Dining and Drink

Madison restaurants and businesses are introducing CBD to their menus

Purveyors have embraced the hemp-based supplement

While you may still be confused about what it stands for and what benefits it confers, either way you’re going to have a much harder time avoiding CBD, or cannabidiol, in Madison’s restaurants, bars, cafes and markets in the coming months. Madison’s food and drink purveyors have embraced the hemp-based supplement with a fervor that’s surpassed only by their customers’ eagerness to consume it in new and interesting ways.

But first, a fact or two. Unlike marijuana, CBD doesn’t contain enough THC to produce any type of high. Instead, its users have found the extract helpful for a wide and ever-growing list of symptoms. They’re using it to address everything from pain, anxiety and acne to insomnia, depression and high blood pressure. All of this helps explain CBD’s rapidly growing popularity. 

This natural compound is reflected across Madison’s food and drink spectrum. Back in December 2018, Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. brewed a beer — more specifically, an American pale ale dubbed “Green Glory” — infused with CBD, and it also began simultaneously offering customers the opportunity to infuse their cocktails with CBD. Great Dane Director of Operations Ted Peterson says they’ve stopped brewing the beer while they wait for the state to sort out the legalities of whether CBD can be included in the brewing process. However, the cocktail train has continued unabated. For an extra $2, you can cap your Great Dane cocktail (or coffee, beer or soft drink) with orange, lemon, lime or unflavored CBD oil at any of the restaurant’s Madison-area locations.

“About 20% of the cocktails we sell to our customers now have CBD,” says Peterson, who notes they’ve been restocking their CBD supply about every two weeks to keep up with demand. “I was somewhat apprehensive about it at first, but it’s been really successful.” 

A similar story has unfolded at Sujeo, which began infusing one of its ever-rotating flavors of soft-serve ice cream with CBD earlier this year. It was a huge hit with customers, leading Sujeo to keep a CBD flavor in the mix. In April, the fleet of Barriques coffee shops began offering five varieties of roasted coffee beans infused with CBD. The beans come in 75-, 150- and 300-milligram strengths, with the latter two available in medium or dark roast. Also in March, Willy Street Co-op added its name to the growing list of area locations offering CBD oil as a nutritional supplement to its coffee, juice and smoothie options.

But one of the most popular CBD sightings on the Madison food scene has been at Chocolaterian, where owner Leanne Cordisco has partnered with Driftless Dreams, a Wisconsin organic hemp farm, to serve chocolates and caramels infused with CBD.

For Cordisco, the decision to jump on the CBD train was both an issue of survival — Chocolaterian needed a way to rebound after losing its entire wholesale stock in a fire that damaged and eventually closed the cafe’s Atwood Street location in February 2018 — and business sense. 

“All our products are all based on the notion that you treat yourself,” says Cordisco. “Why can’t that daily treat include some anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety benefit? It seemed like a match for us.” 
So far, it also seems like a match for Cordisco’s clientele. 

“Our No. 1 seller has always been the ugly cookie,” says Cordisco, referring to Chocolaterian’s signature chocolate-packed baked good. Now, the CBD products are right alongside the cookie as the bestsellers.

Cordisco says the earthiness of the CBD adds complexity to the taste of the cafe’s caramels. In the coming months, she’s aiming to expand Chocolaterian’s CBD offerings. First up is a caramel sauce for coffee and ice cream that launched in July. Down the road, CBD-infused gummy bears and lollipops will be offered, and, eventually, baked goods will join them.

“This isn’t just a fad,” says Cordisco of CBD-infused foods and beverages. “This is going to be around for a while.”

Aaron R. Conklin covers the local food and theater scenes for Madison Magazine.


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