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Green dragon, marijuana-infused alcohol, doesn't have to bite 

CannaCulture

click to enlarge Chase that dragon! - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Chase that dragon!

In its recreational form, cannabis, like alcohol, is a nice way to unwind. So, wouldn't it seem like the perfect pairing to take the two cathartic commodities and marry them into one? Enter, the taboo tincture known as green dragon.

That's the broad-stroke name for any marijuana-laced alcoholic beverage. It has unrestrained potential based on the strength and type of substances utilized. In an attempt to demonstrate that the green dragon doesn't have to resemble or taste like bong water — as it does when made with brick weed and Everclear in college dorm rooms — we opted to try vodka, gin and tequila as our solvents for some homegrown greens.

There are many ways to skin a cat or, in this case, concoct some ganja cocktails. After researching numerous methods, we reference an episode from Viceland's Bong Appétit called "Cannabis Cocktails" to guide our hand, starting by measuring out 250 ml of vodka (a third of a bottle) and about four tablespoons of shake.

Their suggestion to use an iSi whipper instead of passive extraction is quite brilliant, as this nitrous-boosted method actually breaks down the weed on a molecular level and lends more potency. The technique is popular among bartenders and chefs who infuse all types of herbs into liquids. We spoon the broken-up flower into the whipper — which looks like a fancier, reusable whipped cream canister — add the vodka, then charge it twice to release the gas and then allow the mixture to settle for a few minutes.

Then, to start the "wet decarb," we pour the vodka and scrape all the weed into a double boiler pan on the stove to wake up the cannabis. The process of decarboxylation — a fancy term for separating and activating the THC — is a pivotal step that's often overlooked when preparing tincture for the green dragon. By heating the weed at a low temperature over an extended period of time, the psychoactive compound, along with the cannabinoids and chlorophyll, can more fully absorb into the spirit.

We bring the sauce up to around 200 degrees and stay in that temperature zone for approximately 40 minutes. Over time you will notice that it reduces down considerably. To strain, drape some cheesecloth over a measuring cup and pour the contents of the pan through the fabric. Wrap up the residual weed and squeeze out all the juice. From there, dispose of the extraneous weed, as it has already bestowed its chemical contribution and flavor. We let the green beverage cool and repeat the process with gin and tequila, making three separate batches. This proves to be a much faster way to get your herbal extraction versus methods that entail soaking the weed in alcohol for days or often weeks.

We chose to experiment with different liquors because green dragon, like many efforts to cook or bake with weed, has a tendency to go horribly wrong. Finding the correct dosage to achieve a fluid body high is the goal here, not total oblivion or an uncomfortable bout with paranoia.

click to enlarge Measure twice. - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Measure twice.
click to enlarge Whip it real good. - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Whip it real good.
click to enlarge Wake that weed. - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Wake that weed.
click to enlarge Decarboxylation! - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Decarboxylation!
click to enlarge Strain and cool. - DIONNE ROBERTS
  • Dionne Roberts
  • Strain and cool.

The best versions of green dragon offer a tasteful experience without the alcoholic bite overpowering the more subtle cannabis flavor. The vodka really allows the weed to shine, since it doesn't have a lot of flavor of its own. It can easily be used in a Moscow mule that receives a complementary note from the spicy ginger beer. We really dig the tequila, as the earthy harmony from the sweet agave sets off the bitterness from the bud. We made a straightforward margarita with what we nicknamed "the Latin Lizard" — a shot (or two) with a generous amount of fresh-squeezed lime juice and a splash of simple syrup. (One cup water to one cup sugar, heat until sugar dissolves completely.) The gin was a winner too as the flowery botanicals couple up with the cannabis nicely. A classic gin and tonic yields a deeper profile than anything you're used to ordering at your neighborhood watering hole.

Due to variations in the grade of bud used, alcohol type and personal threshold, consumers should be aware that this is a trial and error procedure. But chasing the dragon may prove to be a more dynamic way to bring two of our favorite things together in one highball glass.

Dionne Roberts is the editor of the Rocky Mountain Food Report.

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