Thinking outside the box with a cannabis aperitif

In order to survive this pandemic, emotionally, physically, and fiscally, many people are going to have to start thinking outside the box. Doing just what you’ve done for years might not work. Thinking outside the box also gets one to thinking outside of the bar. One giant no-no in the liquor/bar/wine/restaraunt/beer industry is mixing cannabis (either CBD or THC) with alcohol. Marijuana (and its cannabinoids) is listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act. As such it is a violation of federal law to possess or use it. Looking around one gets the impression that marijuana is legal. It is not. Under certain state and local guidelines, the federal law is not enforced. But alcohol is heavily regulated, by both the feds and the state. A sure-fire way to lose your liquor license is to mix alcohol with marijuana. Which is exactly why nobody does it. But recently a local company figured out a novel way to bridge the gap.

 “Artet is born from the idea that cannabis is the perfect aperitif,” says Artet co-founder Maxwell Spohler, 25. “Capable of opening the mind, mood, and palate. We strive to create and sustain a brand worthy of sitting alongside heritage alcohol brands on your bar cart while being non-alcoholic and firmly rooted in cannabis.”

Building on the success and popularity of nonalcoholic “liqueurs” like Seedlip and seeing the prurient interest in products like “hemp flavored” vodka, Artet, labelled an “infused Italian style beverage” decided to remove the alcohol from the equation altogether, making the company immune to the licensing requirements needed for ethyl alcohol.

 Artet is, and probably will not be, available in bars and restaurants anytime soon. But, and this is a big but, if you are making drinks at home, you can pretty much do whatever you like. Just remember to never drink or dose and drive.

 “Artet’s identity combines the rituals of French and Italian cocktail culture with the sociability of cannabis culture,” says Spohler. “We draw a lot of inspiration from the aperitif lifestyle celebrated in Campari and Martini posters from the 1930s and the idea of bringing people together over good food, good conversation, and most importantly good drinks.”

 In fact, a taste of Artet’s gingery bitter gentian flavor profile reminds one much less of Campari but is almost a dead ringer for Suze or Avèze, which are Swiss and French in origin, respectively. Both of those liqueurs are wildly popular in Europe, but strait gentian flavored liqueurs have yet to break big in the U.S. like Mediterranean styled amaro’s have done.

 Gentian liqueurs tend to be bracingly bitter and their bright yellowish color is something different altogether. They are certainly an acquired taste, but once acquired one just cannot get enough of them, just ask the Europeans.

 Starting in 2016 Artet set out to create something entirely different. “We sought to create a beverage that would be balanced, robust, and delicious if it had no cannabinoids,” says Spohler. “We worked with mixology experts and friends in the culinary world to help us nail down the botanicals and the expression of the beverage.”

Artet wanted to avoid a “shake before opening” product and strove to create a beverage in which the cannabinoids were suspended evenly throughout. The research and development of the product took about three years. They also had to wait until the marketplace also caught up to them.

ONA, a cannabis delivery company launched in 2015 under Prop. 215, initially only supplied medical cannabis delivery in Marin. ONA co-founder Nurit Raphael lobbied throughout Marin for a recreational cannabis delivery license and finally received one in May of last year (ONA won the Marin IJ Readers’ Choice Award in 2020). Currently ONA is the only Marin retailer of Artet, and currently only delivers to the greater San Rafael area.

“We were inspired by the rituals, the robust flavors, and the versatile qualities of Campari, Aperol and Amari,” says Spohler. “These products not only inspired the brand identity but deeply influenced the bouquet of botanicals we ultimately landed on.”

Artet gets its citrus notes from Italian grapefruit oil, its floral qualities from chamomile and the spiced finish from a collection of cardamom, gentian, ginger, and allspice.

“The botanicals work in harmony with the cannabis to create a flavor that is both sippable and mixable,” says Spohler. “And it’s low dose servings and large format make it great for both the cannabis curious and the connoisseur.”

Artet contains 2.5mg of THC per 50ml serving and the bottle comes with a convenient dosing cap reminiscent of Prohibition era medicinal whiskey. Make no mistake, this is a THC product and not a CBD one. There is a psychoactive effect.

“Mixology is evolving a lot of late with the rise of low alcohol and no alcohol products,” says Spohler. “Our belief is that Artet can hold its own as a core ingredient in both nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages.”

Artet is priced at $55, but with taxes is closer to $60 in total. Online ordering is via your cell phone or laptop. ONA can also take orders over the phone or by text message. To order, you will need to provide: your first and last name, an Email address, a copy of your ID (must be over 21), delivery address, and the product desired. ONA can only accept cash or checks for payment. Furthermore ONA is donating $1 from every purchase to “Feed the Line” a food delivery program partnered with Frontline Foods and World Central Kitchen, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, helping to save restaurants and feed healthcare workers ( ONA’s website is here:

Artet at-home only Boulevardier

¾ ounce Stave Robber ryed bourbon (produced by Young and Yonder in Healdsburg)

¾ ounce Lo-Fi Sweet vermouth (made in Napa)

¾ ounce Artet infused Italian style beverage

1 orange zest

1 Bada Bing Tillen Farms all-natural stemmed cherry

Combine all three liquid ingredients over ice in a rocks glass. Stir gently to combine and garnish with orange zest and cherry. Sip while beginning to think outside the box.