Falernum #8

Six weeks ago or thereabouts, the good Dr. Cocktail set a little corner of the cocktail- & tiki-blogging community a-twitter with an in-depth discussion of the classic Barbados liqueur / sweetener known as falernum. As those who, for some inexplicable reason, have been visiting this blog since last summer may attest, I’ve been on a sporadic quest to create my own falernum, one that will compare in flavor and surpass in freshness the commercial brands that are available (in certain markets, typically not Seattle, which was another impetus behind taking on this mission). After Doc’s story came out, I talked big about having landed the Giant Falernum, then quickly had to scurry into my kitchen to make sure I knew what I was talking about.

I didn’t, but that’s nothing new.

Still, by that point I’d got my hackles up — no falernum’s going to make a monkey outta me! — and I embarked on several more rounds of falernum experimentation before finally arriving at this recipe. I liked it fine, but distrusting my tastebuds, I took some to Tales of the Cocktail where I sought the expert opinions of Dr. Cocktail and Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. The experts succeeded in getting a taste down without gagging, making me damn proud, and Doc even gave me an uneasy smile before offering me $5 to go sit at a different table. I consider that a ringing endorsement.

Now, as I’m kind of tired of messing with the recipe — you have no idea how my family is reacting to a refrigerator full of mason jars with green, funky-smelling liquids in them (and that’s in the spaces between the vermouth bottles) — I thought I’d share it with my readers. Both of you.

Falernum #8

  • 6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
  • zest of 9 medium limes, removed with a microplane grater or sharp vegetable peeler, with no traces of white pith
  • 40 whole cloves (buy fresh ones — not the cloves that have been in your spice rack since last Christmas)
  • 1 1/2 ounce, by weight, peeled, julienned fresh ginger

Combine these ingredients in a jar and seal, letting the mixture soak for 24 hours. Then, strain through moistened cheesecloth, squeezing the solids to extract the last, flavorful bits of liquid.


  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract*
  • 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup (two parts sugar to one part water, shaken in a jar or bottle WITHOUT HEAT until all the sugar is dissolved)
  • 4 1/2 ounces fresh, strained lime juice

Shake it all together and serve.

* Chad Solomon from Pegu Club suggested adding some toasted almonds to the soak, in addition to using the almond extract. This sounds like a fine idea, and may be part of falernums 9, 10 and 11.

Is it the be-all and end-all of falernums? Of course not — rather, it’s an easy and cheap way to make a fairly obscure flavoring that’s essential in a class of exotic drinks. As it uses fresh ingredients, it has (to my palate) a better aroma and snappier flavor than the commercial brands I’ve tried. Of course, this freshness also limits its shelf life, so make small batches — this recipe may easily be halved — keep it refrigerated and use it within a month or so. Either chuck the old falernum or, better yet, just have a big swizzle party before your batch expires.

You can also customize this recipe. If you really like the tartness of the Fee’s falernum, for example, you can either add more lime juice (be careful though; the flavor will take over) or you can track down some citric acid crystals and add them to your mix (it won’t be as natural and pure, of course, but what the hell — it’s your drink).

If anyone decides to give this a spin, toss a note my way in the comments — I’m curious to hear what other folks think.

75 Responses to Falernum #8

  1. Two readers? Who’s the other guy?

    My recent explorations of tiki-ness may send me down the homemade falernum path, if they do I’ll try your recipe. Thanks!


  2. Jimmy — there he is!

    CZ — I’m not saying it’ll make you sick, necessarily–but if you used fresh juice in the mix (as I have in this recipe), the flavor will go off after a month or so. It may still be drinkable, but you won’t have the same kind of fresh, vibrant taste. Also, ginger’s flavor tends to fade over time–if you haven’t already, try making some homemade ginger beer, and watch how fast it loses its spiciness–so there’s another factor in favor of making small batches, and using it soon.

