Falernum is a sweet rum liqueur flavored with bitter almond, ginger, limes, and perhaps cloves, vanilla, or allspice. It is made in the Caribbean and is used to flavor tropical-style cocktails, or drunk alone on the rocks. It is often described as a “syrup” rather than a liqueur. This is because there are nonalcoholic simple syrup versions that can be used to flavor drinks without the additional alcohol.
Falernum originated in the 1700’s and became a popular mixer for tiki drinks during the 1930’s, found in drinks such as Mai tais, Zombies, and others. It is easy to make, although it can have a lot of ingredients, and bartenders who favor it often make their own. However, it can be purchased from liquor stores.
A favorite brand is Velvet Falernum. Keep in mind, if you decide to make the homemade falernum recipe below, that your version will have more alcohol, as Velvet Falernum is only 11% alcohol or 22 proof. Think of it as having about the same amount of alcohol as wine. A homemade rum version will probably be 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume. Adjust the amount of alcohol in your drinks to compensate.
Both Victor Bergeron, aka Trader Vic, and Don Beach aka Don the Beachcomber claim to have invented the Mai tai. Of the two versions, Trader Vic’s used Falernum, while Don Beach’s version used orgeat (pronounced or-zat), an almond flavored syrup.
- 1 bottle white rum
- 1 cup sliced ginger root
- zest from 8 to 10 limes
- 12 cloves
- 12 allspice berries
- 3 sticks cinnamon
- 8 whole star anise
- 2 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
- 2 cups simple syrup
You will need a one gallon glass jar with a lid and a large jar or bottle to transfer the finished liqueur to for storage. Add the rum and all the other ingredients except the simple syrup and almond extract to the jar and seal. Let the falernum sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain the mixture through clean cheesecloth, into the bottle or jar you want to store the falernum in. Add the simple syrup and the almond extract and shake well to mix.
You can adjust the simple syrup to taste. Adding more if you want the falernum to be more sweet.
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup vanilla extract
- 10 to 15 allspice berries
- angostura bitters (add about one ounce with the syrup and almond extract)
You can also add fresh lime juice to make it more limey.
Store in the refrigerator and it will keep indefinitely.
What is a Good Falernum Substitute?
Although there is no direct substitute for falernum, in general, you can substitute orgeat syrup. As mentioned above, Don Beach’s Mai Tai used orgeat.
1 ounce Jamaica Rum
1 ounce white rum or gold rum
1 ounce lemon juice
1/3 ounce Falernum
1 dash bitters
In a strainer filled with ice, shake all ingredients together to chill. Strain into a glass.
1 ounce Falernum
1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1/ ounce fresh lime juice
In a strainer half full of ice, add all the ingredients and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.