The Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Beverages

Cannabis beverages are among the newest and most exciting cannabis products around. Infused drinks don’t just offer an alternative to smoking, they’re changing the way people think about drinking and alcohol use. The growing popularity of cannabis cocktails and cannabis spirits suggests that in the very near future, infused beverages will be giving booze a run for its money.

The fact that we can now sip cannabis cocktails, spritzes, seltzers, beers, and spirits is delightful proof that the modern cannabis consumer has more options than ever before. In this post-prohibition era, the sky’s the limit, and the sky is very high.

Weed is no longer synonymous with smoking whatever you can get your hands on, though for the record, there’s no shame in that either. Whether you’re new to cannabis or you’re used to smoking it and just want to know what cannabis beverages are all about, you’ve come to the right place.

What are cannabis beverages?

To put it as simply as possible, cannabis beverages are liquids that are infused with cannabinoids. What are cannabinoids? They’re the chemical compounds that make weed fun and therapeutic.

Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, CBD, and CBN are the most popular and common cannabinoids, though there are plenty more where those came from. The bottom line is: if you can drink it and it’s infused with one of the compounds above, it’s a cannabis beverage.

Infused beverages come in all flavors, shapes, and sizes, and are crafted for a wide variety of experiences. Some are intoxicating and psychoactive. Others are made with ingredients like CBD or CBN that help with sleep, soreness, and mood, but don’t get you high. These days, there’s a weed drink for every occasion and type of consumer.

Are cannabis beverages alcoholic?

There are plenty of infused drinks that taste like the alcoholic drinks we know and love. In fact, some cannabis beverages are specifically crafted for making infused cocktails. That’s right, cannabis mixology is very much a thing now. But in spite of all the similarities, cannabis  beverages are exclusively non-alcoholic. In most cases, THC brings the buzz, eliminating the need for booze.

In fact, this lack of alcohol is part of what makes weed-infused drinks so appealing. If you’re sober-curious, hate hangovers, prefer being high to being drunk, or are simply trying to get through Dry January, cannabis beverages might be for you. As far as feeling, flavor, and fun go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better alcohol alternative.

Do all infused beverages get you high?

Not all cannabinoids get you high, and not all infused beverages get you high. It all depends upon the drink in question, and what it’s infused with.

  • Cannabis drinks containing THC (or a mix of THC and other cannabinoids) are considered psychoactive or intoxicating. These beverages will get you high.
  • Beverages that don’t contain THC but are infused with CBD, CBN, or hemp derivatives are considered non-psychoactive, or mildly psychoactive. These minor cannabinoids aren’t intoxicating like THC, but they can boost mood, help us get to sleep, and make our bodies feel better.

Whether you’re hoping to get stoned or trying to make sure that you don’t, labeling requirements ensure that brands are very clear about the cannabinoids their beverages contain. Make sure you take a good look at the packaging before drinking.

Remember, if you want the type of euphoria we commonly associate with smoking a joint, look for THC-infused beverages. If you’d like to avoid intoxication, make sure THC is not an ingredient.

How long does it take for cannabis drinks to work?

Modern cannabis beverages kick in within 15-30 minutes of consumption. These fast onset times are made possible by nanoemulsion: a drug delivery technology that distributes tiny particles of active ingredients throughout liquids.1

These emulsified particles (cannabis extracts in this case) are more readily absorbed by your body, which significantly reduces the delay between drinking weed beverages and feeling their effects. In fact, THC-infused drinks and alcohol have very similar onset times. If you’ve ever had a few cocktails or a couple of beers, you’ll probably find drinking cannabis beverages to be quite intuitive.

As with alcohol, it’s important to know your limits, take your time, and see how your body responds to different quantities. The good news is that fast onset times help take the guesswork out of finding the right dose. Modern cannabis drinks were made to be as user friendly as possible, and to offer consumers maximum control over their experience.

What’s the difference between cannabis drinks and edibles?

Since they’re both consumed orally, cannabis drinks and edibles (like gummies, chocolates, and candies) are often grouped together. However, food-based edibles and infused beverages aren’t as similar as you might think.

In fact, cannabis beverages and food-based edibles are processed differently by our bodies, leading to distinct highs and experiences. If you’ve taken edibles before and are expecting cannabis beverages to hit the same, think again, and keep these key differences in mind:

  1. Onset times: The majority of cannabis beverages kick in 15-30 minutes after consumption. Food-based edibles take at least an hour to kick in.
  2. Dosage: Because you’re probably going to have more than one, single-serving cannabis drinks typically contain less THC than food-based edibles. California’s most popular cannabis beverage brands offer products that sit in the neighborhood of 2-5mg THC per serving. It’s not hard to find low dose or microdose edibles, but more often than not, you can expect food-based edibles to pack more of a punch.
  3. Duration of high: Food-based edibles might take a while to kick in, but they lead to a famously long-lasting high. The feeling you get from sipping THC-infused beverages comes on quicker, but doesn’t linger nearly as long.
  4. Intensity of high: Eating edibles gets you way higher than most other forms of consumption. That’s because of the way the stomach processes THC.2 However, infused drinks aren’t absorbed and digested the way edibles are. Cannabis beverages tend to provide a pleasant, heady buzz that’s ideal for social settings, not the long-lasting, mind-and-body highs that edibles are associated with.

What kind of cannabis beverages can I buy?

