Slakethirst West Indies Falernum

Slakethirst FalernumI’ve concocted a batch of falernum, starting from the eGullet recipe mentioned earlier. It may be that I employed profoundly weak ingredients, but whatever the reason, the eGullet recipe proved to be terribly sweet and not much else. After many trial blendings, tastings, modifications, and re-blendings, here’s the final recipe for Slakethirst West Indies Falernum:

1 cup white rum
zest of 3 limes
9 whole cloves
25 dashes Fee’s Aromatic Bitters
5 drops almond extract

Steep for 24 hours, strain, and add to 16 oz. of a 1:1 turbinado simple syrup.

Three limes’ worth of zest nicely fills a cup of rum and looks absolutely loverly, turning it a pale, pale green in the space of a day. Note that I didn’t muddle the lime zest, as perhaps I ought to have… this may account for differences in intensity observed later.

Three cloves, on the other hand, was definitely not enough to approximate the spiciness of John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum. Clovey spiciness is responsible for the cola-notes in Corn ‘n Oil which make it seem so like a Cuba Libre. So, after 24 hours I strained the lime infusion of cloves and zest and added 6 new cloves for another day of infusing. Even this proved to be insufficient to achieve the proper pepperiness — it may well be that my cloves were old and lacking vim — so I turned to Fee’s Aromatic Bitters to supply the necessary punch. It’s less bespoke because of it, but we’re already using a commercial almond extract, so what the hell. Next time I’ll buy the freshest cloves I can find and see if it makes a difference.

A test blending of infused rum:syrup at the suggested 1:4 ratio yields something very sweet and far less limey than is wanted. It’s only at 1:2 that the lime seems to hold its own. Granted, the quality of the lime flavor achieved in this recipe is a bit different from that in Velvet Falernum, which contains lime juice, but a 1:2 blend makes for a similar intensity.

The commercial Velvet Falernum product is a much paler color than mine, likely attributable to the choice of sugar. I opted for turbinado for a bit more flavor, but those seeking a closer visual cognate should use white cane sugar instead.

Speaking of visuals, I don’t particularly care for unlabeled bottles of fluid in the bar, so a bit of experimentation with glass etching seemed in order. The able Ms. Thirsty and I spent some quality time pushing pixels around and mucking with screen printing and acid creams. It didn’t turn out half-bad, if I do say so… with some modifications to the process, I think we’ll be etching-up vessels for gomme and grenadine in the near future, and likely any other domestically produced mixological reagents that become permanent fixtures of the backbar.

Update: See also this post in the tikiroom forums. 24 cloves macerated, plus 3 additional Tbs and it still wasn’t clovey enough… obviously achieving the right spiciness isn’t just my problem.

10 thoughts on “Slakethirst West Indies Falernum”

  1. I’m kicking myself with great vigor, here–after your initial falernum post, I mixed up a batch according to eGullet’s recipe, and have been wondering ever since what to do with this bottle of incredibly sweet syrup (though it’s not without its charms). Next batch will take its inspiration from the patented Slakethirst approach.

    I’m wondering, though, since other descriptions of falernum sometimes mention a gingery taste, if the introduction of a bit of grated ginger to the mix could introduce the spicy, peppery component you were searching for. Not that I have any idea what I’m talking about–without a bottle of Velvet Falernum to use for taste comparison, I’m feeling my way through the dark.

  2. Excellent! I’m happy to hear that someone else is mucking with falernum as well. Please do riff on it… the recipe above needs work, but I’m pretty certain that I’m right about the sugar content. I really should dust off my hydrometer and check to see what the real stuff weighs in at.

    The real surprise is that in comparing Rachel Perlow’s “more reasonable amount” recipe against Dale DeGroff’s original recipe I realized that he calls for a 1:4 ratio with a 2:1 simple syrup!

