Flore launches cannabis cocktail menu
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The Castro's Flore cafe is rolling out its new cannabis cocktail menu and is believed to be the first bar in San Francisco to offer beverages laced with pot.
Beginning Friday, June 16 at 4:20 p.m., the 44-year-old cafe at Market and Noe streets will begin offering 16 new drinks, including "Peron's Perverted Punch" (named after medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron and consisting of pisco, pear vodka, lime, and pineapple juice); "Harvey's Hibiscus Sangria" (named after slain supervisor Harvey Milk with hibiscus-infused vodka, Pimm's blackberry, elderflower liqueur, pinot noir, and lemon juice); and a "Castro Cup" (cucumber-infused Irish whiskey, Pimm's No. 1, lemon juice, and soda).
The menu also includes four non-alcoholic mocktails, including "Flore Sunrise" (orange and pineapple juices with pomegranate syrup).
A cannabis-laced beer, Tokeback Mountain, was introduced April 20 and has quickly become the most popular beer on tap.
Flore's new menu will include a munchies section, featuring jalapeno hog and cheese bites; baby got back (chicken fried bacon strips); Noe Valley nuggets (buffalo Tater Tots with blue cheese crumbles); and housemade hummus de Flore. Munchies will be available until 7:20 p.m., while the beverages can be ordered during restaurant hours.
"The Castro is the neighborhood where medical marijuana got started in this city," said co-owner Terrance Alan, referring to Peron's fight for dispensaries under Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996.
Alan, a gay man who is an entertainment and nightlife consultant and a past president of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission, said Flore "hopes to continue the tradition."
"When Brownie Mary and Dennis Peron met for the first time, it was here at Flore," said Alan, referring to the late medical cannabis proponent Mary Jane Rathbun.
When Alan bought Flore with business partner Aaron Silverman in January, the two promised to develop a menu that would include cannabis. Alan and Silverman, a straight ally, met while doing cannabis advocacy work in California and realized they shared a vision of a restaurant where customers could enjoy and share cannabis while they socialize over food.
Alan has a long history of cannabis activism beginning in the 1970s when he and Peron fought to make medical marijuana legal. He is chair of San Francisco's Cannabis State Legalization Task Force.
Silverman is an experienced cannabis entrepreneur.
But as Alan knew, the task wasn't going to be easy. Local laws prohibit bars from also selling cannabis, which made the owners' job "very tricky," said Alan. But he figured out that if he used the hemp-based non-psychoactive form of cannabis, called cannabidiol, or CBD, it would be legal.
"Of course, I checked with my lawyers," said Alan in an interview at Flore, where the bartenders mixed a few of the new beverages.
The new menu was developed with help from consultants Christopher Longoria, an award-winning mixologist who is bar manager at 1760, an upscale restaurant on Polk Street, and chemist Chris Emerson, Ph.D., co-founder of cannabis company Level Blends.
The new cocktails "won't get you stoned," said Alan, explaining that a cannabis compound using CBD is not psychoactive but rather is the form of the drug that is used for relaxation, pain relief, and a wide variety of other conditions. Each drink will contain 10 mg of cannabis, an amount many consider a single dose.
"Most recreational cannabis users have traditionally chosen THC-dominant strains," said Alan. "That would still be illegal."
But when a reporter pointed out that several diners on the patio were using cannabis vape pens, Alan responded, "If someone complains about it, we'll certainly ask the customer to put it away." Smoking, he added, is "strictly prohibited at all times," even on the tables on the street, outside the interior patio area.
The future of cannabis in restaurants and bars is uncertain, said Alan. The task force he chairs recommended that the city consider creating new types of licenses to accommodate "the diverse businesses within the adult use cannabis industry such as baking or cooking licenses, consumption lounges."
"We bought Flore to get into the customer service and food service side of the tourist economy so we can explore what socialization and food look like in the next 10 years," said Alan.
Customers won't see THC-based cannabis on the menu "for at least a few years," conceded Alan, who noted that currently Proposition 64, which legalized adult use of recreational marijuana, prohibits businesses that sell alcohol to also serve cannabis. Alan said the clause was put into the initiative because of all the "uncertainty" among the public about legalization. The law would have to be amended and the city would have to develop a specific license for such a business, Alan said, two developments he believes could happen "in time."
Prop 64, which makes it legal for people over the age of 21 to possess cannabis, will go into full effect in January, the deadline for the state to approve a legal and regulatory system that will enable retailers to sell cannabis.
An apparent first
Flore appears to be the first bar to offer cannabis-laced cocktails, said Joan Simon, president of Full Plate Restaurant Consulting.
"I haven't heard of any others," said Simon, who lived in the Castro before moving to Sonoma County and is working with Castro's Finn Town and has had a number of other neighborhood clients in past years.
"If nothing else, San Francisco residents are adventurous about new food and drink options so I have no doubt that lots of people will be curious to see what the offerings are," added Simon in a phone interview. "The trick will be to get them to come back a second time by assuring high quality flavor profiles and presentation."
Flore's owners are keeping their fingers crossed that people will like their new offerings.
"We'll see which drinks are popular over the next couple of weeks," said Alan, "and make any necessary adjustments."
Alan and Silverman are both big fans of Flore's cannabis-infused beer.
"It really took the kinks out of my neck," said Alan.
And Silverman said, "One night after work I had ... ummï¿½ well, a few more beers than I should have. The next morning, I was certain I'd have a nasty hangover, but I didn't."
Since the two took over at Flore, they've revamped the menu, hired new staff, and have begun to spiff up both the interior and the patio.
"We're happy with the changes," said Alan. "Business is picking up and we're getting good feedback from customers. We plan to continue making improvements."
Within the coming weeks, Alan intends to dip his toe into the cannabis tourism business, opening a "bud and breakfast" apartment across the street from Flore. Guests can order room service from the restaurant and will be able to tour local farms, he said.
Since Flore is located adjacent to the Wednesday afternoon Castro Farmers Market, the cafe will soon introduce rotating cocktails developed on the spot from produce available at the market.
"Flore is going to take the lead, as it always has," Alan said. "We have a long history to uphold and we intend to do so."