Behind the bars of some of the nation's finest cocktail joints, there are secrets: secret recipes, secret bottles for friends only. One of these is the Green Dragon, a liquor potently infused with marijuana.
He's refined a method that's quick, gives precise, predictable results, and reportedly maximizes the delicious herbal flavor of the drug, to provide a civilized sippable for the beverage connoisseur. Jon's nitrous-powered Green Dragon "just tastes good. We've dialed the strength back substantially, not because we can't make it stronger, but just because people want to be able to drink more of it, because they like it so much."
Jon can rattle off the exact date when (friend of PopSci) Dave Arnold published on his blog the "game-changing" nitrous infusion technique, a method for rapidly forcing new flavors into liquor using gas pressure inside a whipped-cream charger. And it was not very long at all after that date when Jon first had the notion to apply the technique to cannabis.
"If you don't want to smoke, you're left with edibles, but with edibles, there's no way to dose it. Someone hands you this thing, and you're like: who made it? how was it made? You eat a half or a quarter of it, and you wait and wait, and you either feel nothing, or you're destroyed."
But alcohol absorbs through the digestive tract in a faster, much more predictable way than solid edibles--and so does whatever's dissolved in that alcohol. Hence the precision-infused Green Dragon.
The rapid infusion works--the theory goes--because high pressure forces N2O and alcohol deep into the plant material. Then, when the gas pressure is suddenly released, it causes the nitrous oxide to come out of solution and violently bubble around the bits of plant material, agitating the mixture on a microscopic level.
Traditional infusion in alcohol takes days or weeks, and extracts a broader spectrum of compounds from the plant -- not just the more volatile molecules responsible for psychoactive effects and bright, pleasant flavors, but ones that dissolve over time and impart murky flavor and what some call a headachy effect.
"Ten years ago, I had gotten my hands on this ungodly amount of hash. We couldn't smoke it all. So we started putting it into neutral grain spirit, and it dissolved in, but the thing was, we couldn't get as high. So we gave up and forgot about it for a week, and meanwhile it sat in the car in the 120° sun for a week. The next time, we took a couple of drops and it destroyed us."
"What happened? THC [the main active ingredient in cannabis] normally has a carboxyl group that's attached to it. In order for it to fit into the lock-and-key mechanism of our bodies' cannabinoid receptors, you have to break off the carboxyl group. That takes 30 years--or heat."
The carboxyl group starts breaking off as the temperature gets higher, so Jon heats his Dragon as part of the infusing process. Toasting the cannabis before infusing can drive off some of the delicate aromatics, giving it a cooked flavor, and also runs the risk of vaporizing the THC itself. So Jon heats his only to 100°C (212°F), which gives the infusion a delicate flavor and just the strength he wants, no more.
"You can dial in the recipe to know exactly how many grams you're getting per serving."
The effect of the drug should remain steady for about four hours. One to one-and-a-half ounces is what Jon considers a single serving; six ounces is his maximum imaginable dose.
Nitrous Green Dragon
Here's how Jon does it:
- a one-liter heat-tolerant whipped-cream whipper
- two nitrous oxide chargers
- a double boiler large enough to accommodate the whipper bottle
- 750 ml mezcal at room temperature (Jon uses Vida or Sombra)
- 3.5 grams (1/8 ounce) of cannabis (Jon uses "indoor high-grade sativa")
- Roughly break up the cannabis.
- Put the cannabis and the mezcal in the whipper bottle.
- Close the canister and charge it with two charges of N2O according to the instructions.
- Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Vent out the pressurized gas. NOTE: you are venting aerosolized ethanol with THC dissolved in it, as well as laughing gas. Jon says "Probably nobody would want to inhale this."
- Stir the liquid and let it sit until the gas boils off.
- Place the sealed canister in a double boiler and let it simmer for an hour.
- Strain the solids out of the liquid and discard them or dry them for other uses. The liquid is nitrous green dragon.
"It's not on the menu. No one is selling it. You can't ask for it. But if you're a regular, an insider, your bartender just might pull out a bottle and offer you a taste."
NOTE: Neither the author nor Popular Science advocate the use of illegal intoxicants.
Thank you PopSci, another recipe for me!
Fascinating. Thank you.
Out of my way, Let me through!
Time to test this stuff
"There's a sucker born every minute" is a phrase often credited to P. T. Barnum (1810–1891), an American showman.
Great article. I love high tech recipes, although I don't often have the time or equipment to try them.
I'm rather sure college students have been doing this for ages with the "put some pot into a bottle of everclear, microwave it on high for two minutes, shake it up and serve" technique...
Anyways, this only barely qualifies as actual science. I know this is "drug week" but perhaps you can write an article on BREAKING SCIENCE OF DRUGS, you know like those ones that help cancer victims, or the newly emerging relm of designer psychedelic phenylethylamines. You know like the reports of 25I-MBOME or 2C-P giving you the temporary ability to read minds of other people who are also on psychedelic phenylethylamines...
Wow, I've never seen a gathering of internet individuals weed out and ignore a troll and their sock puppets (AnyIcon, Aurora and Amun-Ra) so quickly! I like it :)
I've always hated the inability to precisely dose cannabis. I prefer a much more subtle high, gained from lower doses. This drink would be perfect.
Now.. internet - find me the kit!
So, I have to wonder, would the heating process work better with my Sous Vide? Maybe get a bit more precise temperature? Guess I'll just have to find out...
If it's pressure and release, I should be able to do this with CO2 in my SodaStream soda maker. Carbonated cannabis liquor. Hmmm. I wonder how the grassy, vegetal taste of Absinthe would go with the grassy, vegetal notes of grass?
