabis.
[00:19:51] The reason why I know this is because I went to New Orleans I go every year for tails I go to the pharmacy museum they featured my books there they love my books there and they end the early apothecary use cannabis and goes back into the eighteen hundreds in New Orleans at the pharmacy Museum which is the first apothecary and in the area and they made Sazerac they made all those you know gut healing drinks but really the ingredient that did the most was cannabis and I don't think people realize that that kind of cannabis was a staple in most pharmacy you know kind of shelves you know. A century of course and that's what's so fun about it. Because you have people who are out there today doing really great things with healing and doing really great things with alleviating the ills of society with cannabis. And I love that. But the groundwork was done over 100 years ago. And it really done in China over 5000 years ago. But you know I can't point to that as easily as I can say.
[00:20:50] I visited the museum in New Orleans and I saw the presentation and then the actual vials that say cannabis and I know what date they were made. And I know who worked with this stuff and I know that people came to alleviate their ills by drinking cocktails which were invented in New Orleans.
[00:21:08] So you know I mean history is on my side and I can actually do for once in my life something that I can point to and say this is what they were doing. And this is what I'm doing and I'm taking those classics and I'm revitalizing and making it something that's truly exciting and easy to do. And fortunately when you buy the book it really comes with me and I'm very open to being reached out to. And if you have problems to walk through through them and if I don't have time right now I will get to it. I'll get back to that person said you know how can I make your life easier. And that's that's difference too.
[00:21:42] Where do people start so you know someone enjoys cartels is into cannabis or is kind of early and economists are looking at putting it together. What do you start them with or where do you suggest they begin their experience of THC infused cocktails.
[00:21:55] I would tell them to start with Thai food and I'll tell you why because everything for me goes back to food. And if you ever even talking food you know that you wouldn't get type spicy the first time out you would get it very very very mild and then you would add spice as you go.
[00:22:10] And I use that dichotomy to explain that cannabis cocktails to the same thing. You wouldn't necessarily put in an entire ounce of medical grade cannabis in one 750 m l bottle of craft spirits you might only put an eighth of an ounce or maybe one gram but you'd add to it as realized the way that it made you feel. So you weren't overwhelmed because when I created the seventy five cocktails I only had one month to write my book so I was overdosing myself on a regular basis. does not use cannabis in any format or any way in fact mostly stands to reason I'm surprised that I still use it because because she's so anti cannabis so she would see me on the couch in various stages of overdose which was an overdose in the book but I just you know I was figuring out how much or how little you know.
[00:23:04] And I figured out that if you take lemon juice and peppercorns peppercorns. Neil Young always said if you get too high you would take a chew up some peppercorns so I remember that being an old man.
[00:23:16] I never heard this one. So what is this about. So you literally take these literally to peppercorns.
[00:23:21] Yeah. You literally chew peppercorns the herpes and pepper are very commonly occurring in cannabis and it counteracts the negative effects of a cannabis edibles overdose. Also lemon juice the Lemon Eh. I think that is Lemon and I forgot what it is. Whatever but it's a that's another very commonly found chirpy in cannabis and it counteracts those term pains. Those negative effects it's you know is against science but it does. And so I was down in Walt Disney World. I had to do a presentation at the Wine and Food Festival and I took probably a an edible that I had no idea what it was what it was going to do to me.
[00:24:02] And I learned that the lemon juice really works.
[00:24:05] And almost immediately I've learned I've learned something very new here.
[00:24:09] It's intention in front of like 300 people and I was where I was going to say that all those those guys with the little wire in their ear were looking at to tell us about the market like how you have kind of found sort of community and groups in the cannabis space because I think one thing that's really interesting when I speak with guests is just how they've found that there are cannabis kind of community what organizations have you found helpful. What events what conferences where have you found support and insights.
[00:24:42] I actually found support and insights with it because I've really had a lot of pushback and I never thought that I would be able to be in the place that I am right now because of all the negativity that I've received. With that said I've also received a lot of positiveness. The individuals at normal then on a national level have featured my book they've given their way in. You know in fundraisers money raiser things I'm truly honored that they've even taken notice of me. I get press passes to all the major cannabis events. I think the camaraderie is unique. I have a unique product my book no one else has written anything like it.
