Falernum. Never heard of it you say? Well, if you’ve ever spent a lazy day on a white sandy beach with the ocean lapping at your feet and a colorful paper umbrella bobbing around in your drink, then it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ve had Falernum.
Born in the British West Indies in the 1700’s–Barbados to be exact–this almond and white rum-based mixer is an essential component of all “Tiki” cocktails like the classic Mai Tai, Rum Punch, Zombie, Saturn or old-school Daiquiri. The great news is this sweet-and-tart elixir has undergone a recent resurgence on the craft cocktail scene and is often now house-made at the bar. Bartenders are including Falernum in riffs on the Whiskey Sour, fruity Swizzles and creating new versions of the 1934 Zombie. Traditional recipes of Falernum call for a heady combination of almond, clove, ginger and lime, which are steeped in overproof white rum (+57.5% abv) and then added to a simple syrup. Found in most all Caribbean-style sips, Falernum often can’t be detected but trust me when we say it’s a must-have for any proper Tiki-era drink. The warm baking spices and bright lime notes will round out any tropical cocktail with just a hint of spiciness and offset any overt sweetness from the fruit juices.
Our ‘Festivus of Falernum’ (as my friend and dubbed it) started with two recipes found on-line, both calling for a base of almonds, cloves, lime zest and overproof white rum. Each recipe was tested in our Libation Lab and, sadly, neither successfully passed our taste trials. Along with hard-to-follow instructions, the measures listed for many of the ingredients were way off so both final syrups lacked a balance of flavor being either overly sweet or far too acidic. Our remedy was to tweak the ingredients from both recipes to create a new, stellar syrup packed with aromatics and just the right amount of acidity garnered from the lime zest and juice. And of course, we had to test-drive the Falernum so we created a tasty island sip, The Cassini Tropicale, using Falernum and other tropical ingredients. Please note: No paper umbrellas were injured in the making of this cocktail, however, the Flamingo and Pineapple paper straws didn’t fare so well.
Adapted from the Saturn, make this fruity and boozy drink anytime of year, no sunscreen required. Brownie points if you science geeks out there get the reference.
1 1/2 oz. Gin (we like Plymouth brand)
1/2 oz. Falernum (recipe below)
1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz. Passionfruit Syrup (we like the Small Hand Foods brand)
1/2 oz. Orgeat (ditto above for brand)
1/2 oz. Egg white
1 cup Crushed Ice
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into a Tiki or Collins glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry (optional) but definitely with a tropical straw or umbrella. Cheers!
Prep time: 45 minutes over 4 days | Yield: approx. 64 fl.ounces/8 cups
2 cups Blanched Almonds, slivered or flaked
3 Star Anise
40 Cloves (yes, count them out…trust us, you’ll be sorry if you don’t)
1 Tbs Ground Allspice
2 1/2 cups White Rum Overproof (+ 57.5%, commonly labeled as “151”, we like Wray & Nephew brand)
4 Tbs fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced
4 1/2 cups Sugar
6 cups Water
6 large limes, zested and juiced
Cheese cloth, 64-oz Glass Jar with lid
In a small, dry saucepan, toast almonds, star anise, cloves and allspice over low heat, just until fragrant and the almonds have turned light brown. Remove from heat and cool.
Once almond mixture has cooled, add to a large glass jar and fill with rum. Secure lid and shake well to combine. Allow mixture to steep on the counter for a minimum of 48 hours. Shake periodically to thoroughly combine ingredients.
After 48-hours, strain almond/rum mixture through cheesecloth into a clean bowl. Repeat to remove all remnants of almond mixture. Rinse the large glass jar well to remove almond mixture and add back strained rum liquid.
In a large sauce pot, combine ginger, sugar and water. Heat on med-high heat to dissolve sugar and then bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes only. Remove from heat and allow ginger to steep in the syrup until completely cooled. Once cooled, strain liquid through cheesecloth to remove ginger pieces. Repeat if necessary to achieve a clear syrup.
Combine cooled ginger syrup with rum liquid and then add all of the lime zest and lime juice. Secure lid and shake well to combine.
Allow Falernum to steep for a minimum of 48 hours before using. Transfer into smaller glass bottles if desired. Keep refrigerated, consume within 2 months.