South Carolina’s first-ever cannabis dry bar has landed on James Island. High Rise Dry Bar from Charleston Hemp Collective opened Aug. 11 and is changing the world of hemp-derived products and the non-alcoholic beverage space by offering mocktails made with legal cannabis seltzers.
“I think it’s really cool pioneering stuff like this,” said Matt Skinner, owner of Charleston Hemp Collective. “You always kind of worry about whether it’s going to go over and how many people are going to relate to it, but I feel like the reception we’ve gotten just so far is insane, so I’m super-excited about it.”
In recent years, the popularity of legal hemp-derived products has exploded in the Charleston area as these products are said to offer purported medicinal benefits and increase relaxation. Hemp Collective offers a range of products from vapes and gummies to tinctures and even Bloody Mary mix. But since launching its cannabis seltzer High Rise in May 2022, Skinner has noticed a fast-shifting acceptance.
“Charleston has really embraced this whole [cannabis] movement,” he said. “So much has changed, and so much of it is becoming more and more accepted.”
Currently, High Rise’s seltzers are in about 200 bars and restaurants, including Halls Chophouse and Husk, and 350 shops and grocery stores in the Charleston area. But the product also is distributed throughout the Southeast in Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia.
“Some of the most elevated restaurants in Charleston are really trying to create mocktails now and jumping on board with High Rise to help craft that, and I think that’s special,” Skinner said.
Exciting time for alternatives
He said he believes now is an exciting time — not only for the cannabis space but also the non-alcoholic market. He points to a renewed interest in non-alcoholic options particularly amongst Gen Z, who are noticeably drinking less alcohol than previous generations.
A 2022 consumer trends report from Drizly found 38% of Gen Z respondents said they opted for more alcohol-free drinks than the previous year compared to 25% of Millennials, 15% Gen X and 8% Baby Boomers.
“There’s this interest not only in the ‘canna-curious’ space right now, but also people are looking for NA (non-alcoholic) options. The NA world and the beverage space right now is insane,” Skinner said.
The company’s original plan was to create a second shop with a small bar, but now the bar is really the star, he said. Skinner and his business partner, Chris Long, wanted a space for a high-end mocktail bar, so they used a portion of the space for the shop and a larger portion for a bar, lounge area and multiple tables for guests to sit and mingle.
During the store’s recent soft opening, DJ Jerry Feels Good set the vibe with upbeat tunes. Skinner said the bar plans to bring DJ Jerry Feels Good back as a regular in-house DJ in addition to rotating other DJs on various nights.
Currently, the bar’s open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. But Skinner said they may expand the weekend hours in the future.
The first iteration of the drink menu includes seven unique mocktails with names like Connection, Tranquility, Invigorate and Zen.
Drinks include fruity ingredients like salted watermelon and pomegranate and well as savory elements like ginger, turmeric and matcha. The menu offers suggestions under each drink to add CBD, Delta-8 or Delta-9 seltzer to elevate the experience.
For those who are canna-curious but not familiar with these different derivatives of the hemp plant, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp that can induce feelings of relaxation. Delta-8 and Delta-9 are both psychoactive compounds in the plant that can induce feelings of “being high.”
Roughly one-third of a can of High Rise seltzer is used in each drink — equal to two milligrams of CBD, Delta-8 or Delta 9.
“The point is not just one and done,” Skinner said of the mocktails. “We want you to be able to try two or three drinks. And by the time you get to your third drink, you’re gonna be feeling really good. It creates more of a social experience.”
New menu offered a great challenge
Jules Schneider, beverage director for Herd Provisions, helped develop the current menu.
“[This was] easily the most challenging menu I’ve done so far,” Schneider said. “Coaxing out flavor without the use of alcohol is another beast on its own. Alcohol is such a great solvent that making well-flavored ingredients is a cinch. I ended up making my own bitters with vegetable glycerin in a pressure cooker and really relied on great produce and proper technique to make fantastically flavored syrups.”
Skinner added, “I’ve got to give a lot of props to Jules. Not only did he take time to look at so many different [flavor] profiles, [but] he was also very careful when he named them. They all really represent the ingredients of those drinks and what they stand for.”
The menu will change quarterly to introduce new drinks and operate as a space for experimentation. Skinner wants to use the bar to test out new mocktails in addition to featuring rotating specialty High Rise drinks other restaurants and bars have developed for their location including Herd Provisions, The Longboard and others.
“Charleston is a community that supports brands that they feel like are really making a movement, and Charleston has really gotten behind High Rise,” Skinner said. “I don’t think there’s another city in the Southeast that has so much respect for this cannabis drink space.”
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