[00:25:23] And if they have that's not on this level and I'm not trying to compare myself with anyone. But the idea of what I do is is so unique that it creates a conversation wherever he goes. And getting back to the travel thing. I love going to events all over the country because I get to sit next to someone on an airplane and the elevator speech is not 30 seconds. It's like hours and even though they're intrigued or not. And I'm willing to shut up and not talk about it.
[00:25:52] But you know if they're interested they certainly couldn't have a better person to sit next to and any activity on the international front I know that a lot of folks are now looking internationally it's kind of a space I would love to go to Spain.
[00:26:05] I think that the Spanish people really get it. And I would love to go down to earth. Why. I love that it's completely legal there. I just don't have the time. You know I'm an old man. I look at I look at things in different time periods.
[00:26:17] I'm wondering what events are coming up and meanwhile you know writing on the online space for Forbes really creates a life style for me because I'm able to introduce myself as a high end cannabis writer for a traditional business publication that you know may not have ever even considered that remember because I grew up on a farm in New Jersey my family's farm.
[00:26:39] And you know Malcolm Forbes would launch his balloon sometimes out in Far Hills but you know the wind would blow you know west to east and a couple of times he landed in our fields and empire that you know these are people that didn't use cannabis. They use champagne. So it was it's just a different time. I am so honored to be able to say that I write for a magazine that probably contributed more to the stigma than they would know it. Every opportunity to take away from that stigma by being open minded. Now I also did a an interview recently with the granddaughter of Emily Post about matters and cannabis and that's coming out in March. And I can't wait for people to read that because it's like you know you have to know what the etiquette is around cannabis. But a great premise for a book.
[00:27:27] Yeah. Oh I love it. I haven't even thought about that yet. Excellent. So you've got a TV show coming out. What else is on the docket.
[00:27:33] What else are you looking for versus actually a live TV show song. I mean mixing life love cocktails and as I said because the legality involved they have to be CVD. So it's a very interesting thing because it kind of touches base on that snake oil principle. I'm not quite sure what they do but that they're going to tastes delicious. I mean and I'm using a popper and Berkeley and another one called new highs and just really nice stuff and rotations and craft spirits just having a good time and trying to expand people's mind.
[00:28:04] I'm visiting a vertically integrated cannabis facility in Scottsdale or maybe it's down near Tucson in two weeks. I have some California trips planned I hope to be going out back out to Oregon in the coming months. I'm busy. Yeah it sounds like you're busy and you know when you say what's an entrepreneur an entrepreneur is someone who takes all the risk and then lives all the rewards now and that's what that's the fun part of it and that's the fun part of this industry.
[00:28:31] There is so much dynamism and complexity and change and you know there's a lot of opportunity and a lot of risk but there's still a lot of opportunity.
[00:28:37] So it's a fun fun place to be. WARREN I think we're gonna hit time here. This has been a pleasure. If people want to find out more information about you about the books about the work that you're doing about the show. What's the best way to get a hold of you and find out more information.
[00:28:49] Ok. Amazon is where my books are. Barnes Noble or indie bookstores all over the world. I mean even Australia and Canada and France. My books are translated apothecary cocktails translated into French. Beautiful thing. I'm on Instagram with my name. Warren Bobrow I'm on Twitter with my name and a number one because someone stole my name. I you're on Facebook, of course LinkedIn. What else is there Pinterest. I hardly use that thing anymore. It's. I'm out there I'm easily seen. I'll be on Vice land February 20 7th 9:00 p.m.. What else do you want to know about it.
[00:29:24] I think that is great. I'll make sure all those links are in the show now so people can get more information. Or and this has been fun. I'm looking forward to it. We'll find a time to get together and you can you can teach me some of the finer points of cannabis cartels.
[00:29:36] Actually we should meet at Costa del taco in Cliffside Park for brilliant tacos carnitas.
[00:29:42] Brilliant. Great. Consider the date. I look forward to it. Cheers burst. Thanks for taking care.
[00:29:50] You've been listening to Thinking Outside the Bud with Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the Web site at thinkingoutsidethebud.com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter at thinkingoutsidethebud.com/newsletter.