That depends on where you live. In California, for example, you can quench your thirst with cannabis spritzes, try a flight of THC-infused IPAs, or sip on cannabis aperitifs inspired by liqueurs like Campari and Lillet. You name it, they’ve probably made it. Take a look and you’re likely to find multiple options for: 

  • Seltzers
  • Spritzes
  • Ready-to-drink cocktails
  • Beers
  • Sodas
  • Teas
  • Non-alcoholic spirits, aperitifs, and wines

At time of writing, some of the newer markets don’t offer everything you see above. But if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to soon enough. More styles, flavors, and options hit the shelves every month. There’s a small army of cannabis beverage makers working hard on new weed drinks even as you read this.

Do weed drinks taste like weed?

Fair question. If you’re worried about cannabis beverages tasting too “weedy,” fear not. Most modern cannabis drinks are infused with THC distillate, a purified form of THC that’s nearly tasteless and odorless.3 This extract is designed to deliver the goods without making your drink taste too much like the plant from whence it came.

On the other hand, certain brands have embraced the flavor of the flower by infusing select beverages with live resin. Live resin is a cannabis extract that includes the terpenes, aromas, and complexity of the cannabis it’s taken from.4 If you like a bit of weediness, you can always try out products infused with live resin, like Artet’s Founders’ Blend No. 1.

What’s the right dose of THC for me?

The perfect dose is different for everyone. The amount of THC you should consume depends entirely upon your tolerance, your body, and how you want to feel. 

Everyone has a unique endocannabinoid system. You may have a different number of cannabinoid receptors than your dinner date, for example. Perhaps a low dose does the trick for you, but not for your friends. That’s only natural. The most important thing is to consume cannabis on your own terms, and with your own particular needs and priorities in mind.

The THC-infused beverages of today are painstakingly crafted to make tracking your consumption simple. Brands like Artet even include a stainless steel bar measure that distributes an even 2.5 mg of THC per pour. Whether you’re new to the game or a high tolerance user with a certain dosage in mind, you’ll be able to put a number on the amount of milligrams you’ve consumed with ease, even if you’re already high.

If you’re still concerned about getting the dosage right, you can always establish a baseline and take it from there. If you’re not sure what that means, try following the four simple steps below.

  1. Determine how much THC is one serving of the beverage in question. Most cannabis beverages are dosed between 2-5mg THC per serving. That’s a pretty safe place to start, even for rookies. If you’re drinking out of a bottle that contains multiple servings, be sure to measure your pour so that you know you’re only drinking one round.
  2. Drink one serving, then wait 15-30 minutes. Once the onset time has passed, you’ve reached your single-serving baseline. In other words, you now know how one drink makes you feel.
  3. Check in with yourself. You’ve established your baseline. Would you like more? If so, keep in mind that this baseline feeling will multiply proportionately, and so will the number of milligrams you’ve consumed. 
  4. Take time between drinks, and remember your magic number. Once you’re feeling good and are ready to stop sipping, take note of how many milligrams you’ve had. Let that number guide you the next time you drink cannabis beverages.

What are the benefits of cannabis beverages?

In some ways, cannabis beverages are the new kid on the cannabis block. But aside from the fact that they represent the latest and greatest in the world of weed, there are plenty of good reasons to get excited about infused drinks. 

  1. They’re social. Humans have been grabbing drinks since the beginning of time. In many societies, gathering around a glass of this or that is a crucial and deeply enjoyable component of life. Weed beverages combine everybody’s favorite social ritual and everybody’s favorite plant. A new way to drink means a new way to unwind with others, including those who are steering clear of alcohol.
  2. They’re hangover free. No booze means no brutal alcohol aftermath, no upset stomach, no splitting headache, and no “hangxiety.” You can have fun without worrying about the morning to come. Game changer.
  3. They’re smoke free. Smoking isn’t for everyone, and it’s not always an option. Perhaps you’re avoiding smoke for health reasons. Maybe you’re indoors and you don’t want the house to smell. Could be that smoking just isn’t the move in the moment or social setting. If you can’t light up, simply crack a can or pop a bottle instead.
  4. They’re portable. Ever toss a bong in your backpack or cooler? Didn’t think so. Rolling up to a party, picnic, or beach day with some 4-packs or a bottle is a whole lot easier than trying to take your dab rig on the go.
  5. They’re discreet. Though much progress has been made, stigma around cannabis does still exist. Beverages are a format we’re all familiar and comfortable with. Drinks don’t carry the same baggage. Plus, nobody bats an eye at a can of “seltzer.” Infused beverages are a great way to partake without signaling to the world that you’re getting stoned.
  6. They’re user friendly. You’ve made it this far, so you know that cannabis beverages kick in quickly, provide a bright social buzz, and are designed to give consumers maximum control over their experience. If you’ve ever gotten way too high (we all have a brownies story) you already know that all of the above is great news.

Ultimately, cannabis beverages have the potential to change the way we socialize moving forward. To that we raise a glass, and raise a glass high. 

Sources/citations:

1) Jaiswal M, Dudhe R, Sharma PK. Nanoemulsion: an advanced mode of drug delivery system. 3 Biotech. 2015 Apr;5(2):123-127. doi: 10.1007/s13205-014-0214-0. Epub 2014 Apr 8. PMID: 28324579; PMCID: PMC4362737.

2) Ellis, R. Why Edibles Hit You SO MUCH Harder than Smoking. Delish.com. 2017.

3) What is Distillate THC? Silver-therapeutics.com. 2021.

4) Is Live Resin Cannabis Worth the Cost? Leaf411.org. 2021.