Falling for falernum

Step by step: How to make the secret ingredient that puts the terrific into tiki drinks

Before you start, assemble your ingredients. Dan Toulgoet photo

In bartending, there’s a simple rule called the Golden Ratio: two parts spirit, one part sweet, one part sour. If you apply this rule to your drink making, you can quickly learn dozens of cocktails.

If you dissect a Daiquiri for example, it is simply two parts rum, one part lime juice, one part simple syrup. Sometimes you can use a sweet liqueur to replace the simple syrup, like Curaçao in the case of a Margarita. Depending on your palate, you can increase or decrease the sour and sweet elements or adjust the amount of spirits to create the right balance. In fact, herein lies one of the secrets of fine cocktail making: Bartenders often create one-of-a-kind cocktails by transforming classics simply by using different spirits, sours and sweets.

It is within the “sweet” part of the ratio where I believe the most creative freedom exists. Any good cocktail program goes beyond just simple syrup. It’s what you put inside this “sweet” that can drastically change your cocktail to something unforgettable.

And that brings us to a century-old syrup called falernum.

This famous syrup, used extensively in tiki drinks, has experienced a resurgence in the last decade. Falernum combines almonds, cloves, lime peels, high-proof rum and sugar for a syrup that adds a depth of flavour and viscosity to boozy, punchy, tropical drinks. Bartenders are experimenting with the classic, making their own falernum based on the original recipe, and some are boldly creating their own styles, too.

Here is a quick and simple recipe for falernum, and two amazing cocktails to make with it. As always, I urge you to use my recipes as a starting point and once you master them, try changing things up. A pistachio and grapefruit peel falernum can be amazing, too.


• 1 cup sliced almonds
• 12 whole cloves
• Zest of 5 limes, julienned (no white pith)
• 5 slices ginger (about the size of a toonie)
• 7 oz high-proof rum (such as Lamb’s Navy 151)
• 2 cups filtered water
• 2 cups light brown sugar

How to make falernum

1. In a saucepan over low to medium heat, add almonds and cloves. Stirring constantly, lightly toast until the almonds are golden brown. Remove from heat and cool. Dan Toulgoet photo

2. Place almonds, cloves, lime zest, ginger and rum in a sealable container such as a large mason jar. Refrigerate for 24 hours to infuse. Dan Toulgoet photo

3. Strain liquid and discard solids. Dan Toulgoet photo

4. Make the simple syrup: In a container add 2 cups of boiling water and 2 cups of light brown sugar. Stir to dissolve. Dan Toulgoet photo

5. Once cooled, add infused rum to simple sugar. Bottle, seal and refrigerate until needed—it will last up to six months. Makes about 2.5 cups. Dan Toulgoet photo


Make these tiki-inspired recipes with your fresh batch of falernum: 
Zombie Punch
El Mocambo

—by Justin Taylor

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