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December 01, 2021
Secrets from a Cannabis Sommelier: An Interview with Jamie Evans, The Herb Somm

BY CHRISTINA WONG of Baking with Chickens | Photos courtesy of Jamie Evans, photography by Chris Greenwell

It’s late and way past my bedtime, but something's making me feel like this moment is special, so I stay out for another toke or two. A small group of foodies, winos, and weedies with discerning palates steal away from the scene and cluster cozily in Jamie’s mid-century modern hotel room, upstairs and away from the hazy weed-scented smoke cloud that was growing larger by the minute around the poolside bar. 

The Flamingo was overflowing with guests and visitors in town for Hall of Flowers, the B2B cannabis conference and trade event in Santa Rosa, California. Far away from the fray, with the hum of lively conversation off in the distance, Jamie pops open a bottle of her new wine, Herbacée, a cannabis-infused sparkling wine. With a satisfying POP-fizz, the wine finally breathes. Ever-so-elegantly she pours the effervescent pink wine into a glass and expertly swirls it counter-clockwise before taking a deep inhale to take in her wine’s bouquet and aroma. 

Jamie Evans approaches cannabis like she approaches a fine wine, using the same familiar techniques and terminology that became second nature to me from my long nights in the restaurant industry—nose, bouquet, legs, finish. I’ve referenced her Terpene Pairing Guide more than a few times while researching recipes and strain pairings. Jamie is the vino to my desserts, a fellow culinary cannabis enthusiast. 

Imagine my delight to find myself lounging in her hotel room with friends of equally impressive bonafides for an impromptu preview tasting. It was fascinating to sit with and listen to expert sommeliers smell, taste, and discuss the wine in deep detail—all the way down to how 0.1% sugar would change the aromas and flavors. Want to know what Herbacée Sparkling Rose tastes like? Read on for my interview with Jamie.

This summer, Ember covered how red-hot the cannabis beverage market is right now. This month, we’re learning about cannabis-infused drinks and recipes from Jamie Evans of The Herb Somm, entrepreneur, writer, cookbook author, and weed and wine event hostess with the mostest.

Her latest book Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home was released April 2021. This month, her nonalcoholic cannabis-infused wine Herbacée will launch in California. As an industry leader, Jamie was named as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers in 2018 and as a 2018 Innovator by SevenFifty Daily. She was also recognized as one of Green Market Report’s “Most Important Women in Weed” in 2020.

 

CHRISTINA WONG: Jamie! You’ve had a big year. Congrats on publishing your second book Cannabis Drinks and launching Herbacée, your own line of cannabis-infused non-alcoholic wine that pays homage to traditional French-inspired wine blends. How did you feel when you saw yourself and your book splashed across a billboard in Times Square?

JAMIE EVANS: It’s been an exciting year so far, filled with new opportunities. The billboard in Times Square was unreal, especially since Cannabis Drinks launched the week before it went live! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see it in person due to COVID-19, but some close friends were able to capture footage. A big thanks to Honeysuckle Magazine and my publisher, Quarto Publishing Group, for making it possible.

Tell me about your new book. Why write a book on cannabis drinks and where do you find inspiration for your recipes? 

My goal with Cannabis Drinks is to share all of the secrets I’ve learned throughout my wine and cannabis journey. Different from other books in this category, Cannabis Drinks offers something to both beginners and experts, presenting many approaches to enhancing beverages.

For the newbies, this book provides an in-depth look into infused beverage basics and cannabis 101, including features that highlight the differences between CBD and THC, how to dose infused drinks, how to serve infused drinks, how to evaluate cannabis flower by using sensory evaluation techniques, and so much more. There are also several essential how-tos and infusion guides that break down topics such as decarboxylation and heating techniques, making this book approachable to anyone curious to learn more. 

For the recipes, I wanted to create a collection of seasonal drinks that inspire the senses. You’ll find low-dose recipes for smoothies, shakes, juices, coffee drinks, tea, spirit-free mixed drinks, and cocktails. While the target dose in each chapter leans towards CBD-rich, the reader can easily choose a THC-rich strain and prepare the recipes as written.

If creating a homemade infusion seems intimidating, the reader can also simply infuse the recipes using an unflavored commercially made tincture of their choice (although I encourage everyone to create the infusions). But overall, readers can choose the path that's right for them. 

 

If someone is a beginner and has no idea how to infuse, can they learn it from your book?

