If you're an aspiring home bartender and share a love for tiki cocktails, you may have heard about Falernum. The rich syrup from the Caribbean can either be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, with the alcoholic version carrying about 10 - 15% ABV.
The syrup is closely related to Orgeat, another syrup predominantly used in tiki cocktails. But while Orgeat always is non-alcoholic and primarily flavored with almonds, Falernum is a lot more complex.
Like Orgeat, the recipe for this tasty syrup is spiced with almonds. On top, there are cloves, allspice berries, lime, grapefruit, ginger, and other ingredients. And if you plan to shake up some tiki cocktails like a Zombie or a Cobra's Fang, you definitely need a proper Falernum.
And the best way to ensure it's full of fresh flavors is to make a homemade version. That way, you can control what goes in to bring as much flavor into the sweetener as possible.
When done right, this tasty cocktail ingredient will transport that Caribbean vibe straight into your drinks. It is a sweet and nutty flavor enhancer with enough spice to provide extra complexity.
The Origin of the Name
As with many old cocktail ingredients and drinks, the origin of the name is a bit murky. One of the more popular theories is that the syrup is named after Falernian (lat.: Falernum), a Roman wine. In fact, that's less of a theory than a fact. But the modern tiki version of the name has nothing to do with the wine.
A more catchy story is related to the Caribbean. As the legend goes, a Barbadian woman who made an excellent version of the sweetener was asked about the ingredients.
Her reply was: "You haf a learn um" which more or less means - "You have to learn how to make it". That was first released in an article published by the New York Times in 1982. Since then, that's more or less the official story of how the ingredient got its name.
How is Golden Falernum different?
Well, that's a question many people ask. The answer is as short as it is unsatisfactory - Falernum knows no rules. Many producers sell their version as Golden while others don't.
Also, the ingredient and, thus, the taste will vary widely between different products. The name alone won't help. You have to taste them to find the best one for your drink.
What is Velvet Falernum?
When shopping around you might come across Velvet Falernum. This is not a specific type but the name of one product. The full name of it is John D. Taylors Velvet Falernum.
This version is often considered the original Falernum. It not only contains more sugar than the standard recipe leading to a thicker consistency but is also alcoholic.
Therefore, Velvet Falernum is not a syrup but a light liqueur that clocks in at 11% ABV. And as it is produced by famed Rum produced R.L. Seale, the alcohol that's used to spike this syrup is Rum.
The increased amount of sugar in combination with the added Rum leads to a richer and creamier mouth feel, leaving an almost velvety sensation on your tongue. -Hence, the name.
Does it contain alcohol?
Falernum is available as a non-alcoholic syrup and also as a liqueur (read more about the velvet version above). Both types have similar but not identical flavor profiles. The addition of alcohol to the recipe mainly helps preserve the syrup.
That increases the shelf time quite a bit, which is why we opt for an alcoholic version in our recipe. If you plan to use it for mocktails, opt for a non-alcoholic recipe.
Which is the best Falernum recipe?
Falernum isn't as easy to get as other cocktail ingredients. And as the taste varies a lot from brand to brand, the best way to ensure consistent flavors in your drinks is to make your own version of this syrup.
There are many different ways to create homemade Falernum for cocktails. Most recipes are alcoholic, though, and follow a similar approach. One of the most famous formulas is the one developed by Jeff Beachbum Berry - the recipe for Falernum #9. You can find the original version in his book Beachbum Berry Remixed.
And our recipe is based on Jeff's recipe, too. But we added a bit of a twist to it.
- 1 64oz Mason jar
- 1 Cheesecloth
- 1 funnel
- Swing top bottles
- 1 Medium-sized bowl
- 16 oz Overproof Rum
- Zest of 9 organic limes - (carefully remove the pith)
- Zest of 1 grapefruit - (carefully remove the pith)
- 20 Allspice berries - (dried)
- 20 Cloves
- 1.5 oz Fresh ginger - (peeled and diced)
- 1.5 cups Blanched almonds - (carefully peeled and coarsely chopped)
- 16 oz Cane sugar syrup
- 0.25 tsp Almond extract
- 4.5 oz Fresh lime juice
- Put the chopped almonds in a dry skillet over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the almonds become fragrant and aromatic, take them off the heat.
- Add the overproof Rum and toasted almonds to the mason jar. Let this mix sit and infuse at room temperature for 24 hours.
- The next day, open the jar and add lime zest, grapefruit zest, diced ginger, allspice, and cloves. Reseal it and let the mix infuse for another 24 hours.
- After another day, strain the mix your homemade Falernum with the help of cheesecloth and a funnel into a bowl.
- Thoroughly clean the mason jar and pour back the strained Falernum. Add fresh lime juice, almond extract, and cane syrup. Stir or shake to combine all ingredients before using your DIY Falernum in cocktails.