  3. This recipe sounds delicous, interesting, and mighty finicky. Orgeat is currently the reigning champion of “maximum effort” syrups, but this one would surely take the cake. Not that I terribly mind, as cooking is a joy, but I have a question.

    How much better is it than Rachel’s receipe from eGullet? The last time I made it, I added more zest, more cloves, and a nice whole piece of ginger. It improved the Falernum by 40%.

    What should I expect from your new recipe?

  4. I’m curious as to how Rick got his number of 40%. Was it with a falernum version of a brixometer? ;P
    I’ve also found that when making falernum, if one has a half-decent orgeat (which I do) it can be used in place of almond syrup. However, I do agree with you Paul, when you say that the ginger should be julienned.

  5. Yes, indeed it is called the Falometer – aka “Rick’s face.” The 40% was pretty much just a guess as to the improvement.

    I’ll have to try chopping up the ginger next time, though I could definitely taste the ginger in there just by dropping in a big old piece in the soak.

  6. Rick — the eGullet recipe was actually Falernum #1 for me — I found it pretty mild, especially when compared to the commercial versions. Like you, I tried boosting the proportions and adding some ginger; Falernum #8 is just the continued evolution of that process.

    Among other things, I substituted the generic “white rum” (I’d always used either Bacardi or Cruzan) for the Wray & Nephew Overproof (Rick–that’s your favorite rum, right?), as the higher alcohol would, I believe the technical term is “suck all the flavorful stuff out of” the other ingredients. The 2:1 syrup gave me more concentrated sweetness and viscosity without further diluting the flavor of the base.

    Jamie–Haven’t tried it with orgeat, though I can see how that would make sense. When I gave some out at Tales of the Cocktail, Chad Solomon got me thinking about using toasted almonds to get a more genuine almond-ey flavor, so I’m probably going to give that a stab the next batch I make. And definitely yes on the julienned ginger–you get way more flavor out of it than from one big chunk.

    [psst, Jamie–keep me posted on Vessel. Are you going to be in Vancouver the week of August 21?]

  7. Paul,

    I’m interested to hear the reasoning behind your vehemence at not heating the sugar syrup. Assuming you don’t start making caramels out of it, what is the harm in heating while stirring until the sugar is dissolved?

    I’m giving your Falernum #8 (I highly approve of the numbering) a try. My changes so far have been zesting 6 fairly large limes to perfection (no pith) – limes are expensive in PA. And I’ve also used Brugal white for the rum, for obvious reasons stated before. 🙂

  8. I’m wondering – what if you made the Falernum without the lime juice, and added that only when you are making the drink? I’ll give it a shot this week, but since I’ve never actually had falernum before I won’t have anything to compare it to.

  9. Rick–sorry if it seemed like I was shouting about the cold-process on the sugar syrup. But, between dissolving sugar in cold water and carmelizing it are many different stages. Darcy can probably illuminate this better than I can, but from my lay perspective, heating the solution, even to a slight boil, changes the flavor somewhat–lending, for lack of a better term, a “cooked” taste to the syrup. For my purposes with this falernum, I wanted the sugar for two purposes: to sweeten the mix as inconspicuously as possible, and to ramp up the viscosity of the finished product. In order to keep the lime/almond/ginger/cloves flavor up front, with no competition from anything else in the mix, I decided to go with a cold process. Plus, it’s just as easy as heating the syrup, and if you’re as incredibly lazy as I am, there’s less cleanup afterwards.

    Michael–I initially pondered just leaving out the juice and adding it as I went. You could, I suppose–it’s just a matter of doing the math and making sure that, for every 1 oz of falernum you add to a recipe, you use X amount of lime juice. I didn’t go that route, simply because it would mean every time I made a drink with the falernum, I’d have to recall (or dig out of my notes) the ratio I’d come up with, and adjust that to the particular recipe, depending on how much falernum it called for. I decided it would just be easier for my math-challenged brain to make up the batch with the lime juice in it, and to simply make small batches so I’d use it before I faced any problems from the aging lime juice. Plus, the spiciness of the ginger tends to fade pretty quickly, too, so that was an additional argument in favor of making small batches and replenishing the falernum supply more frequently.

