Falernum Is The Spiced Syrup Liqueur Your Tropical Cocktail Is Missing

Tropical and tiki cocktails often have a lot of different ingredients in them, which is why you may not have heard of falernum. While lots of classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Margaritas have only three or four ingredients, tropical drinks can run into the double digits, with multiple liquors, multiple fruit juices, spices, and herbs all being mixed together to chase that indescribable island taste. 

While many of the individual items used in these drinks may be familiar to you, they often rely on lesser-known juices and liqueurs to give everything a more exotic feel. For example, the key to a real Mai Tai is orgeat syrup, while the Blue Hawaiian gets its stunning color from curaçao. Falernum is one of these secret ingredients that you might not be able to name, but which transforms cocktails into something special. Falernum actually comes in two forms: as a non-alcoholic syrup mixer and as a liqueur. 

Whichever one you choose, they both share a taste profile that mixes the tart citrus flavor of lime with some sweetness, almonds, and also warm spices like clove, ginger, and nutmeg. It's really the spice flavor that sets falernum apart from other ingredients like orgeat, which is also an almond syrup. All those spices let you add lots of complexity to tropical drinks with just one addition. It's most commonly paired with rum cocktails but can work just as well with tequila and other sunny flavors.

Falernum is the key to tropical drinks like the Zombie

Like many cocktail ingredients, the exact history of falernum is hard to parse but it appears to have originated in Barbados in the late 18th or early 19th century. It came out of the world of Caribbean punches, where spice mixtures were a way to differentiate recipes involving the classic combo of rum, lime, and sugar. Falernum became more popular in the United States with the rise of tiki culture in the '30s and is used in cocktails like the Zombie and Rum Swizzle, as well as plenty of other concoctions created by pioneers Donn Beach and "Trader Vic" Bergeron. 

Falernum is a must-have in any tropical bar. But even though tiki culture has seen a resurgence in the past decade, the spiced liqueur hasn't become as widely sold as some of the era's other key ingredients. Still, most well-stocked liquor stores should have it available. It's also not too hard to make homemade falernum to stock your own bar. The best way to experiment with falernum is to add it to tropical drinks for a dash of spice. 

Trader Vic's Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail uses it in place of simple syrup in a remixed Daiquiri, and it can also add some tang and spice when swapped with orgeat syrup in a Mai Tai. Use falernum in place of ginger beer in a Dark 'n' Stormy and you have a Barbados favorite called Corn 'n' Oil. No matter your tropical preferences, falernum is always a great way to give new life to an old standby.