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.

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10 Responses to “Slakethirst West Indies Falernum”

  1. paul says:

    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. alice says:

    And why haven’t I been invited over to taste this delectable liquid? I like clove and limes. I’m fun to offer drinks to.

    It really is a shame.

  3. paul says:

    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. c says:

    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. […] Slakethirst also detailed recent homemade falernum experiments, complete with taste comparisons with Velvet Falernum (and check out the bottle design!). A previous post on that site also compares VF to Fee's, with more praise being given to the former […]

  6. William DeGroot says:

    Where did you find the great swing-top flask?
    The addition of ginger may alter the balance, but I will try it in the next batch.

  7. c says:

    As I recall, it came from a local housewares store, Kitchen Kaboodle, though I’ve seen similar flasks at Cost Plus and the odd grocery store. Made in China Italy and dirt-cheap.

  8. seezee says:

    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?

    –cz

  9. c says:

    seezee: see the comment above yours. It’s from a local housewares store, sold empty. So, it is what it is: a “clamp-top glass flask,” made in Italy, for whatever you want it to be.

    Looks like they’re available at The Container Store, if that helps.