May 4, 2009

Adventures in Tiki Mixology

For years, tiki drinks have languished under the misapprehension that they are only sugary, syrupy confections made with cheap rum. And sadly, that became sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because with few exceptions, that's how they came to be made. The classic, exotic ingredients, with names like "pimento dram" and "falernum" were lost or just deliberately omitted, so that ingredients like commercial mai tai mix and corn syrup-laced passion fruit flavored goo and sour apple mix (!) could be added instead. Well, mercifully, there have been some devotees of Tiki culture who have kept the old ways alive, and others who have sought them out. And it's thanks to wonderful people like those that I can tell you about a great ingredient that you can make yourself; falernum.

Falernum, as I mentioned in last night's post, is a liqueur that's usually a rum base, and is flavored with lime, cloves, ginger, almond, and various other spices. And to make it takes about 20 minutes (just spread over two days). Using a recipe from Kaiser Penguin as a jumping off point, I started mine yesterday, finished it today, and made my first drink with it tonight. It's got two stages; the first one, what Rick at KP likes to call "Soak lots of tasty things in rum" and the second one, where you whip up a quick simple syrup and add it to the booze you soaked everything in during step 1. Here's what I used to make mine:
8 oz overproof rum (I used Wray and Nephew White Overproof)
30 cloves
1 nutmeg
1 tsp whole allspice
1 dozen assorted peppercorns (I went a little OCD and used 3 each of white, green, black and pink)
zest of 8 limes
1/2 cup julienned ginger

Quickly toast the spices over medium heat until they're nice and fragrant, then drop the spices, the lime zest and the ginger into the rum. Cover with plastic wrap, and let macerate for 24 hours. It'll look like a jar of kitchen scraps, but just roll with it.

for the syrup, combine 2 cups cane sugar and 1 cup of water over medium low heat, stirring until dissolved.

After 24 hours, strain your booze-soaked mix through a fine mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth, squeezing to get as much liquid out as you can. Combine with the simple syrup and add 10 drops of almond extract. Bottle and chill.
And with that, you've got falernum. A little goes a long way...I've yet to see a recipe that calls for more than 1/2 oz of the homemade stuff at a time (There are a few companies that produce falernum for purchase, but they tend to be a lower proof or non-alcoholic, and generally a little milder than the homemade version, plus you can't customize those).

So, the drink that I'm featuring tonight with the falernum is called the Ranglum cocktail, from a a bar called Le Lion, by way of a wonderful cocktail blog called Oh, Gosh. Since the original drink features a lower proof commercial falernum, I've dropped the amount a bit to factor in the stronger nature of our homebrew stuff.
Ranglum Cocktail

2 oz Gosling's Black Seal rum, or other dark rum
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz falernum
1/2 oz Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum
1/8 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into an ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass.
As Strong Bad likes to say, "Oh holy crap." This is an incredibly awesome drink, and I think if I could just freebase falernum, I totally would. It's sweet, it's sour, it's spicy, it's molasses-y, it's all sorts of good and wonderful things, and it's all in one drink. Plus, there's a ton of booze in there...Gosling's Black Seal is 80 proof, Wray and Nephew is 126 proof, plus the falernum is probably somewhere around 55 proof...This is some serious happyjuice here, folks. Go make some falernum, for your own good.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds delicious, but where do you get some of those ingredients? I would love if you submitted your recipes to