Ah, bhang, the mysterious and “grown-up” drink of Holi festivities. For years I gazed enviously at my elders, swigging back the milky green concoction while I was relegated to nimbu pani and masala milk. Oh, the injustice! I longed to know what the fuss was about: the taste, the feeling, the sheer coolness of it all.
Antara Sinha, our associate cooking editor, had a similar experience growing up in the US with her family. “I’ve never actually had bhang with cannabis before,” says Sinha. “All of my Holi parties and experiences have been very tame—someone would make thandai but without anything special added to it, so I feel like I only knew about it from family talking about their experiences, or from movies.”
As a child I knew it was off-limits, and I lived vicariously through Seth Rogan in Pineapple Express. The tantalizing aroma and sight of it all were enough to stir my curiosity, yet I dared not venture into forbidden territory. Until, that is, I reached adulthood, and the chance finally presented itself.
I must admit, as I took my first sip of the frothy elixir, I was equal parts excited and nervous. What would it taste like? Would I feel any different? Would it be worth the years of waiting? And then, the taste hit me: sweet and nutty with a subtle earthy, flowery undertone from rose water. It tasted even better than I expected. I finally got it.
Bhang, a beloved cannabis-infused edible, has a rich history in India, where it’s considered a festive treat during the Hindu holiday of Holi (March 8 this year). Made by combining usually fresh cannabis with a variety of spices, nuts, and seeds, this celebratory beverage can be found in shops across the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in India, sold in government-run stores.
The effects of bhang are exactly what you want at a Holi party: Colors will be brighter, music will sound richer, and your body will feel like it’s floating on a cloud. Your senses heightened, every little detail will feel more significant—like the chirp of a bird outside, the fluff of carpet beneath your feet.
If you’re planning on indulging in edibles, dosing is everything. To avoid feeling like you’re in a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, take my advice and start with a low to moderate dose. (More on numbers in a moment.)
“My best advice for anyone who is canna-curious is to go slow—the effects of digestible cannabis can take as long as two and a half hours to kick in, so try not to rush the experience,” says associate editor Chala June. “It’s also important to be in a comfortable setting with people you trust when first consuming cannabis; should you get more stoned than anticipated, it’s crucial that you feel safe.”
I opted to use dried cannabis for this recipe, since fresh plants aren’t readily available in the US. The dried version comes in a range of unique strains, and the one I used for developing had a fruity banana aroma that pairs well with warm spices. Toasting (a.k.a. decarboxylating) the dried cannabis is crucial, as it activates the cannabinoids and transforms them into THC and CBD.
Don’t worry, I’ve done the math for you. A ¼ cup serving of this recipe will result in a moderate dose of around 13 milligrams THC, when using cannabis with a 20% THC concentration. (Though dispensaries should list the THC percentage for their products, it can vary from roughly 10–30% depending on the strain.) You could be even more conservative and start with a 2 Tbsp. serving, which would contain around 7 milligrams THC—a good beginner dose.
“I loved how well balanced everything is,” Sinha told me. “Not too cloyingly sweet, every spice comes through, and the grassiness of the cannabis is actually a really lovely addition.”