Falernum: recipe review

Before embarking on a falernum-making adventure, I did a bit of reading and ended up compiling a list of falernum recipes. Falernum is an ingredient that pop ups every now and then in tiki cocktails, with one of the most famous examples being the Zombie.

1934 Zombie Punch
Don the Beachcomber’s 1934 Zombie Punch

Falernum is a syrup that is pretty common in the Caribbean. During a trip in Saint Lucia a few years ago, I bought a bottle. Over there, even the most basic grocery store in Soufrière has it in stock, together with a selection of rums (however finding butter or eggs can be a different story, but I digress). This is the basis for the Corn N’ Oil, a mix of dark rum and falernum.

Falernum typically gets its flavor from cloves, ginger, almonds, and lime. The taste of the commercial product was quite subtle, akin to a slightly flavored simple syrup. So this was my baseline, and I thought I would try to improve on it by making my own. I looked at various recipes that I am summarizing below (listed by publication date).

  • The recipe by Dale DeGroff and its scaled-down version (2003): white rum, lime zest, cloves, almond extract + simple syrup.
  • Falernum #8 by Paul Clarke (2006) where he adds ginger and lime juice to Dale DeGroff’s recipe and uses Wray & Nephew overproof rum.
  • Jeffrey Morgenthalers’ variation on Paul Clarke’s falernum #8 (2007) where he recommends soaking the cloves in rum for a few days prior to adding the lime zest and ginger.
  • Paul Clarke’s falernum #9 (2007) – similar to the #8 formula with the addition of toasted almonds.  This was the version published in Imbibe magazine and Beachbum Berry Remixed.
  • Paul Clarke’s falernum #10 (2008): similar to #9 but no lime juice and the cloves are toasted.
  • Chris Hannah’s recipe (2008) is also based on Paul Clarke’s falernum #8 and was posted by Jeff Berry on his site: amber rum (Old New Orleans 3-year) with lime zest, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, coffee beans, toasted pecans + lime juice, simple syrup, almond extract.
  • Rumdood’s falernum #2 (2009) which is another variation on Paul Clarke’s falernum #8 with W&N + 151 overproof rums, lime zest, cloves, ginger, star anise + simple syrup, lime juice, lemon juice and almond extract.
  • The recipe by Kaiser Penguin (2009) uses lime zest, cloves, ginger, allspice, nutmeg + simple syrup and almond extract.  No lime juice because it “just [keeps] on fermenting and getting nasty”.
  • Kaiser Penguin’s 5-minute falernum recipe (2010) – same as above without the almond extract and made in an iSi whipper.
  • Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s falernum (2010) is a mixture of overproof and aged rums, lime zest, cloves, ginger, star anise, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, black peppercorns, toasted almonds, vanilla bean + simple syrup and orgeat.
  • Marcia Simmons’ recipe on Serious Eats (2012): white rum, lime zest, cloves, toasted almonds, lime juice and simple syrup (no ginger).

In the end, I decided to go with the Elmegirab recipe as my starting point. It had the most interesting mix of spices so I thought it would yield a flavorful product.

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