The Sylvester Is Blazing Miami's CBD Cocktail Trail

The Cayo Hueso, served with or without CBD.
The Cayo Hueso, served with or without CBD.
The Sylvester
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Ben Potts is no stranger to experimentation when it comes to his cocktails. The Beaker & Gray co-owner has always used a healthy dose of elixirs and botanicals in his recipes.

So it stands to reason that Potts is embracing CBD as an ingredient at the Sylvester, his new project with Beaker & Gray partner/chef Brian Nasajon. Potts describes it as a beverage bar that takes equal care in its alcoholic and nonalcoholic potables. The place will serve everything from cocktails to kombucha and coffee when it opens April 23.

CBD (cannabidiol), a naturally occurring compound in the cannabis flower, will be offered at the Midtown Miami bar as an additive in all of its beverages, alcoholic and nonalcoholic. Potts says of deciding to make CBD available at his new establishment: "I think of CBD as a health supplement, and it seems to be one that's pretty nonreactive with other substances."

CBD can be added for $3 to $5 extra per drink in a "moderate dose" of 16.5 milligrams. Potts says a typical dose is anywhere from 10 to 50 milligrams. "We're trying to offer it in a way that's responsible. That's why we're not including it as an inherent component of any one drink — unless it's a special cocktail, say for 4/20 day."

Though CBD cocktails have been turning up on Miami menus for some time, with restaurants such as Plant Miami in Wynwood hopping on the bandwagon, Potts decided to do some homework before he placed the compound on the menu. He's received training from Veritas Farms, the Fort Lauderdale-based company that supplies him with the oil, on the proper dosages, the potential benefits, and the possible side effects. "The company was really helpful. They talked to me about how CBD acts upon our natural receptors throughout our bodies. And they are numerous."

Derek Thomas, vice president of business development for Veritas Farms, says his company provides the Sylvester with full-spectrum hemp oil that contains CBD, CBG, CBC, CBN, flavonoids, and terpenes that are grown, extracted, and packaged at the company's 140-acre farm and facility in Colorado.

Thomas says that although Veritas Farms has worked with various restaurants, bars, and hotels, he's especially pleased to provide his product to the Sylvester. "Ben has always been a respected industry thought leader when it comes to ingredients, and we consider ourselves subject-matter experts. It was a natural marriage for us."

The company, which trades on the OTC stock exchange (VFRM), prides itself on sustainability, quality, and transparency, which is why its website makes no health claims. Thomas says that's one of the company's strategies. "We have tons of anecdotal stories, but none of them are proven to the guidelines that federal standards have set. We have a fiduciary duty to our shareholders, as a publicly traded company, to not make any unsubstantiated claims."

CBD is said to activate receptors that control functions such as pain perception, body temperature, inflammation, and pleasure. And although Potts has been taking CBD to learn more about it, he won't make any claims of miracle cures. "They say there are potential benefits available to you if you subscribe to those beliefs. Right now, I'm learning more about it every day."

Potts does say one thing about being a self-described CBD guinea pig: "Whether or not it's the placebo effect, I'm not sure, but after I've taken some CBD, I can go from tensed up to being a little more relaxed, from my personal experience."

Though CBD can be added to any beverage at the Sylvester, Potts and his team will make suggestions. Because the tincture he's using is oil-based, he doesn't recommend mixing it into some hot drinks. "The CBD tends to stick to your mouth and it gets extremely hot, so I wouldn't recommend adding it to, say, an espresso." Instead, consider trying it in a drink with foamed milk, like a macchiato.

The same goes for cocktails, where the CBD works best in shaken drinks. Though considered flavorless, the compound has a faint taste. "You can tell it's derived from hemp," says Potts, who favors cocktails that are rich in botanicals and spices.

The Sylvester's menu isn't etched in stone yet, but drinks will fall into three categories: light and refreshing, medium-bodied, and decadent dessert-style.

Led by Potts, the bar team, which includes managers Derek Stilmann and Rani Cassuola, will create drinks such as the Jai Alai Mai Tai, made with Plantation rum, Redemption rye, coconut orgeat, carrot, and mascarpone foam; the Cayo Hueso, a gimlet with tequila and fresh key limes; and the Monkey Jungle, containing Monkey Shoulder Scotch and banana cream foam. Drink prices will range from $12 to $16.

In addition to serving coffee from local roaster Great Circle Coffee, the Sylvester will offer teas from JoJo Tea and kombucha from GT's. Food will come courtesy of Nasajon and pastry chef John Maieli.

At the end of the day, Potts says, the Sylvester is meant to be a place where people can derive pleasure and kinship — whether that means having a cocktail, a kombucha, or a piece of cake. "Look, we all know too much alcohol is not good for your physical health, but to some people, who use it recreationally, it can have positive effects, like kicking back with a friend after a long day."

Adding CBD to the menu offers the same social aspect. "It seems that many people want this in their lives, and I'm giving them an outlet to enjoy CBD outside their home."

The Sylvester. 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; thesylvesterbar.com. Opening April 23, 2019.

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