We need to talk about CBD…

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

15 May 2020

One of the most dynamic categories in the drinks trade currently – but will it live up to the hype?

Ooh. What’s that you’re drinking?

This, my friend, is a non-alcoholic cocktail with CBD bitters in it.

CBD as in cannabidiol? As in cannabis?


Schweet! So you can get off your face without getting drunk?

No. You’re confusing CBD with THC.

Am I?

Yes. THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – is the element in weed that gets you high. CBD – cannabidiol – doesn’t. The World Health Organisation reckons there is ‘no evidence of health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD'.

So if it isn’t bad for you and it doesn’t get you high, it must be…

Legal. Yes. Provided it has a THC level of under 0.2%. THC, however, is still officially on the naughty step.

So if CBD doesn’t get you high, what’s the big deal?

If you believe the hype it can do everything from cure cancer and prevent epilepsy to help with arthritis, anxiety and insomnia. Its use in the UK has doubled over the last two years.

I’m not surprised. It sounds awesome.

Well, sort of. You shouldn’t get too carried away by the hype. There does seem to be strong evidence that it helps with epilepsy when combined with THC as well. You can get that medically prescribed now, but it’s not freely available.

What about the over-the-counter stuff?

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can have positive effects, but there’s not been so much hardcore medical research. It’s still a very young industry.

So is it all bollocks then or what?

Jeez. You need to calm down. Maybe take some CBD oil.

Like that’ll make a difference…

Actually, current thinking is that it probably helps with relaxation, stress and generally helping to recalibrate the body. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should rush out and buy a load of the products that are on sale.

Why not?

Because some of them contain too small an amount of CBD to make any difference, others don’t contain it in the amounts that they say they do and, even worse, some CBD products contain an illegally large amount of THC.

Sounds like a mess.

It is. The market is basically unregulated. Which is why the Food Standards Agency has just said that all products need to provide proper information about what’s in them - and get themselves registered by March 2021 - or they’ll be pulled from the shelves.

Sounds fair enough.

It is. Particularly when you consider the hoops that booze has to jump through. In an ideal world, the whole testing process would be standardised, but this is a decent start. Reputable operators hope that the FSA move means that only properly effective and properly made CBD products make it onto the market.

And less reputable operators?

I’d imagine they’ll either be changing their recipe or trying to make as much money over the next 12 months as they can.

So how much do you need to make a difference?

About 40-60 milligrams a day, on a regular basis. Taking it as a one-off doesn’t really work – it’s not like an aspirin or sleeping pill. You need to build up your levels slowly. There’s plenty of options out there from oils to pills to shots – and, of course, the Oto CBD Cocktail bitters that I put in this drink.

Hmm. ‘Shots’ and ‘bitters’ sound more fun than pills

You got that right. This could be a really interesting opportunity for the on-trade. Extracting CBD from hemp is an expensive process, so the drinks aren’t cheap, but we know that anything that mixes ‘wellness’ with ‘lifestyle’ is right in the customers’ sweet spot at the moment.

So how could I use them?

Well, unlike THC, you can mix CBD products with alcohol if you want. So in theory people can get superficially buzzed and deep-down relaxed at the same time. But since they’re firmly in that wellness space, non-alcoholic looks like the way to go. Use it to zhuzh up your booze-free cocktail menu.

What to say: ‘Would sir and madame like to upgrade to a healthy CBD-twisted version of their current cocktail?’

What not to say: ‘That CBD oil, man. It’s the bomb.’

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