We recently had the opportunity to sit down in person at Rogue Paq Headquarters with our pal, The Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow. And boy was it a delight!! We discussed everything from him being robbed of his inheritance for smoking cannabis, to how chitlins were the key to a fast friendship with legend Martha Lou Gadsden, to why his new THC infused beverage brand is called Klaus. Then he let me joy ride his Audi! Here's how it all went down...
Rogue Paq (RP): Hey Warren! It’s so great to see you in person. Thanks for sitting down with me. (We chit chat as he rolls on our How We Roll Valet Tray and passes me a joint made with Rogue Paq all natural cones and cannabis from Denver.) So where would you like to begin?
Warren Bobrow (WB): I’d like to start at the point when I decided I wouldn’t be punished anymore. I came from a very wealthy family which disowned me for using cannabis. I was told I would never amount to anything and they usurped my entire inheritance. Not only that, after my father died I was made to understand that I was left with the tax bill for the inheritance they stole. But that’s not what I want to focus on. This is a happy story - one where I took my life back and I am so proud of the person I am today.
This is a happy story - one where I took my life back and I am so proud of the person I am today.
RP: OK, so take us back a bit. We know you went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales. Why did you choose culinary school?
WB: Yes, I went to Johnson & Wales because I grew up learning how to prepare food at the elbow of my family’s cook, Estelle. She was from Northern Georgia and she taught me how to prepare soul food. She was my inspiration. After school I wanted to cook in the field and so I sought out Martha Lou Gadsden [famously of Martha Lou’s Kitchen in South Carolina] and asked her to meet with me. She was so gracious. We sat down to a meal of her pork chop sandwiches on white bread, cole slaw, Lay’s potato chips, and sweet tea, and I was transported to another dimension. Somehow I talked her into letting me work in her kitchen and learn. I think it was because I passed her test - which was one question only: what are you going to do with this bucket of chitlins? I drew on my training from Estelle when I answered, “Buttermilk.” Then I expanded to say that they had to soak for three days, changing out the buttermilk each day to make them tender and ready to undergo an egg wash, a panko coating and a deep fryer.” After preparing them this way, they debuted at the restaurant and sold out in 15 minutes. This solidified our friendship and Martha and I remained friends until her passing a few years ago. I later went on to work in other soul food spots like The Peppermint in East Orange. Then I went to Scottsdale and cooked at The Scottsdale Princess where I worked the night shift preparing sauces. I also spent time cooking in the city at restaurants like Po and growing herbs for restaurants like Il Mulino. All of this restaurant experience has served me very well as I am now embarking on a new venture as a beverage consultant to Love Life which is a new vegan restaurant in Culver City California in Ivy Station.
I think it was because I passed her [Martha Lou Gadsden] test - which was one question only: what are you going to do with this bucket of chitlins?
RP: (At this point I glance over and notice tattoos on Warren’s forearms. One is an anchor tat and the other says Employee’s Only and so I had to ask): Warren, is that an Employee’s Only tattoo like from the awesome Prohibition-style bar in Manhattan? That Employee’s Only?
WB: Indeed. I got it back in 2013 when I was hanging with Steve Schneider, with whom I became fast friends. I was lucky enough to get the tattoo and spend some time at the bar bettering my craft which, as you know, started with food and moved toward beverages and into mixology.
[At this point a train passes across the river and Warren yells with the delight of a chiled CHOO CHOO at the top of his lungs. He then explains how trains have a special place in his heart. Then we get back to our chat…]
Photo Credit: @drinkklaus
RP: You have cooked in a number of prestigious kitchens and have crafted cocktails in a multitude of the coolest bars. You’ve published six books on the topic of cocktails and are called upon regularly to judge and present and consult on cocktails and beverages. But you recently told me something curious which is that when you stopped drinking you found yourself, and that was the thing that allowed you to really love who you are. This is so relevant to your latest venture which is Klaus, a THC infused canned cocktail. Can you tell us about it and why it’s so special?
WB: Klaus only has three ingredients: Pickett’s Hot N Spicy Ginger Beer Concentrate Syrup, lime puree, and dry Miran vinegar. There is only 0.06 grams of sugar and 16 calories in an 8 oz can with no detectable bubbles. The taste is bright and aromatic and refreshing. Part of what sets it apart is that we wanted to pick a specific type of lime - a Caribbean lime which is more pungent and has more of an oily capacity. The one we chose is from the French territory, Martinique.
The name of this formulation is called “The Mezzrole” which is homage to the Jazz-head Mezzrow. In the Jazz age, a “mezzrole” meant a well rolled cannabis cigarette. At the time, Mezzrow imported dozens of tons of cannabis from Mexico to Detroit, Chicago, and Harlem making him instant friends with the Jazz musicians. Everyone took to requesting a “mezzrole” because if you asked the wrong person for a joint or for reefer, you could get arrested.
The name of this formulation is called “The Mezzrole” which is homage to the Jazz-head Mezzrow. In the Jazz age, a “mezzrole” meant a well rolled cannabis cigarette.
RP: Do you think you’ll formulate other flavors:
WB: Yes- I’m currently developing a Delta 9 formulation because Delta 9 can be sold anywhere in the US. Also, the restaurant Love Life which I referenced earlier will get an exclusive formulation which will include everything in the Mezzrole except for the THC and terpenes. It’ll be a grab-and-go drink with no high experience. It can also be used as a mixer with Rhum Agricole which would make it similar to a ti-punch drink which is a combination of a clean glass, fresh lime, sugar cane syrup and RHUM agricole. And keep an eye out because the can will look different as well.
Photo Credit: Warren Bobrow
RP: You named the drink after Klaus, who I know to be a terra cotta gnome that you have which has acted as your talisman for years. Tell us about Klaus the gnome.
WB: Klaus is an 1850s German drinking gnome given to me by a German friend who brought her family’s collection of gnomes with her when she emigrated to the US at the turn of the century. What makes him different from any other gnome I’ve ever seen, and the reason my friend gifted him to me when I entered the liquor industry, is that he has a bottle embedded in his bandolier. She told me that he’d bring me luck and honestly he’s changed my entire life. He’s part magic and has traveled with me all over the world.
RP: Does Klaus have kin?
WB: No, he is solo, no kin. One of a kind.
RP: Has Klaus ever suffered trauma?
WB: He was broken one time. He fell when we were in Germany and a dear friend repaired him. He is back to full health and looks as good as new. Best of all, he’s traveling again.
RP: You were right, this was a happy story.
WB: I told you it would be! When my family disowned me I figured out how to pave my own way. I worked for everything I have and it all came at great cost. But I wouldn't change anything because becoming a person you are proud to be takes sacrifice. And I truly think that’s the magic of my success - working hard and helping others to the best of my ability.
...becoming a person you are proud to be takes sacrifice. And I truly think that’s the magic of my success - working hard and helping others to the best of my ability.
[Before he leaves Rogue Paq Headquarters, Warren lets me joyride his super fresh Audi RS3. Obviously this has secured him a future invitation.]