Yes, absolutely! Chapter 3 is dedicated to “Mastering Infusions.” In this chapter, you’ll explore infusions 101, decarboxylation, how to increase the potency of DIY infusions, plus techniques for integrating CBD and THC oil into drinks (if you decide to use a tincture to enhance the recipes). This book is comprehensive. I wanted to provide as much education as possible. 

I love how you explore terpenes in the book with notes on how to smell and identify cannabis aromas and flavor profiles—just like how sommeliers taste and evaluate wine. When you’re making a recipe, what’s your process? How do you choose which strain to pair with what ingredients? 

When creating a cocktail, tasting notes are key! By using sensory evaluation techniques (i.e., using your nose and palate to decipher the characteristics of the beverage), you can create tasting notes for any element that you’re working with, including cannabis. Before crafting cannabis infusions and drinks, think about your ingredients. Smell and taste each ingredient separately and write down your tasting notes before combining them. What characteristics are you trying to highlight? Focus on this as you build the drink and combine ingredients that accentuate the specific profile that you’re aiming for.

 

How are cannabis terpenes like wine tasting? And how do cannabis terpenes enhance food and drink?

Much like wine, cannabis is packed with aromas, flavors, and different properties. Each strain has characteristics based on the farming practices and the terroir in which the plant was grown, creating distinctive terpene profiles. By tapping into your senses, you can learn to recognize the differences between terpenes and apply this knowledge to craft cannabis drinks or create cannabis, food, and wine pairings.

When thinking about cannabis from a culinary perspective, terpenes allow us to pair cannabis with different foods and beverages. From a chef’s point of view, cannabis is also a perfect ingredient to cook with because of terpenes and how they interact with cannabinoids to enhance the overall dining experience. 

Any particular brands, people, or products in the market right now that you’re impressed with who is doing cool things or that you’re really into right now? 

I love the concept of cannabis-infused cider. Be sure to check out Malus. This low-dose cider beverage is made with live-resin, which works incredibly well with the drink’s profile. Check them out on Instagram @drinkmalus.

(Live resin is cannabis concentrate oil extracted from fresh-frozen flower, which preserves more of the plant’s natural terpene profile, flavors, and aromas.)

How and where did you learn how to do this? How and why did you get into cannabis? 

While studying wine and viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I learned how to apply sensory evaluation to wine and several other ingredients. To fine-tune the senses, we can use these same techniques when evaluating cannabis. 

My relationship with cannabis began back in college, but it wasn’t until January 2017 that I began using cannabis for medical purposes. I had witnessed a terrible car accident and couldn’t sleep. Instead of turning to alcohol or pharmaceutical drugs, I wanted to find a holistic way to heal myself and started researching cannabis. Sensitive to products high in THC, I quickly become passionate about its counterpart, CBD. By implementing a regimen using both phytocannabinoids, I was able to bring balance back into my life.

The more I learned about cannabis, the more I realized there were so many similarities between cannabis and wine, but the ways in which cannabis works with our internal systems is what ultimately led to my career change. 

If someone wanted to learn more about being a cannabis sommelier, where would you recommend they start?

If you’re looking to become a cannabis sommelier, I highly recommend the Trichome Institute’s “Interpening” program. You will learn the evolution of global cannabis speciation, what to properly call thousands of cultivars, cannabis history, terminology, how to identify cannabis quality, and so much more. Just like wine, cannabis is incredibly complex, so I firmly believe in these types of educational programs. 

If you don’t have the budget to invest in a formal program right now, I recommend training yourself. In my new book, Cannabis Drinks, I’ve included exercises to enhance your sense of smell for cannabis. Start there, and continue to read cannabis books and smell/taste as many cannabis strains as possible. Remember to write down your tasting notes!

With your background in wine, you’re launching Herbacée this fall! I love the gorgeous botanical bottle design. Tell me about this project and how it came about? Is it strain-specific? 

In many ways, it feels like my educational background and career has been leading up to this point, so I am very excited for our launch this fall!

Herbacée (meaning “Herbaceous” in French) explores the divine connection between cannabis and the grapevine. My goal with this product line is to demonstrate the correlation between these sacred plants as well as showcase the art of blending. While the Herbacée sparkling line is not strain-specific, we might explore this concept later down the road, so be sure to stay tuned! Be sure to follow @herbaceeofficial for updates.

Why did you choose to launch with Sparkling Rose? Describe it to me: What aromas would I be smelling? What does it taste like? What does the high feel like? 

