What is CBD, and why is it popping up on Atlanta cocktail menus?

Atlanta is beginning to embrace the CBD trend

CBD cocktails Atlanta
Big Sky Buckhead’s Green Fairy cocktail

Photograph courtesy of Big Sky Buckhead

Lately, CBD—or cannabidiol, a derivative of hemp—has been incorporated into all kinds of products from dog treats to bath bombs. You can even get a CBD pedicure at Lark & Sparrow nail salon in Grant Park. CBD cocktails and other drinks have been slowly appearing on menus across Atlanta. Floral Park Market sells CBD-infused kombucha, as does Golda Kombucha’s West End taproom, Cultured South. Rev Coffee in Smyrna has been adding CBD to lattes, and restaurants such as Bocado, Sweet Auburn BBQ, and Big Sky Buckhead have been serving CBD cocktails for the past several months.

For those wondering if CBD is synonymous with marijuana: no, it is not. CBD comes from the same plant as marijuana, but contains less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (TCH), the chemical that produces a high. Thanks to a national Farm Bill passed in 2014, states can elect to grow industrial hemp, and CBD oil can be transported and sold in different states. It doesn’t have hallucinogenic properties, but instead just serves as a relaxant. It’s also not the same thing as low-THC oil, or medical marijuana, whose use for qualifying patients became legal in Georgia in 2015.

Jeremy Watruba, cofounder of Brookhaven-based Recharg3d CBD products, first became interested in CBD when he noticed his fellow gym mates using it as a form of recovery. Seeing a business opportunity, he left his job in insurance sales to get in on the CBD game.

“It’s non-psychoactive, but a lot of people associate [CBD with] the effects of THC, so they’re scared off initially,” Watruba says. “The most common thing people experience [with CBD] is improved sleep because that’s probably what most people are lacking.”

Watruba has also found that people use CBD to reduce muscle soreness and anxiety. Some studies, like this one, have shown that using cannabis oil without THC may be a more effective pain management fighter than with it. But just what, exactly, you might feel while using CBD varies from person to person.

“What I can tell you is what it’s done for me, and what it’s done for everyone that I’ve spoken to,” Watruba says. “There are some positive benefits you can experience, but it’s going to vary.”

Big Sky Buckhead uses Recharg3d’s CBD in its CBD drinks. “It’s just cool,” says co-owner Adam Berlin, noting that he and Juan Calle were inspired to add a CBD cocktail to the menu from travels to the West Coast. They also drew inspiration from Sweetwater’s 420 Strain G13 beer, which doesn’t contain any CBD but does have a weed-like pungency. “I don’t think I’ve seen that strong of a response for a beer before,” Berlin says of when Big Sky put the local brew on tap.

Big Sky’s CBD cocktail is named the Green Fairy, a nod to another formerly taboo substance, absinthe, which became legal in the United States in 2007. Boozy and herbal with strong notes of star anise, the drink is a blend of absinthe, lemon juice, aquafaba (chickpea water), simple syrup, and hopped grapefruit bitters for added spunky aroma. Droplets of CBD oil are floated on top of the drink. “We didn’t want it to be like a frozen margarita where, sometimes you’re like, is there any tequila in this? We want you to see the CBD,” Berlin says. The bar plans to add another CBD cocktail to the menu later this year.

CBD cocktails Atlanta
Sunshine Alchemy’s food truck

Photograph courtesy of Sunshine Alchemy

Jasmine Beck, owner of food truck and catering company Sunshine Alchemy, is another CBD enthusiast who has started incorporating it into cocktails. One of the food truck’s go-to stops is at Colony Square, where CBD boosters—smoothies or juices with a high-dose oil— are a hit with people on their lunch break. “I like to think we offer them something legal and newly available that can help them deal with the stress that they have to walk back into,” says Beck. At private events, she often mixes CBD isolate, which has a cleaner flavor than the full-spectrum oil, in cocktails of all varieties.

While CBD has allure, it may still be awhile before it becomes a commonplace item at Atlanta bars. The product is expensive (at Sweet Auburn BBQ, a Jeffery cocktail with CBD oil added costs a whopping $20), and some restaurants might find it too risqué to put on their menus. After all, even though only minuscule amounts of THC are present, Recharg3d warns that you could test positive on a drug test. (The FDA also doesn’t allow it in foods sold across state lines—think packaged snacks or drinks.)

At the end of the day, Berlin says, it’s about fun. “I’ve had the serving [of CBD] we use mixed with just water, to see [if it did anything], and I think I felt a slight relaxation. But we’re not making any special claims in it, other than it’s cool.”