With the summer holiday season finally in full swing, weed fans — and the weed curious — are ready to kick it poolside, throw back a couple of mad refreshing, totally lo-cal THC-infused drinks and get higher than the gas prices at the corner of La Cienega and Beverly boulevards.
The only hurdle is figuring out what to buy.
That’s because while we’ve been preoccupied with double masking and errant sneezes, the cannabis-infused beverage category has been growing faster than Pete Davidson’s social clout.
According to cannabis trend-tracking firm Headset, the California market was the fastest-growing in the country in 2021, when the number of cannabis beverages on offer in the state nearly doubled to 530.
Partaking in pot without becoming a human yule log is possible — even for novice cannabis consumers.
Sure, the beverage labels will tell you how much THC (the psychoactive ingredient that gets you high) is in the drink and probably (but not always) hint at the flavor profile. But that’s not much to go on, and far too often, picking a weed drink has felt more like taking your taste buds on a weedy-tasting blind date than making an informed decision.
To help you find the perfect poolside palate pleaser for the summer season — or at least narrow the field dramatically — a cadre of roughly a dozen co-workers and friends dubbed the Elite Beverage Tasting Squad (EBTS) decamped to my backyard for a 17-beverage test with the goal of jointly (see what I did there?) recommending and ranking by taste 10 THC-infused beverages.
After almost three hours, we stopped at five solid suggestions.
That’s because the vast majority of the options on hand (some industry-recommended, some bestsellers and others chosen at random) suffered from a sad fruit-seltzer sameness, an unpardonably weedy aftertaste or both. A Delta-8 THC-infused drink called Party Water from Party Beer Co. made one taster remark, “I feel like a piece of celery just spat in my mouth.” Ceria Brewing Co.'s Indiewave, which was aiming for an India Pale Ale taste, landed closer to “bitter bong water” with the scent of “unrefrigerated Thanksgiving leftovers,” and with a high THC content (25 milligrams per 12-ounce can), Heavy Hitters’ HVY Marg evoked comparisons to “dirty socks” and “window cleaner.”
Where are the social equity marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles? Check out our list of weed shops built on social justice and community vibes.
But the five highlighted below? They represent the taste-test all-stars and are worth checking out if your summer to-do list includes diving deeper into the world of weed-enhanced beverages. It is not meant to be definitive but to serve as a starting point. To that end, if there’s a weed drink you think merits inclusion in a future taste test, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember that, as with all things weed, it’s better to start low (milligram-wise) and go slow (i.e., pace yourself) because you can always take more but you can’t take less — and no one wants you to be the summer’s first freakout.
5. Cann X Sweet Flower Passion Peach Maté
This three-way collaboration from beverage brand Cann, SoCal dispensary chain Sweet Flower and Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo drew favorable comparisons to Snapple’s iced tea. “Smells like peach, tastes like peach iced tea,” said one taster. “[Tastes like] carbonated iced tea. Zero cannabis flavor. Peach doesn’t really come through on first taste,” said another.
“This is a nostalgic iced tea taste with a bit of sweetness. I see myself sitting in a rocking chair on a warm summer day sipping this beverage thinking about my 20s.”
Made with yerba maté, it’s notable for being the first of Cann’s “social tonics” to include a punch of natural caffeine alongside the cannabis — about the equivalent of one espresso shot per can. Available exclusively at Sweet Flower dispensaries and sweetflower.com.
$20 per 4-pack; 5 milligrams THC and 50 calories per 12-ounce can.
4. Artet Mango Ginger Spritz
The squad gave Artet’s blend of mango juice, ginger beer, lime and tropical spices high marks both for what it tasted like and what it didn’t taste like. “Good for a fruity botanical. Not too sweet, not too weedy. I would put a lime in the glass with that,” said one taster. “Doesn’t taste weedy. I would drink this regularly,” said another.
“Looks like orange soda. Does not taste weedy. Refreshing. Dangerous! Smells like mango/a little perfumey. Ginger-forward! Tasting peach? Smells like walking through a hothouse [full] of flowers.”