I should have know about this process earlier.
I can't wait to get home to try it, I have a hobby project for this weekend. Thanks for a great article.
This is not exactly a "new" or "game changing" technology. It's been in use in the molecular gastronomy and essence/perfume world for a number of years.
(Dratted premature posting)
There are other techniques - percolation extraction, steam distillation, hydrosol, supercritical and subcritical solvent extraction (usually CO2 at VERY high pressure or butane) and so on. Each will extract slightly different fractions from the raw material. It comes down to doing a lot of experiments.
This process sounds great for a recreational type delivery method for Cannabis. If the creator is so interested in standardization, why does he not have the potency of his Cannabis tincture/beverage tested by an analytical laboratory like SC Labs in California.
Using 3.5g of "high grade sativa" doesn't really mean anything as weighing flower material doesn't give an accurate dose in milligrams of cannabinoid content, which modern Cannabis patients/enthusiasts have come to expect for safety purposes. He rails against edible makers for unclear dosing but his product is no better. Most of those edible makers are already testing with SC Labs.
"Place the sealed canister in a double boiler and let it simmer for an hour."
Shouldn't that be an unsealed canister? It seems a little dangerous to heat alcohol at such temperatures for so long in a sealed isi syphon!
Pneumeric, I have the same thoughts as you.
If you vent out all the gas, you should be able to put it UN-SEALED in the double boiler, not sealed. Just doesn't seem safe.
I would love to try this but there are way too many inconsistencies.
Other than the one I listed, how about the fact that you're decarboxylating the cannabis before you even put it in the alcohol? You shouldn't need to decarb it twice. This is very odd. The quote below is saying that the cannabis is decarbed before he even put it into the alcohol. This changes THCa into THC, thus activating the effects. Why would you need to put it in a double boiler after the initial decarb?
"Toasting the cannabis before infusing can drive off some of the delicate aromatics, giving it a cooked flavor, and also runs the risk of vaporizing the THC itself. So Jon heats his only to 100°C (212°F), which gives the infusion a delicate flavor and just the strength he wants, no more."
I've personally made plenty of batches of marijuana vodka, and let me tell you, it sure as hell doesn't take all that they say. It takes weed, vodka, a pot, and a way to heat it for awhile. That's it. This is like an article on how to wipe your rear, but gives you 5000 more steps than are ever required. Make the vodka hot, not boiling, and have real good weed to add to it. Strain the weed particles from the vodka, bottle, let cool, and enjoy. Or drink it hot if you like hot vodka. Works either bloody way. Why spend all that money, and have nitrous flying around when it is simple to just heat, strain, and enjoy.
@Kallasmis: That's true. anyone who knows the science behind cooking with cannabis knows those are the basic steps to activate the THC. This article is talking about something different though. In this article they are infusing the flavor/aroma/THC into the alcohol using N2O (Nitrous Oxide).
If all you wanted to do was make vodka that had THC in it, fine, just heat it up and mix it together. But this processes uses N2O to infuse the alcohol with the cannabis properties. That's where the confusion comes into play at least with me, because there are definitely some un-answered (and potentially lethal) questions listed here.
I would definitely suggest to PopSci either take the "recipe" portion of this article off, or give more detail to it. There could definitely be deaths associated with mixing 50% alcohol, N2O, high pressures, and high heats all together in the wrong way.
Incroyable. I personally think cannabis should probably be legalized, however, it is not legal yet. This shows incredibly poor judgement on the part of your editors and the reporter as well. I cannot believe you have published this, complete with a recipe, for making what would be an illegal substance in most of the 50 states. What is the scientific value of publishing this material? Are you trying to encourage people to take cannabis willy nilly at home?
Your reporter has all but admitted to sampling this material, and at the very least appears to have witnessed criminal activity yet did not report it to the appropriate authorities? The article certainly makes it appear so! I won't be the least surprised If I hear that your offices are being raided by federal investigators for more information about all this!
I think the reason to put the ISI in the container sealed is to not boil off any alcohol or volatile chemicals.
The recommended ISI whippers are rated on the box to 165F; in a double boiler, the temperature probably is something like 185F, so you're not exceeding the specs by much. And I bet the whippers have an overpressure valve (although I admit I am not sure).
If you're really worried, someone who still remembers their high school chemistry could calculate the vapor pressure of water+alcohol at 100C, and compare to the pressure of two N2O cartridges.
Bekabam: Reread the instructions: you only heat once. When they say "John heats to 212F", they're talking about the boiling that is already included in the instructions, not a prep step.
If I were going to do this, I'd change one thing: After putting the cannabis into the whipper with the mezcal, I'd let it sit for 15 minutes or so before charging. I think the extraction will work better if the cannabis is completely saturated with alcohol rather than if you charge while dry.
Great their are good details of Liquor drinks.
Any flavor advantages of using NO to extract essence with little harshness is certainly erased by simmering the cannabis with the Mezcal for an hour afterward. That will extract EVERYTHING from the bud as well as dissipate some of the nice agave aromas of the Mezcal. Might as well skip the first step, and just add the Mezcal to the buds and simmer.
A better way would be to use the NO to extract the aromatic elements (and some THCA)from the bud into the Mezcal. Then filter off the flavored Mezcal without heating. The flavor is better, but (I know) you have THCA that doesn't get you high. So you add add it in the form of butane honey oil that has been decarboxylated. The dosage can be better controlled using BHO and the aromas are preserved. You get best of both worlds. I do this with Super Lemon Haze fresh bud whose aromas mingle beautifully with agave.