    Talk about kicking oneself with vigor… I just peered at the fine print on my bottle of VF and discovered that they actually list the ingredients: “Lime Juice, Sugar, Almond and Clove Essences, Water, White Rum.” I’d never looked, just assuming it would be like Drambuie, Chartreuse or Angostura, whose constituent elements are only known to five oath-bound members of the ancient and secret company sect. This would seem to rule out ginger, and yet DrinkBoy, CocktailDB and others definitely identify ginger as being a component of falernum. As you say, it would seem to be a good candidate for a source of the peppery.

    The question really becomes: is John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum the acme of falernums? Is it the falernum to attempt to reproduce? It claims to be the Original Formula, but there have certainly been other brands, and the others may well have been what many drinks were designed for… some as thick and sweet as DeGroff’s recipe, others perhaps more fanciful, calling for ginger, vanilla and unnamed fruits and spices.

    I’m preaching to the choir, of course, since this is damned near the same problem you document in the history of the Gimlet: Unsweetened Canadian Rose’s or Sweetened American? Cordial or Juice? High Fructose Corn Syrup or Cane Sugar as sweetener? Is today’s product — even if it trades under the same name — anything like the one that Baker stocked his galley with?

    Next time around I think I will try some ginger, and perhaps some allspice and a vanilla bean while I’m at it. I think I’m satisfied with the zest method, though I know it to be “wrong” … the lime juice in VF makes it similar to Rose’s in some ways, and I’m not a fan of Rose’s (give me a G&T with the juice of half a lime over a Gimlet any day). Hell, maybe I’ll marinate the zest and use the juice, for the authoritative earthiness of the oils and the bright notes of juice.

    I probably won’t mix up another batch in the immediate future, but ultimately I think the target is a homemade falernum that passes the Corn ‘n Oil test. If a mixture of falernum X and rum can make me think “Cuba Libre” then it’s probably just about perfect. Given their origins and adherents, the similarities between the two can’t be coincidence.

  3. The falernum mucking-about continues…last week I was presented with a small amount of Velvet Falernum, so was able to do some side-by-side comparison in the Chronicle’s test kitchen. I’ll spare you the lengthy details, but the conclusion was: stick with the homemade. Spice it up a bit more in the next batch (as you’ve already mentioned), and spritz in some fresh lime juice while mixing to liven up the flavor (and to more closely match the recipe in the commercial product), and the taste will easily beat that of VF.

    But here’s the real winner: Murray Stenson, bartender extraordinaire at Zig Zag Cafe here in Seattle, turned me on to what’s basically a variation of the Corn ‘n Oil, that I believe is the best falernum-containing drink I’ve yet tasted:

    2 ounces Cruzan Blackstrap Rum (really dark, really rich)
    1/4 – 1/2 ounce falernum, to taste
    juice of about 1/4 lime, again to taste–not too much, though–you’re not shooting for tartness, just bright fresh fruitiness

    Shake, strain into ice-filled tumbler. Murray doesn’t use bitters in this, but the next time I make one (maybe tonight) I’ll toss in some Fees OFAB and see what happens. I’ve tried it with VF and with the homemade falernum, with good results each way (though my bias leans toward homemade).

    If you wind up making one of these with your batch of falernum, I’d be curious to hear the result.

  4. Ah, Alice: you and yours are always welcome. I’m happy to ply you with clovey limeness any day. 😉

    And re: Paul, sadly, I lack for Cruzan Blackstrap. Fortunately, I have a pressing need to restock Boodles and Plymouth, so I can remedy the situation forthwith. I’ve just tried the Zig-Zag method both with Taylor’s and my own falernum, substituting Myers’s Original Dark for the Blackstrap … not sure which I preferred, but neither seemed a patch on a Corn ‘n Oil made with Mount Gay Eclipse (being Bajan, it seems an apropos match for falernum). There’s more to this than meets the eye, and I’ve no qualms investigating further. Shall have to wait a bit, though… four ounces of Jamaican rum taken in the noonday sun require a respectful period of metabolization before moving onward. 🙂

  5. i was wondering what you could tell me about the bottle that you customized. i’ve been looking for a similar one for my own batch of falernum, if i ever get around to making more. a friend of mine is going to help me sandblast it so i don’t have to mess with glocco etching.

    is it an old whisky bottle? french lemondade? or something else?


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