Welcome to Like A Virgin, a column in which we recommend a different zero-ABV drink each week. They’re not “near beers,” they’re not “mocktails”—they’re delicious beverages that anyone and everyone should try at least once.
It’s been a while since I last featured a hemp-infused drink in this column, and that’s because most of the ones I have sampled have been, to put it kindly, terrible. I appreciate that these brands are trying, but I also feel like many are rushing their products to market to capitalize on CBD’s exploding popularity, without taking enough time to make sure said products taste good. It’s hard, I know! Hemp extract is an acquired taste—for the uninitiated, think dried grass and burnt nuts—and to make it work in a drink, it you have to work with it, not against it. Flavorings need to be calibrated to round off some of hemp’s sharper corners and soften any bitter notes that border on acrid; attempts to drown it out will never result in anything good, no matter how rare and/or sophisticated those flavors may sound.
I have found that the makers of many cannabinoid-infused beverages believe that Instagram-ready packaging can save a sub-par product (which, at $5 a can, it absolutely cannot). This is why I was surprised when I first tried MAD TASTY’s hemp-infused sparking waters. Between the catchy name, a Keith-Haring-meets-Glossier aesthetic, and the fact that its signature flavor is called Unicorn Tears, I was positive that Mad Tasty, like so many of its peers, was destined to leave me mad underwhelmed—yet I was not. Even more surprising: Unicorn Tears is the best of the brand’s three flavors. I say this as a fully grown adult.