  10. Paul,

    Indeed, working with sugar can get quite intense. I never let my mixture even remotely think about boiling. Shaking is fun too, though.

    Falernum #8 is delicious.

  11. Well, I made a batch and used the lime juice, and I think I’m hooked. I pretty much followed your recipe, adding about a dozen toasted almonds and using [by accident] a 1:1 syrup. It’s not as sweet as intended, but I’m fine with that.

    I’m still learning how to mix drinks with it! Since the homemade is much tarter than Fee Bros I’ve been adding far less than most cocktail recipes call for, and omitting the lime entirely. This and homemade orgeat, grenadine, and passion fruit liqueur make a frikkin’ awesome Mai Tai.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Made a batch this weekend (with more snow coming I was in dire need of a tropical beverage) and found your recipe to be VERY enjoyable.
    I think in future I’ll do a 1:1 simple syrup and maybe try demerara or turbinado sugar.


  13. Paul

    More and more often, your site is the first place I look when I want to try something new out at the bar. This recipe was no exception.

    I made your Falernum over the past two nights, and the reaction I’ve had at work is phenomenal. The Corn ‘n’ Oil is already a huge hit (Jesus, am I going to have to make Falernum on a regular basis now??) and I can’t wait to comb through my Trader Vic’s guide for more recipes.

    Again, Paul, thanks for such an amazing site. You truly are one of the greats.

    Most sincerely,

    Jeffrey Morgenthaler

    PS – Are we doing Tales of the Cocktail this year?? I’m planning my trip already!

  14. Thanks for the kind words, Jeffrey–it’s great to hear such nice feedback, especially from a pro. I keep meaning to make it down to Eugene sometime–after seeing your new cocktail menu, that intent has become more urgent.

    Murray Stenson’s drink, with the Cruzan Blackstrap rum, falernum and a little lime juice, rocks, is also pretty damn good. It’s not very far from the Corn n’ Oil, but the falernum just makes that blackstrap rum come to life. It’ll really surprise those people who are nervous about dark spirits.

    Audrey Saunders also told me about mixing a variation of the Ti Punch, with a half-dollar-size puddle of falernum in an Old Fashioned glass, followed by a dose of white rhum agricole or a good silver tequila, with a squeeze of lime. Haven’t tried it yet, but I mean to once the weather turns warm.

  15. Well, I made another batch of Falernum last weekend after receiving a bottle of John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum from some friends from New Orleans. I liked your version better for the brightness of the lime, but I was struck by the intense clove flavor of the Taylor’s. So I went out on my own…

    First I tried steeping the whole mixture for longer, three days to be exact. The problem was that the lime and ginger got slimy and weird, and while the clove was more intense, the whole mixture became too muddy for my taste.

    So last weekend I decided to steep the cloves in the rum for three days, and then add the rest of the ingredients for another day. Thirty hours after adding the lime zest and ginger, and bingo! we were in business.

    After cutting the mixture with simple and lime juice, I think that you’ve definitely hit a mark here, Paul. I hope someone else can try this method sometime and verify my results. Everyone I’ve tasted on the new recipe has been blown away by the complexity.

    Thanks again, Paul, you’ve certainly done a great service to us all.


  16. I really don´t know if using natural almonds would be a great idea… I made a small batch of your previous Falernum recipe and added some chopped almonds (not toasted, I must say) and it didn´t take too long to form a thick layer on top (almost the same as when you skip some steps with your orgeat), giving the whole a nasty appearance and a funny smell.
    I think I understand that Jamie´s idea was using orgeat instead of almond essence? that could be better, I must try it.


