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.
- 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.
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.