It’s 5 p.m. on a recent Thursday in the lobby of midtown’s Ace Hotel, but it’s nearly pitch-black beyond the glowing light of laptops on communal tables. As freelancers and remote workers wrap up for the day, they pack in toward the bar in the back of the room, where The Breslin is passing out samples of special treats: CBD brownies and cocktails.
Though the cannabis-infused creations seem illicit, they are just a few of the many CBD-laced beverages and desserts popping up on restaurant menus throughout the city lately.
CBD, the colloquial abbreviation for cannabidiol, is everywhere, from trendy cocktail bars to vegan fast food chains. But what is it, and why is it all of a sudden everywhere?
Legal CBD is derived from the hemp plant and unlike, its sibling, the marijuana leaf, contains only trace amounts of THC (the mind-altering chemical that can induce psychoactivity, or a feeling of being “high”).
According to the World Health Organization, natural CBD is safe and doesn’t have any harmful effects or abuse potential. It has multiple health benefits, according to experts — which explains its proclivity in the wellness space.
“CBD has wonderful anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-insomnia and pain management benefits, and is incredibly safe and effective,” Upper East Side nutritionist Brooke Alpert says.
Some prescriptions shouldn’t be mixed with CBD (ask your doctor), but otherwise, “CBD oil is non-intoxicating, has almost no side effects, and is virtually impossible to lethally overdose,” says Alexis Rosenbaum, owner of Rosebud CBD Oil, which is used in the Breslin’s new CBD creations plus sold by the bottle to consumers who want to infuse CBD into their cooking (or drinking).
Rosenbaum notes that CBD usage dates back to prehistoric times, though research is nascent. As studies on CBD usage and benefits grow — Rosenbaum reports her products offer “relief and better quality of life from anxiety, inflammation and chronic pain” — the use of CBD will likely become even more mainstream.
Ordering a dose
CBD can be found in everything from body creams to bath bombs. To use as an ingredient in food and beverage, the hemp extract is typically mixed with an oil, like coconut, almond, orange or jojoba seed, which has minimal flavor.
Beyond the Ace Hotel, NYC destinations capitalizing on the trend of late include the upscale diner eatery Bubby’s, which adds a CBD sweetener to beverages like coffee, lemonade and cocktails; vegan chain By Chloe, which has added CBD-infused desserts to its menu; and Chillhouse, a cafe and spa that just unleashed a menu with CBD-honey-drizzled ricotta toast and a CBD hibiscus milkshake.
New businesses are also making CBD as their main attraction. In Astoria, restaurateur Zsolt “George” Csonka recently opened Adriaen Block, an upscale stoner-themed lounge offering cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks with CBD tinctures. A “munchies” menu also includes CBD-infused sauces and whipped cream.
Csonka became interested in CBD because of the health benefits and decided to open a bar that can help alleviate anxiety, pain and inflammation through food and drink. Csonka uses a CBD peppermint oil, which is not strong enough to affect the flavor of the drinks.
“We add CBD to each drink and dish before serving, which allows us to customize them — this lets guests decide if they want CBD or not,” says Csonka, who believes CBD works best with low-proof alcohols (Cocchi Americano and sherry are forefront on the cocktail list).
Csonka’s menu also has non-boozy CBD drinks for an alternative form of winding down after a long day.
“[A]fter two CBD drinks you should find yourself relaxed and mellow,” he says.
Despite its ties to the wellness scene, Albert warns that most CBD-infused treats are just that.
“Consuming a good quality CBD can be a great addition to any healthy diet: The only caveat is that if you’re consuming an unhealthy food with CBD in it, it won’t undo the negative health effects from it,” says Albert. “So a CBD soda, dessert or candy, while providing CBD, is still an unhealthy treat.”
Alpert recommends her clients start with 5 mg doses and work their way up to 10-15 mg, depending on the strain and quality of the product.
CBD may be pervasive now, but for how long? Thanks to New Yorkers’ constant (and let’s face it, futile) search for calm, Csonka believes the CBD craze is here to stay.
As more people seek an all-natural lifestyle, Rosenbaum also sees CBD playing a part in that.
“It started with the farm-to-table movement, poured into beauty and household products, and has now entered the health and wellness sector,” he says. “CBD oil offers a plant-based health, wellness and beauty healing without any high, addiction or lethal overdose. It is definitely here to stay.”