Why It Works
- Falernum can be tricky to find commercially, but it's easy to make at home for classic Tiki cocktails.
- Homemade falernum also offers the opportunity for flavor tweaking and personalization.
Blame the drinking, but cocktail history is often hazy. So it's no surprise that the origins of falernum—and even its exact ingredients—vary depending on whom you ask. Generally speaking, it's a sweetened lime and spice concoction that was (probably) created in Barbados somewhere between 1826 and 1930. You'll see both syrups and liqueurs referred to as falernum, but the key ingredients are always lime zest, cloves, and sugar—usually combined with ginger and almonds or almond extract.
Falernum is indispensable in Tiki drinks, brightening the sour notes of citrus and adding a hint of rich spice, but it also plays well with slightly bitter flavors. If you're at all interested in Tiki cocktails, this stuff is a must-have for your home bar.
What's Available to Buy
Whether it's in syrup or liqueur form, falernum is a bit tricky to find in stores. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum is the only liqueur version I've seen for sale. It's sweet with a strong citrus flavor and pleasant spice notes that aren't overwhelming.
In the syrup category, there's B.G. Reynolds and Fee Brothers along with another offering from Taylor's. The Fee Brothers syrup, while tasty, seemed a little flatter in flavor than the Velvet Falernum liqueur, though cocktails can be adjusted to make it work.
As you've probably noticed by now, I love to make basically everything I can at home. But Falernum is a great DIY candidate for everyone, not just cocktails geeks. It can be hard to find commercially, yet it's cheap and simple to make at home. The ingredients are all common and inexpensive items, and falernum shows up in way more drink recipes than you'd think. You can certainly hunt some down online or at a very well-stocked liquor store, but it's easier (and more fun) to make it at home.
Homemade falernum also offers the opportunity for flavor tweaking and personalization. For example, you could use an overproof rum or include ginger, star anise, cinnamon, or lemon zest.
You might be surprised how quickly you'll use up your homemade falernum once you get started. Try it in Zombie Punch, the Chartreuse swizzle, the Test Pilot, or the Saturn (we're especially big fans of that last one, which features a gin base).
1/3 cup sliced, raw almonds
30 whole cloves
1/2 cup light rum
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Let cool before using.
Place almonds and cloves in a sealable glass jar and pour in rum. Shake and let steep 2 days. (For a less intense clove flavor, steep 1 day.)
Zest limes, make sure no white pith is included. Set aside 4 of the limes for use in this recipe, and reserve the rest for another project. Add lime zest to jar. At this point, you can also add other spices, if desired. Shake and let steep for 1 day.
Strain mixture through cheesecloth, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible.
Juice 4 limes, and strain juice into a sauce pot. Add water and sugar, then bring to a boil on medium heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Let syrup cool, then combine with the strained almond and clove infusion. Strain mixture through a coffee filter, if desired, then let it rest for an additional 12 hours before use.
Rimmed baking sheet, zester, fine-mesh strainer, coffee filter or cheesecloth
I left the ginger out, because I think it takes over the flavor. However, many consider it a part of the traditional recipe. You can add a tablespoon of grated ginger with the lime zest, if desired.
Falernum is best used within a month and does not need to be refrigerated.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 6mg||30%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|