West Hollywood is perhaps the only city in the world where enjoying a bong-smoked tequila cocktail while eating fried cauliflower “nachos” in a strictly vegan Mexican restaurant would not be considered unusual in the least.
Not even if that bong-smoked tequila cocktail involves dry-hopping a homemade cucumber soda and then essentially “hotboxing” it with hemp seeds in a huge bong before serving it. The kicker here, however, is that this cocktail is not the product of some new modernist cuisine restaurant. Instead, it is just another tasty, agave-based concoction whipped up local Gracias Madre bartender extraordinaire Jason Eisner.
At first, this cocktail may be easy to dismiss based on the sheer gimmick level of it--especially with its $25 price tag—but after speaking to Eisner and hearing about his humble reasoning behind it, we wouldn’t be surprised if bong-smoked cocktails started to pop up at a bar near you.
You actually have three cocktails that you smoke using a bong, right?
Jason Eisner: I have one cocktail smoked in a bong with hemp seeds called the Up in Smoke. I have a Mexican shandy smoked in a cortino or porron--you know, those Spanish-style, decanter-like things with a spout so you can directly shoot wine into your mouth from the spout. And then I have a cocktail that is smoked in an actual barrel involving a homemade coffee liquor and barrel aged, smoked cacao nibs.
What inspired you to start smoking cocktails in the first place?
Just to be super real, dude! And I don’t even mind if people know: I’m a huge pothead. I’m a bartender by trade but I’m also a wannabe chef. When I go home every night, I get stoned and I cook, man. I eventually started using a Smoking Gun to make a certain dish for my wife and I started to fuck around with it. Then I started reading about the relationship between hops and cannabis since I’m a huge beer lover, too, and I found out how they’re actually related. On a scientific level, they are very similar genera, so they share a lot of similar flavors and aromas, which explains why sometimes when you open an IPA it straight-up smells like chronic.
Have you ever tried smoking hops to get high like one would do with weed? Be honest.
Yup. It was interesting as an experiment, but not anything I’ll do again. It’ll make you cough without any of the fun side effects.
Why did you choose to smoke hemp seeds?
I was vegan for many years and I was also an athlete. I was competitor in Brazilian jiu jitsu while vegan, too. So I would eat hemp seeds while I was trying to gain weight and that’s when I realized how complex their flavor was. I just figured they would taste great smoked in a cocktail.
How did you think of the idea of using a bong to make a cocktail?
Really, when you think about it, a bong is a decanter. When you use it the way it was intended, it is purifying cannabis smoke and allowing you to experience the smoking process without all of the carcinogenic kief; it neutralizes the kief and filters out imperfections. Well, that’s what a decanter does! A decanter aerates the spirit and allows it to burn off some of the residual ABV of spirits so you experience a deeper and richer experience of aroma and flavor; a bong is just a decanter for cannabis.
If cannabis ever becomes legal for recreational use in California, I have this dream of having a cocktail program that would decant cocktails in bongs with different strains of cannabis smoke that would be paired with each one, and then you would be able to drink it afterwards. Yup, this is the type of stuff that I fantasize about.
How have your customers liked your smoked cocktails so far?
On days like Saturday night, I will literally go to tables all over the restaurant and smoke cocktails for five hours straight. It’s super fun and I feel very blessed. I don’t take any of it for granted, for sure. It’s really cool to work for a company that let’s me do what I want like this.