Some cocktail ingredients sound stranger than they are, and Velvet falernum falls right into this camp. But this Caribbean cocktail ingredient is easy to love. A staple of many tiki drinks, falernum comes either as a sugarcane syrup or as a liqueur, spiced with clove, lime, and generally ginger and almond.
The version we’re using, the most widely available in liquor stores, is John D. Taylor Velvet falernum—a low-proof liqueur with all of those classic Caribbean flavors. Due to its provenance (hailing from Barbados), falernum is most often paired with rum, and it’s a smart combination. But this intriguingly spiced, sweet-tart liqueur is quite versatile. Here are three simple falernum cocktails, from a refreshing classic to an unusual after-dinner sipper.
Easy: Falernum and Ginger
Get to know the fragrant, warmly spiced character of falernum by pairing it with ginger beer. Given how low-alcohol Velvet falernum is, this drink is as lightly boozy as they come—perfect for day-drinking.
Instructions: Add 1½ ounces of falernum and 4 ounces of ginger beer to a tall glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Intermediate: Falernum Manhattan
Falernum’s sugarcane base means that it can take the place of other cocktail elements that rely on sweetening agents; here, it takes the place of sweet vermouth in an unexpected Manhattan twist. The spicy backbone of rye (we’re using Rendezvous Rye from High West) matches perfectly with falernum’s own spice and warmth, with a dash of Angostura contributing, too.
Instructions: To a mixing glass with ice, add 2 ounces of rye, 1 ounce of falernum and a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir until well chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime peel, giving it a good twist over the surface of the drink to spritz some citrus oils on top.
Advanced: Corn and Oil Redux
One of the most classic falernum drinks is called a Corn and Oil, made from dark, molasses-y blackstrap rum (viscous enough to suggest oil) with Velvet falernum. Some recipes go really heavy on the falernum, which we find unpalatably sweet. So we’re upping the rum ratio with a good, dry añejo rum, like Brugal XV, and adding a big hit of lime juice alongside the falernum and Angostura. The result is a sophisticated and super-drinkable cocktail with all of the spice and character of the original, but far more refreshing.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of dark rum, 1 ounce of Velvet falernum, ¾ ounce of lime juice and a dash of Angostura bitters. Shake it up hard, and strain it into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wedge or few.