STORIES

Meet the Man Making Cocaine and Cannabis Spirits

By David Jenison on October 7, 2016

The classic Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the 19th-century opera La Bohème both exemplify uses of “Bohemian,” a word commonly associated with writers, artists and innovators who embrace unconventional social behavior. Today, historic Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic, and there is a company in the capital city of Prague that crafts what might be the most Bohemian spirits available today. 

Established in 2012, Euphoria Trade makes such prohibition-busting spirits as cocaine vodka, cannabis absinthe, cannabis beer and other devilish concoctions that must have Dick Nixon rolling over in his gehenna-based grave. Befitting the company’s Bohemian spirit, Euphoria Trade makes its artisanal intoxicants with the experts at Hill’s Liquere, the century-old absinthe company known around the world for its historic craftsmanship. PRØHBTD spoke with Sardor Varisov, founder and managing director of Euphoria Trade, to learn more about his spirits, cannabis culture in modern Bohemia and when his products might make it to America.  

What is the relationship between Hill’s Absinthe and Euphoria Trade? Are they the same?

Hill's Liquere and Euphoria Trade are two different companies. Together with Eva Hillova—the great granddaughter of Albin Hill, who founded Hill's Liquere in 1920—we established Euphoria Trade in 2012. Hill's is the oldest and number one absinthe producer in the Czech Republic, so we are proud that they produce our absinthes. Hill's is our main partner. Together, we work with many other local food producers, but all of our alcoholic beverages, except beer, are produced at Hill's. 

Radomil Hill’s family had nearly a century-old tradition of producing absinthe dating back to 1920, and Hill’s was the first independent producer back in business after the Velvet Revolution. Considering all this tradition, what motivated you to take such bold steps making things like cocaine vodka and cannabis absinthe?

Products like Euphoria Cocaine and Cannabis Vodka are our ideas, but I don't see Hill's strategy and ours as being different. The Czech Republic was the only country where absinthe was never prohibited. That's why Albin Hill came to the Czech Republic from Ireland to produce absinthe here. He was enthusiastic, and brave. He saw a great opportunity, and he did a great job. He did something that was prohibited in other countries and let people try “banned liquor” legally.

At Euphoria, we have a similar philosophy. Our slogan is “Taste of Freedom.” We want to let people try how freedom tastes! That's why we specialize in products such as Absinthe, the “cocaine of  the XIXth century,” banned in that century because of its main herb wormwood; cannabis products, nature’s most magical herb, which is finally being legalized in many countries; and coca leaf products, once legal in South America before people started misusing it. 

The cocaine vodka is made with cocaine extract from Peru. Do people feel any stimulant effects from drinking the vodka, and in what ways does it affect the taste?

Of course, it affects the taste, but the extract doesn't cause any psychoactive effects. Otherwise it would be illegal. As I previously said, we want to let people taste “taboo” products, but legally, and it actually is a very good vodka! It’s great for parties because coca leaves are a great source of energy.

Your cannabis beverages include vodka and beer. Are they made with real psychoactive cannabis or non-psychoactive hemp? And if they are made with cannabis, are they made in such a way that the beer or vodka will get a person high?

We use actual cannabis sativa in our products, but it’s a legal breed which has low THC concentrations. Our products have THC, but only a legal amount, so it’s not enough to cause psychoactive effects. Otherwise, they would be illegal for open trade. Again, our mission is to let people taste the cannabis, without the effects. These products are good for cannabis lovers and cannabis parties.

Your website says that the cannabis beer “combines two Czech traditions: beer brewing and cannabis craftsmanship.” What is the cannabis tradition in the Czech Republic?

Cannabis is very popular in the Czech Republic, and it is very tolerated. In Prague streets, you will smell weed very often. If you have a few grams for personal use and you are not distributing it, you [won’t get in trouble]. Cannabis is a harmless herb, and it is nonsense to consider it a serious drug. There has always been freedom in the Czech Republic, and we love the Czech government because they don't make problems out of nothing. 

You have a line of absinthe that appears to include thujone, an ingredient in wormwood banned in places like the United States. Many people suggest thujone is the compound that used to make people hallucinate. What is myth, what is reality?

Thujone in wormwood is like THC in cannabis. In the old days, there were not any limits for thujone, and there used to be more than 300 mg/kg of thujone in absinthe. Nowadays in Europe, the allowed amount is 35 mg/kg maximum. And we use that maximum limit at Euphoria and Suicide products. Regarding the U.S. market, I am not sure if thujone is banned at all, or they have lower limit than ours. Absinthe always has at least some thujone, because if there is wormwood present, there will be thujone, too, and if there is no wormwood, then you cannot call it absinthe.

Regarding hallucinations, there are some truths and some lies. For sure, wormwood has some effects on humans, but if you study the history of absinthe, absinthe was banned because of lobbying by winemakers in France. I believe they unjustly blamed some crimes on absinthe use.

Tell me about your Mary & Juana cannabis chocolates. You import the cacao from Colombia, but is there a specific chocolate-making tradition that you use to make the bars? 

They are very high quality chocolates with cannabis seeds.

It appears you recently moved or opened offices in Amsterdam. Was this inspired by your growth in the cannabis beverage and edible industry? 

We have been in the Amsterdam market for four years now. This year, we decided to open our branch and warehouse there and supply [Dutch] shops directly. It was a good business decision. It is also good for the shops: They have our products cheaper and faster since they can buy directly from the producer.

How is cannabis currently treated by law enforcement in the Czech Republic? 

If you have a paper from a doctor, you can grow a few plants at home for personal use. As I said above, buying and selling is illegal, but smoking and sharing is very tolerated.

What differentiates Suicide from the other lines of Absinthe? 

Together with Hill's, we wanted to make extreme absinthe: The highest allowed limit of alcohol and the highest allowed limit of thujone + a crazy extreme name and bottle. Absinthe drinkers are badass people who want to try something extreme and something more than average. Otherwise, they could just drink regular liquor or vodka. This is why we created the Suicide absinthe line.

Is it possible to get the products in the U.S.? 

As Euphoria is a new company, we are only expanding in Europe for now. For sure, we want to break into the U.S. market one day as it is the biggest market for everything. When we plan [to make the leap], we will have to study the U.S. laws carefully before entering the market. And since different states have different laws, I think there will be some states where our products will be able to be sold legally. It is all about [choosing the] right time and the right people, but one day we will expand our business to the United States.

Any bold new products about to debut? 

There are always a lot of things coming up. Actually, we have a lot of new products that we haven’t uploaded to our website yet. 

How would you characterize the vision and spirit of Euphoria and its products? 

We specialize in special products and special herbs. It is a niche market, but it is a fun business to run. We want to shock the customers with our crazy ideas and let them taste the freedom!

David Jenison (david@prohbtd.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.

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