Having never tasted real Barbados falernum, I tried to perfect my recipe as best I could, based on information found on the Intertubes, at various drinking blogs. Once I’d made a couple of batches, I planned to try some out while in Barbados, comparing it to my homemade batch, and at the same time, finding out what Bajans thought of falernum in general, and what drinks they made with it.
After two batches, and two different recipes, we headed down to Barbados for vacation, and we got an interesting insight into the culture of falernum. For one, most people either weren’t aware of it, or didn’t like it. Frankly, I can’t blame them. Falernum in Barbados was weakly spiced, barely tasted of lime, was cloyingly sweet, and was a clear liquid with only a tinge of green. There were three different brands of falernum available at the grocery store, all looking pretty much identical.
Also, when you asked for a drink with falernum in it, most bartenders had to think about it. The result was invariably a Corn ‘n Oil:
- 1 oz. rum
- 1 oz. Velvet Falernum
- possibly a dash Angostura Bitters
Most people in Barbados didn’t like Corn ‘n Oil. Most people either drank straight rum with a chaser, or a Black and Coke:
- 1 oz. Mount Gay Extra Old rum
- 4 oz. Coke
- possibly some ice
Perhaps the best kept secret in Barbados is the bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse rum that comes in a 12 oz. soda bottle (and is sealed with a bottle cap — there’s no resealing after it’s opened). This one is for serious drinkers, or people with friends. They don’t export it, and it’s pointless to try to get it through customs, since it’s only a 12 oz. bottle, and you should really be bringing back the larger 750ml bottles.
So, with that experience fresh in mind, I figured that my recipes might be a little too flavourful to compare with authentic falernum. Indeed, an interesting article on the supposed origins of falernum describe the concoction as simply:
- 1 Part Lime Juice
- 2 Parts Sugar Syrup
- 3 Parts Rum
- 4 Parts Water
- some almonds
which doesn’t sound particularly memorable.
In any case, I figured it’s time to post the second falernum recipe. My second batch turned out much better than the first. It had a great spicy, limey flavour, with a consistent colouring, and it didn’t separate like the first batch did. I think the latter was helped by the extra filtering.
- zest of 5 limes
- 1/2 cup diced ginger with skin
- 40 whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp crushed black cardamom seeds
- 1 tsp coarsely ground allspice
- 6oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum
Combine ingredients for 24 hours in a 12oz wide-mouth bottle or covered bowl. Strain through cheesecloth or filter through coffee filters. Strain again, to remove fine particles. Then add:
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz lime juice
Pour in 750ml bottle and add 2:1 simple syrup to fill.
This looks like the batch I’m going to standardize on, since it turned out so well. I may make some minor alterations in the future, but this is pretty good.