Are Cannadrinks the Least Intimidating Intro to Weed?

What if you could enjoy cannabis and you already knew how to do it?

Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Image by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

Getting into consuming marijuana is hardly a plug-and-play scenario. There’s the lingo, etiquette, hacks, and most often, patience. Sublinguals melt away or need to be held in your mouth, and even perfectly dosed edibles still impart worry about getting too high to the uninitiated.

What if you could enjoy cannabis and you already knew how to do it?

Cannabeverages are making a comeback and it’s just in time for the general public to soften up to their potential benefits. Early cannadrinks — and some still on the market — were either completely unpalatable or prone to separation. THC and CBD aren’t water-soluble, and initial emulsification attempts didn’t always take because they just weren’t going small enough.

“[Customers] still have to have choices of quality and that’s where we need to get to, ” says Jeffrey Meyer Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Industrial Sonomechanics (ISM). “When a package says nano it actually means a particle size around 35 nanometers, not 3,000 nanometers in a milky substance that is still separated with oil and water.”

Nanoemulsion is really taking off in the industry despite the technology being around for quite some time. We’ve seen the fruits of this process in the rise of CBD water where the CBD droplets were finally small enough for the drinks to taste like water without any surprises when you open a bottle (been there, and my therapist has heard all about it). “The smaller the particle size in a nanoemulsion, the closer it is to a true solution,” says Alexey Peshkovsky, Ph. D., the co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of ISM, remarking on how 25 to 30 nanometers is the ideal particle size for cannabis infusions.

“Those are as close to a true solution as you're gonna get and they are then able to provide the best bioavailability and the quickest onset.” This new frontier allows for a level of stability that consumers can rely on combined with fast-acting effects.

Canna beverages often have an onset time of as little as five minutes, though typically between 15 to 30 minutes. It’s slightly slower than smoking or vaping and on par with sublingual strips and tinctures while being a more straightforward experience.

“Consumers want predictable experiences with products that taste great and with brands they can trust,” says Judy Yee CEO and co-founder of K-Zen. “Drinking a cannabis beverage is a healthier and more familiar form factor, as opposed to vaping.”

As someone whose TV binging habits have brought the phrase “vaping’s better than smoking” in their life several times in the past month alone, this is a refreshing take. Many people want nothing to do with smoke or vapor in their lungs, especially when a respiratory health crisis is constantly evolving and the light at the end of the tunnel is still small.

K-Zen’s S*SHOTS follow a dose model while its Mad Lilly Spritzers are tapped into the growing market of standalone drinks. Even though Mad Lilly Spritzers launched after S*SHOTS, both products are pulling similar numbers.

This data is so important because it shows there’s a high demand from both types of consumers: the habitual, experienced cannabis user and someone who may not be as familiar with cannabis,” says Yee.

Slamming down a shot of THC and/or CBD goodness can be nice or even necessary after a stressful day, say, after an insurrection. Having a full beverage, on the other hand, is a pleasant way to slip into a high. Ingesting “weed claws” and cannawines, in particular, makes consumption much more casual while allowing you to check in with yourself every 15 to 30 minutes.  Peshkovsky puts it well, musing about using nanoemulsion to create tinctures and their ilk, but:

“Why would you when you could just drink it?”

These four-ingredient drinks are a bubbly, fruity way to a good time. With a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio and 5 milligrams in each bottle, Mad Lilly Spritzers are an easygoing introduction to cannabis in raspberry hibiscus, ginger pear, and crowd favorite passion fruit mango flavors.

Artet stepped on the scene with its dose-able aperitif, but its new canned cocktails are the star of the show with a low dose of equal parts CBD and THC. Beneath a child-proof opening mechanism lies tasty, fizzy nods to a Paloma or a G&T without any of the alcohol.

For fruit without the fizz (or THC), look to Vybes’ colorful bottles. With 25 milligrams of CBD and flavors like tangerine turmeric, each bottle will take the edge off while ticking several wellness boxes.

House of Saka goes to a place you’re familiar with and turns expectations on their heads. Taking grapes from Napa Valley, this non-alcoholic rosé finds the middle ground between a pinot noir and water kefir — and it’s a great place to live. A 5-ounce serving of this 1:5 CBD to THC elixir isn’t quite a full pour, but it’s still perfect for sipping.

For something a bit stronger, each single-serving bottle of Calexo contains ten milligrams of THC in refreshing cucumber citron or citrus rose flavors. Despite this extra umph, the high tends to wear off in about an hour, bringing a new meaning to day drinking.