Every bartender needs to be a master of all the many flavours from around the world, and the list is most certainly an endless one. From Amsterdam to Peru, the spectrum of spirits, liqueurs and other ingredients is enough to keep bartenders of all levels of experience busy, and the number of different cocktails that can be produced is infinite. One of the particular flavours of Caribbean spice is falernum, a lesser known liqueur that every bartender could do well to add to their practice.
What is Falernum Syrup?
Falernum syrup is one of those sweet, tropical tastes from the Caribbean that can be used to great effect at the bar. It’s a sweet, lime and sugar-based liqueur flavoured with ginger, almonds, cloves and nutmeg, among other spices. Its origins were in Barbados at some time in the nineteenth century, when it was used to make punch. The name is thought to be derived from either an ancient Roman wine, or ‘you have to learn it’ in a West Indian accent.
Falernum Syrups to Go for
There are several falernum liqueurs to choose from, though they are not necessarily that easy to come across. Two brands can be found on Amazon, while a greater range can be found through drinks wholesalers, such as The Whiskey Exchange.
Hailing from Barbados, like most original falernums, John T. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum is an award-winning product that dates back to 1890, and uses sugar cane, lime peel, cloves and almonds. Its taste is sweet and syrupy with note of lime and cloves. This contains 11% ABV and retails at £14.75.
Monin Falernum Syrup is a more widely available product that is marketed for the Tiki world, and coffee variations. As a supplement rather than a stand alone liqueur, this is slightly less delicate than other brands, and this is reflected in the price, at just £6.95. Lime zest is added with almonds and vanilla.
Hanschell’s Old Time Recipe Falernum is another old Barbadian liqueur, from a company started by a mariner-turned liqueur manufacturer in 1884. This has a lime taste and syrup consistency, with notes of spices that include nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and almond. It is also 11% ABV.
Just to prove that not all falernums are from Barbados, The Bitter Truth Golden Falernum is a product that was started in Germany in 2006. At 18% ABV this is a stronger falernum that is gold in colour, rich in flavour, with a taste of ginger, almond and vanilla. It retails at £21.45.
Homemade Falernum Syrup
For those who like to get more creatively involved in their ingredients, falernum syrup is not too difficult to make. For this, 200g almonds are chopped then soaked overnight in a jar of 1 litre of water. 1tbsp cloves, 1tbsp allspice and 4 star anise pods should be warmed for a minute in a saucepan before adding the almonds in the water they have soaked in. 64g ginger and 950g sugar are added and then brought to the boil. The heat is lowered, then stir for 15 minutes. The mixture is removed from the heat and allowed to cool. The zest of one lime should be added and stirred in, then left overnight in the jar. After this, it should be strained through a cloth into a container, and for every 150ml syrup, 30ml overproof rum is added. It is then stirred thoroughly and transferred to clean bottles and refrigerated. Variations can be made by using different spices or by varying the levels of each.
With its sweet, spicy taste, falernum syrup unsurprisingly lends itself to cocktails of the more tropical variety, and has long been a favourite of tiki culture.
The most well-known among these tiki cocktails is the Mai Tai, which doesn’t always use falernum, but does in the best cases. A fine version can be made with 60ml light rum, 7.5ml velvet falernum, 15ml orgeat syrup, 22.5ml fresh lime juice and 2 dashes Angostura bitters, shaking all of these ingredients with ice and straining them into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. In tiki style a colourful garnish can be made with pineapple, cherries and lime.
A more modern cocktail, the Chartreuse Swizzle takes 37.5ml Green Chartreuse, 15ml falernum, 60ml fresh pineapple juice and 15ml fresh lime juice, all poured into an ice-filled Collins glass. The mixture should then be ‘swizzled’, or stirred, with a bar spoon and garnished with pineapple. The unique Chartreuse taste is added to with the warm complexity of falernum, and tropical fruits.
From the original tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber’s, this original Zombie version can be made by dissolving 1tsp brown sugar in 30ml fresh lemon juice in a shaker, then adding 30ml gold rum, 30ml black rum, 30ml white rum, 30ml fresh pineapple juice, 30ml lime juice, 30ml passion fruit syrup and a dash of Angostura bitter, shaking with ice and strain into an ice-filled hurricane glass. The result is strong and fruity.
Rum and falernum are quite obvious complements to each other, and this explains the success of the Rum Old Fashioned. For this, add 60ml golden rum and 15ml white overproof rum to an old fashioned glass with ice, and stir. Add 7.5ml falernum, 5ml sugar syrup and 1 dash Angostura bitters, then stir and garnish with an orange twist. A potent old fashioned version with all the flavours that falernum brings.
We all have leanings towards different tastes and tipples, but a solid knowledge and experience of use with the more particular ingredients is something that we all could benefit from. With warmth, complexity and range, falernum is closely related to rum, though can be used to great effect with different spirits. It is also a liqueur that brings a little Caribbean sunshine to the darkest of days.