A proper Italian meal just doesn’t feel right without drink pairings. After all, it’s a fundamental part of the culinary culture in Italy: an aperitivo to get things started, plenty of vino to keep guests lubricated, and a digestivo to cap things off nicely. Cannabis? Not so much. But an infused dinner in San Francisco doesn’t have to play by the rules, and thus a CBD-spiked limoncello is born.
You can thank John Korkidis for the brilliant idea. He’s the voice behind cannabis cocktail blog, Chron Vivant, and owner of Proposition Cocktail Co., a CBD-infused non-alcoholic cocktail line. Korkidis recently collaborated with Potli, Limone Creative, and Michael Magallanes, a.k.a. Opulent Chef, for an infused three-course dinner inspired by Italian family tradition of Sunday dinner. As the kicker to an evening centered around cannabis and Italian culinary worship, serving guests a chill CBD-infused limoncello just seemed like the natural fit.
“I love playing with terpenes — the essential oils in cannabis — and correlating them back to other natural plants like lime, citrus, lavender, etc,” he told MERRY JANE. “With limoncello, you're essentially extracting all of the terpenes from the peel of the lemon and infusing them into spirit. Very much like cannabis, right? It's a similar process. What we’re tasting is basically like an infused, hyper-concentrated, limonene terpene-dominant beverage.”
MERRY JANE caught up with Korkidis to talk about his mission in cannabis, how he made the plant a part of his professional life, and why his Mellow Limoncello recipe is worth making at home.
Mellow Limoncello: Chron Vivant x Potli x Limone Creative
Traditional limoncello recipes call for the zest or peels of the Sorrento or Sfusato lemons from the Amalfi Coast that are steeped in grappa and then blended with a simple syrup mixture. (We used common Eureka’s, but you could also experiment with Meyer or other seasonal lemon varietals)
For our adaptation, we’ve replaced the grappa with vodka and swapped out the simple syrup for a healthier, more nuanced honey syrup made with local Potli CBD honey.
- 8-10 organic lemons
- 1 (750-ml) bottle Titos vodka
- 1 Potli local CBD honey
- 2 cups purified water
Step 1: Prep & Steep
- Thoroughly wash and dry lemons to remove waxes and harsh residues
- Carefully peel lemons lengthwise (save the remaining lemon fruit for garnishes).
- Using a paring knife to trim any remaining pith from the peels (dry and store excess pith for use in bitters and marinades)
- Place the lemon peels in a large pitcher or bowl and pour vodka over peels
- Let lemon peels steep in the vodka for 5-7 days at room temperature
Step 2: Infuse It
- Stir the Potli CBD honey and water in a large saucepan over low heat until the honey fully dissolves, about 2-3 minutes
- Let cool completely and combine with vodka mixture
- Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight
Step 3: Chill It
- Strain the Limoncello through a fine strainer (save peels for candied garnish)
- Batch, seal, and refrigerate (keeps for roughly one month)
- Serve ice cold after dinner or use to add a punch of juicy lemon to cocktails
MERRY JANE: Tell us a little bit about what you do in the cannabis world.
John Korkidis: First thing’s first: I’m passionate about advocating cannabis in terms of civil rights and education. And while it's nice that we do all these recipes, we cannot have the conversation about cannabis commerce without having a conversation about expungement and equity, primarily for black and brown people who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
So, I'm very active and that’s part of what I do out here: introducing an educational component using an interesting, understandable mechanism, which is a beverage in the bar. You feel comfortable with it. Cannabis consumers know that this isn't something that's going to get them high. But I find that people who do not smoke or are hesitant to indulge in any type of cannabinoids will embrace a drink that’s a little more familiar, and then they get excited and that opens up the door for conversation.
Were you working in the beverage world before you transitioned into cannabis? How did you start experimenting with cannabis and cocktails?
Growing up, I worked in kitchens and catered. My family in Greece owns restaurants, so in some sense, food has always been in my DNA. But professionally, that hasn’t been my trajectory. I actually started off my career when I lived in China, working at a creative agency. When I came back to the states, I fell into that whole tech thing and was not very happy. Cannabis was my outlet in a lot of ways for creativity, as well as educating myself about this plant that I really knew nothing about (even though I’d been consuming it my whole life).
For me, the last five years or so has been primarily a crash course in education in terms of understanding where the science is going, as well as getting involved on the grassroots level. I've had my blog going now for two years, and have been doing events, as well. By doing that, things kind of snowballed to a point that I found my niche. For the most part, I consider myself more of an ‘apartment bartender’ than anything. I love cooking. I love making drinks. And I love incorporating cannabis.
What is your approach to developing infused cocktail recipes?
I don’t just lean on cannabis. I like to think of cannabis as just another ingredient and that's my ethos for the blog. It also needs to be accessible and executable for someone with limited access to product. I don't like to overcomplicate it or make centered around intoxication. It's much more about working with the plant to get its flavor components and relaxing properties, usually lower proof using less than an ounce. It's mainly because we're creating something to enjoy for the flavor component and as a social lubricant. And that's basically the criteria I use to get started.
How does your infused version stack up against a classic limoncello? Does it have an earthy terp flavor you find in some edibles, or did you try to neutralize that?
Instead of using a simple syrup or a sugar to sweeten it, we used the Potli honey. It was a way to combine non-cannabis terpenes (lemons) and the non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant (the broad spectrum CBD inside of the honey). Yes, there are trace amounts of terpenes in the honey, but that doesn’t come through as much. The CBD honey from Potli is a high quality honey; really unadulterated. Just a hint of floral essence, which I personally liked. Because this is basically a lemon drop shot, and it really brightens up the drink, I decided to create a version that anybody can execute in their home that required only a few steps. It’s something that someone can hold on to, get excited about, and maybe think about cannabis just like any other ingredient that we might be using.
Compared to your run-of-the-mill limoncello recipe, is the CBD version worth infusing?
Arguably, there’s no real benefit at this level of dosing within that CBD shot — we're talking about less than two milligrams per serving. So yeah, at that dose, it’s not doing anything for you from a health and wellness perspective. But if you're consuming cannabinoids, have some kind of regimen, or microdosing, these trace amounts are just adding to that daily dose. The reason we're using CBD is to avoid any negative synergistic effects of combining THC and alcohol. It's not supposed to be overly pretentious or unapproachable. Ultimately, this is a versatile recipe that people can play around with, using things that they have in their own homes.
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