I knew I wanted to launch a sparkling beverage first, so it was either going to be a sparkling blanc or rosé. After finding the incredible rosé lot that we’re working with, I decided to start there and build out the portfolio.

Herbacée Sparkling Rose, is a rosé blend made primarily from Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault. Since the wine must legally go through the dealcoholization process to remove alcohol before it’s combined with cannabis, aromas and flavors must be added back in to deliver a wine-like experience. Does it taste the same as traditional wine? Not exactly, but close! Like traditional wine, you’ll be able to pick out different fruit and floral notes. 

When we did the preview tasting in your hotel room it had a light refreshing strawberry and melon aroma; like how a bowl of ripe, fresh fruit sitting out on a warm summer day fills the air with its sweetness. There’s a sparkling effervescence that’s light on the tongue, and a smooth flavor that’s not too sweet and a little tart. It was the most sophisticated and grown-up version of all the cannabis wines that we tasted that night. 

The tartness comes from the Grenache. You’ll perceive bright acidity, similar to a glass of wine! On the nose and palate, it almost reminds me of a natural wine, particularly a pét-nat. This beverage also contains 5mg THC to 5 mg CBD, delivering a balanced experience.

If you were hosting a dinner party and serving the Herbacée Sparkling Rose, what are you making for dinner to pair with it? 

One of the best things about Herbacée Sparkling Rose is its bright acidity! This is not a sweet beverage in any way, so it will pair well with many different cuisine styles. The saltiness in food is an excellent contrast to the acidity in this cannabis wine, so think sushi, cheese, and several other Asian dishes.

Ooh! That’s a fun pairing, I’m thinking of Miso Salmon with ginger rice and pickled greens. Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list? Anyone dead or alive.

Anthony Bourdain because he’s an absolute legend in the culinary space and Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, the first woman to run a Champagne house (Veuve Clicquot) in the early 19th century. The food and wine at this table would be out of the world delicious! Plus, I'd bring the cannabis for a perfect pairing.

In addition to cannabis, I would also pair music with the menu at this dream dinner! I love all different styles of music. Jazz, deep house, reggae, downtempo… depends on the atmosphere.

If you were serving one of your cannabis-infused drinks at this dream dinner party, which recipe would you serve? 

Over the summer, I was really enjoying the Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub Soda from my book. Both sweet and tart with a boost of botanicals, it’s so light and refreshing, you’ll want to drink two! I’m also obsessed with any drink containing a shrub, so this would be my pick.

(A shrub is a drinking vinegar made from water, fruit, sugar and vinegar to create a syrup that’s used in cocktails.)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Shrub Soda Recipe 

A Recipe from Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home by Jamie Evans

Combining a symphony of flavors, this drink blends sweet strawberry with citrus and rhubarb notes that cleanse the palate. The vodka’s subtle profile is a perfect match for this shrub cocktail.

Yield: 1 serving

Target Dose: 4 mg CBD | 1 mg THC per drink (using Infused Strawberry Lime Shrub) or your preferred dose (using commercially made CBD or THC tincture of your choice, see note below)

Equipment:

Shaker tin 

Muddler

Jigger

Hawthorne strainer 

Old-fashioned glass

Bar spoon

Ingredients:

5  strawberries, cut in half

3/4 ounce (22 ml) fresh lemon juice

1 ounce (30 ml) Infused Strawberry Lime Shrub (page 86 in the book)

3/4 ounce (22 ml) rhubarb liqueur

3/4 ounce (22 ml) premium vodka

Ice

Club soda

Slice of strawberry, a lime wheel, and edible flowers, for garnish

Directions:

In a shaker tin, muddle the strawberries until they release their juices. Add the lemon juice, shrub, rhubarb liqueur, vodka, and ice. Cover and shake for 15 seconds or until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and give the drink a few good stirs using a bar spoon. Garnish with a slice of strawberry, lime wheel, and edible flowers.

Note: If you don’t have the supplies to infuse CBD and THC into the strawberry lime shrub, simply use a non-infused version then add your favorite unflavored tincture (at your preferred dose) into the shaker tin, then follow the directions.

Text © 2021 Jamie Evans – Recipe from Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home


Christina spent over a decade in the food & restaurant industry working with well-known chefs and restaurants in Los Angeles. A creator, baker, and creative consultant, her work won a Clio Cannabis Award in 2020. She bakes infused culinary cannabis creations at Baking With Chickens, and hosts a culinary cannabis cooking show "BAKED With Chickens" on YouTube.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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