The general consensus? The peppery bite of ginger lingering on the tongue after the floral-meets-mango flavor fades away, obscuring any residual weediness. Find stocking dispensaries or order online at artet.com.
$5 each, $18 per 4-pack; 5 milligrams THC, 5 milligrams CBD and 35 calories per 8-ounce can.
3. Keef Original Cola
Boulder, Colo.-based Keef Brands launched its cannabis-infused sodas back in 2010 and brought its five core flavors — Orange Kush, Blue Razz, Purple Passion, Bubba Kush Root Beer and Original Cola — to California in the summer of 2019. It’s the last of those, with its “RC Cola fragrance,” “hint of vanilla” and “Pepsi but with a slight weed aftertaste” flavor, that was put to the test — and earned a spot on the squad’s must-drink list.
“This is great. The weed flavor rounds out the cola flavor. Wonderful. Big fan.”
“Delicious. Delivers on the promise of cola,” said one taster. “Looks like Coke. Tastes like Diet Coke. That’s dangerous. Easy drinking. It has a cream soda aftertaste and very minor weed flavor,” said another. (Pro tip: If you’re into crossfading — consuming alcohol and cannabis at the same time — this makes a deliciously next-level Cuba Libre.) Find a list of stocking dispensaries at keefbrands.com.
MSRP $7;10 milligrams THC and 130 calories per 12-ounce can.
2. Wunder Higher Vibes Blackberry Lemon
Each can of Wunder Higher Vibes Blackberry Lemon packs a potent punch of pot — 10 milligrams of THC and 10 milligrams of Delta-8 THC (a similar-but-different compound that might give a less intense, shorter-lasting high). Even so, the herbal aftertaste that haunts many an infused drink is M.I.A. “Sweet — not weedy — tastes like a juice. Desserty,” said one taster. “Very good. Little aftertaste. My favorite so far. Fruity but not too fruity. Just right,” said another.
“Smells like a red Starburst. Tastes good. Sweet. More watermelon than blackberry vibes? Doesn’t taste like weed.”
While the bubbles earned it high marks with some tasters (“The carbonation also has a great taste/feel on the tongue”), most of the squad cited the beverage’s berry backbone as key. Comments included: “Blackberry soda, no weed flavor. I’d pair this with a picnic or a ballpark hotdog” and “Blackberry lemon! Sweet but not overwhelming. A little sour but just enough.” Find a list of stocking dispensaries and order online at findwunder.com.
$23 per 4 pack; 10 milligram THC, 10 milligram Delta-8 THC and 40 calories per 10-ounce can. The same flavor also is available in a lower-dose formulation ($16 per 4-pack) containing 2 milligrams THC, 2 milligrams Delta-8 THC and 4 milligrams of CBD and 25 calories per 8-ounce can.
1. Rickett Brewing Jolie Fleur Pink
The beverage that got the highest marks was SoCal-based Rickett Brewing Co.'s Champagne-like Jolie Fleur Pink, which was praised for its “lovely color,” “appropriately bubbly” carbonation and its “smooth and pleasant” and “wine-adjacent” taste that evoked everything from rosé to sour ale. “This beverage would make me an honest man,” one of the squad said. “The Champagne taste makes it feel adult. I’d share this with friends excitedly.” “Oh, wow, this is actually very good!” added another.
“Tastes celebratory like a rosé Champagne — or a sour ale. Lovely. This would make a great hostess gift.”
There’s a good reason for all the wine comparisons with this drink. The starting point for this classy beverage is actual wine (Sauvignon Blanc, to be precise) made from California grapes. Through some technological wizardry, every last bit of the alcohol is removed (and bottled to be used as hand sanitizer) before the light carbonation and nano-emulsified THC — the smaller particles mean a faster onset time — are added. Although the company recently introduced slightly smaller canned versions of both flavors (there’s a Blanc as well as the Pink), the amber bottle and foil-covered cap of the original adds a classy touch that makes it as good for gifting as drinking. Additional information, including a list of stocking dispensaries, can be found at rickettbrewing.com.
MSRP $22; 10 milligrams THC and 25 calories per 12.68-ounce bottle; $14 for the new 10-milligram 10-ounce cans.