June 12, 2006

Falernum Controversy: The Good Doc Weighs In

Filed under: History,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 8:38 pm
Falernum taste test at Hukilau 2004, photo by James Teitelbaum
Falernum taste test at Hukilau 2004, photo by James Teitelbaum

In my social circle, occasionally with the right people in the conversation, you can drop one little word — “falernum” — and kick back and watch the fireworks. Sure it’s a bit dorky, but it’s very endearing and even heartening to see such passion over a little-known liqueur. Here it is in a nutshell: Falernum is called for in a number of classic tiki drinks, Falernum has been produced over the years by a number of different outfits with a lot of variation in recipes, and Falernum stopped being available in the United States sometime in the ’90s. In its place, DaVinci syrups made a non-alcoholic Falernum syrup to mimic the now-rare ingredent for use in restaurants. Today, we have access to a couple of very different Falernum liqueurs, each having its own believers in it being the One True Falernum.

The Falernum that seems most tightly tied to the oldest Falernum recipe is Velvet Falernum, which has a light, crisp flavor. In the other corner is Fee Brothers Falernum, which aims to taste more like a later Falernum brand, Sazerac, and has a heavier, more syrupy taste. Some argue that Velvet Falernum is the most true to original Falernum, while others argue that it doesn’t matter, because the richer, syrupier Sazerac Falernum was more likely to be used when developing the recipes for the classic tiki drinks.

I got to taste four different Falernums (Velvet Falernum, DaVinci Falernum Syrup, Sazerac Falernum, and Fee Brothers Falernum) at the 2004 Hukilau, as pictured above in a photo by James Teitelbaum. Personally, I love the flavor of Velvet Falernum. It’s bright and tasty, and stands up well when sipped straight. But, at the end of the day, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically the right Falernum to use in a cocktail.

Ted Haigh, a.k.a. Dr. Cocktail, author of the book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, is just the guy you want to weigh in on the topic. He openly admits that he’s not impartial on the topic, but he’s a voice I trust. Today, he’s done just that with an excellent article at Martini Republic that fills in some history, revisits the controversy, and ultimately casts his own judgement on the whole affair.

Not that it’ll settle anything.

3 Responses to “Falernum Controversy: The Good Doc Weighs In”

  1. Rashannah Says:

    Where can you buy this?

  2. Tracy27 Says:

    If you’re in California (or have a friend there), you can buy it at Beverages & More.

  3. Stephanie Says:

    i found the velvet falernum at a shop called morreli in NYC. here’s a link:

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About Humuhumu
Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

- Website Design and Programming

- A Worldwide Guide to Tiki Bars & Polynesian Restaurants

- Tiki Mugs & More: Track & View Collections




Arkiva Tropika
Mimi Payne’s massive Polynesian Pop collection

Barefoot Bloggin’
A surfin’, ukein’, freewheelin’ monkey boy

Beachbum Berry
Author of Grog Log and Intoxica!, and one of my dearest drinkin’ buddies

Blog from the user interface designer extraordinaire

Worldwide Guide to Tiki Bars & Polynesian Restaurants

Dumb Angel
A look at the 1960s Los Angeles mod, pop, surf, and music scene

Eye of the Goof
Pop culture with a tiki tinge

Forbidden Island
My Wednesday hangout, the Bay Area’s best tiki bar

Humuhumu’s Life in Photos
Pictures of my adventures

I build websites

Junkyard Clubhouse
Random interesting things from Humuhumu & Hanford Lemoore

Kevin Kidney
Kevin loves tiki, I love Kevin, you will too

Tiki links galore

Mai Tai Online
Montreal-based tiki ‘zine

Tiki Mug Collection Organizer

The Jab
Follow the way of the jab

Tiki Bar TV
Public Access meets Modern Drunkard

Tiki Central
Community forums

Tiki Magazine
Periodical publication covering the wide world of Tiki

Tiki Talk
Hot Lava’s Tiki Blog