Words by: Simon Difford
Falernum (pronounced 'Fah-Learn-Um') is a sweet liqueur or syrup (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) from the Caribbean which is used to sweeten and flavour cocktails. Syrupy in consistency, falernum is always made with lime and sugar but is usually also flavoured with ingredients such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and almonds. It can be clear or have a light green/yellow to golden amber tint.
Falernum takes its name from the ancient Roman wine falernian (falernum in Latin) but bartender legend has it that after tasting the drink, a tourist asked the Barbadian who had made it what the recipe was. In a broad Barbadian accent he replied "you have fuh learn um", meaning to say 'you have to learn it'. Whatever the origin of the name it is thought to have been created at the end of the 19th century and found its way into bartender manuals in the 1920s - most famously mixed with rum to make a Corn 'n' Oil or 'Corning Oil'.
One legend has it that when some Imperialist Brit asked a Caribbean women, who was making a batch of Falernum, what the ingredients were she responded,"Ya hafa lern em"...hence the name...not likely to be true, but a great story.
This non-alcoholic brand of falernum by the New York State based Fee Brothers lists its ingredients as being: "Corn sweeteners, sugar, water, lime juice, citric acid, natural and artificial flavours, less than 1/10 of 1% Benzoate of Soda as a preservative." Reminiscent of clove and amaretto with strong almond.
Bitter truth falernum is based on full-bodied Caribbean rum and flavoured with lime, ginger, almond, vanilla and other botanicals. Candied lime zest, bitter mandarin orange peel, hot crossed currant bun-like.
The company of Stansfeld Scott originated in 1935 when it was founded in Barbados by Arthur V. Stansfeld and Donald V.S. Scott to blend and bottle rum under the brand name Cockade. The company also claims that same year, Arthur Stansfeld created Stansfeld Falernum. To date we have been unable to find a sample.
Hanschell & Co. was founded in 1884 by Valdemar Hanschell, a sea captain from St. Thomas, in what was then the Danish Virgin Islands. Established as a chandlery business supplying ships with ropes, sails and provisions, by the early 20th century he had also diversified into the local liquor market. Almond, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (relatively subtle compared to other Falernums) with freshly baked hot cross buns.
A liqueur sweetened with sugar cane, its flavour comes from an infusion of botanicals including lime peel, almonds and cloves. Developed by Sir John Taylor Mountjoy of Bridgetown, Barbados in 1890, the label depicts two gold medals, one of which was won in 1923 at a Bajan agricultural exhibition. Candied lime zest with pronounced clove and more subtle nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and lemon thyme. Faint note of old-fashioned oil paint.
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