  17. Hey guys, I just had my first go at this and must say it is really good stuff! I can’t get falernum anywhere, so it is also my first taste.
    – here are my notes. I washed my limes in baking soda and vinegar to get the wax/chemicals off. I used half refined and half turbinado sugar for the syrup. Which I assume is more flavorful and more like what would have been on hand in the 30’s.

    Rock on!

  18. Greetings,I have just added falernum to my vocabulary. Last week I discovered it in a Justin Wilson cookbook from I think the early eighties I immediately ran to google to find the store in New Orleans that Justin said carried it, Sazerac Co. They Stopped making it a while back UMMMMMMMM… now what? Fee Bros. came next , but the website had no ordering info. Onward I started seeing homemade recipes and other things like Velvet Falernum, DaVinci syrup and Slakethirst. Now I go to DaVinci and they tell me they have not made it for a few years. I do find a site that sells it but I am concerned… is it still good? I call and ask about it .He says I am sure it will still be good . I tell him about the hard to find it problem. He has it for sale on his site , but now tells me he will have to check to see if there is any. I knew he would call back and tell me he was all out. He did . I ended up ordering Fee Bros. brand from SURFAS CO on line They did not charge a fortune to ship and also had other interesting things I ordered. The velvet and Slakethirst I will look for at the liquor stores when I travel near and far. I am looking forward to this taste treat,and also experimenting with the recipe. By the way, Justin said it made the best ice cream he ever ate. This is my goal to try in on a lot of things. Chicken Falernum Susan maybe? ……..and about Justin Wilson, rest in peace.
    Thanks for reading, Susan M.Gerhold

  19. Hey guys. I’m new to mixomania, and I’m whipping up my first batch of Falernum, which leads me to my question:

    Anyone see any problem keeping three separate ingredients and then combining them as needed? By three, I mean:

    Spiced Rum (per #8 recipe)
    Orgeat syrup
    Fresh Lime juice.

    Looking at the #8 recipe, it seems to be a simple 2-4.5-1.5 ratio, respectively. I figure this way, I can whip up a cup of it as needed.

    This a horrible idea?

  20. Paul, I have to confess that I did not read all the way through from the beginning of these chronicles, but was compelled to respond after making a double batch of #8 without having all the amounts proper to that ratio.

    Being a restaurant veteran(kitchen and bar)for 25 years, I
    decided to be creative with what I had on hand. I was able to find only the Bacardi 151, had only eleven limes, but had everything else. And to account for loss of product during the procedure, I added in some Gosling’s Black Seal 151 that I just brought back from a Bermuda
    trip. I’m unaware as to whether this is available here.

    I used the recipe you gave but let the steeping go for an
    additional day and a half before straining and putting in
    the remaining ingredients.

    With a decreased acidity from the smaller amount of
    lime juice, the almond and clove balance nicely with the
    ginger. You taste everything without being overwhelmed
    by any one of the ingredients(plus the Gosling’s adds a
    nice sweetness).

    I was inspired to make this because my wife and I loved
    the rum swizzles and dark ‘n stormies. I was on a major
    caiparinha kick last year and came up with a great recipe
    using honey instead of sugar. I think my next project will
    be homemade orgeat.

    I’ll keep in touch. Thanks for the inspiration.


  21. […] at Slashfood, along with excellent background information. Recipe below, but read the post. I use Paul Clarke’s outstanding recipe from his site The Cocktail Chronicles as a launching point, of which I will quote […]

  22. A really well balanced recipe. I find adding a few black peppercorns to the mix helps keep the Ginger spiciness around a little longer. Also using unrefined sugar as your syrup base adds a little complexity to the final product. This may reduce the shelf life tho.

  23. There is another secret ingredient that you may be missing in your recipe. It may have even been in the flavoring for Sazerac & Co. original and genuine falerenum. Which is whole allspice berries. I use them in the batch I just made half in half with the cloves. Give it a try you may like it.. For viscocity you can use Royal Piper glucose (it is a special glucose that is not really sweet and is used to add body to liqueurs and it does not weaken the flavor.

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