[ If you're one of those skimmer types, you might want to look near the bottom of this post, because I'm giving away a year's worth of falernum. ]
Falernum is one of those mystery ingredients that, more often than not, stop you in your tracks when you’re looking for a new drink. There are some commercial versions out there that you might consider subbing, like Velvet Falernum, which isn’t all that bad of a product, and then there’s Fee’s Falernum. Yep, that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Making your own falernum takes 10 minutes. Sure, like making bread, those 10 short minutes span a 24 hour period, but the effort is well worth the minimal pain. Falernum can be broken down into two simple steps.
Step 1 – Soak Lots of Tasty Things in Rum
Your options here are nearly endless or if you’re a purist, fairly limited. I’ve gone as far to add something like 15 different spices to my falernum, creating a wicked spiderweb of flavor that verged on perfection craziness. You can definitely go this route, but my goal here is to get you to make falernum, so I’m going to share my favorite recipe with you. And it’s very simple. That said, I know this statement comes from someone who feels comfortable calling the French Laundry cookbook his bitch.
The Toast and Soak
- 8oz rum (preferably an overproof rum like Wray and Nephew or Lemon Hart 151, but use your favorite rum if you have neither)
- 50 cloves
- 1T whole allspice
- 1 nutmeg
- 8 limes, zested
- 1/2c julienned ginger
Toast the cloves, allspice, and nutmeg in a skillet over medium heat until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Drop the spices and remaining ingredients into the rum. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit on the counter to get happy for 24 hours.
Step 2 – Make the Syrup
You’re pretty much done at this point. All that’s left is to strain the deliciously infused rum and add it to syrup. Really, it’s not hard.
- 2c sugar (preferably pure cane sugar that’s not been refined too much, but don’t let this limit you)
- 1c water
- 10 drops almond extract
Heat the sugar and water over medium-low heat and stir to dissolve, about 5 minutes. Strain your soaking mix through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into the syrup; press on the solids to get as much goodness out of it as you can. Add the almond extract. Bottle. Rejoice!
Why Adding Lime Juice to Your Falernum is Evil
I used to always add 4oz of lime juice to my falernum, and nearly 35% of the time, it became a mixture that only Captain Planet could save from the nefarious Sergeant Sludge: gross floaty black bits with a “freshly dead” smell. Yum. After much discussion with Gabe, Craig, and Blair, we determined it was the sneaky lime juice that was causing the rot. For the most part, 2:1 syrups and lots of booze prevent spoilage, but that pesky lime juice just kept on fermenting and getting nasty.
If you miss the fresh kick that lime juice gives your falernum, just add a touch of it to your cocktail when you use falernum. Problem solved. MacGyver would be pleased.
The Falernum Challenge
I know that a lot of you are going to read this post and sigh, thinking you can never make your own falernum or will never be this intense. You will also probably not be as awesomely insane as Doug, who has been making tiki drinks all month, including his own falernum. Hell, you probably groan when you have to make simple syrup. But I want to change all that.
Homemade Falernum for a year.
How you get it
- Make your own falernum for the first time, tweaking the recipe I’ve given here.
- Post in the comments that you’ve done so with a little story about your quest. Do this by March 30th.
- Mail me a sample (I’ll email you my address once you post in the comments).
- The tastiest one will be the winner.
That person will receive as much falernum as they need for one year. I’ll make it as often as you need it, and mail it to you.
- 2oz white rum (used Oronoco)
- 1oz Aperol
- 1oz grapefruit juice
- 1/2oz falernum
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- grapefruit peel, for garnish
Shake with cracked ice, and strain over ice. Garnish in some ridiculous fashion with the grapefruit peel.
Rick from Kaiser Penguin