What on earth is Falernum?

In words that will send Games of Thrones fans' hearts aflutter – winter is coming. But before we start hibernating, breaking out the gluhwein and enjoying our illegal season four downloads, there's a whole season of imbibing that shouldn't be overlooked – autumn.

Your lighter spirits for the most part can be shelved for warmer months. Tropical and berry fruits can be bypassed in the supermarket aisle. Instead you should be reaching for citrus fruits – such as mandarins just coming into season, and pears.

Autumn is also a time when raiding the pantry for spices is a valid option – nutmeg, cloves and allspice being delicious options to warm up spirits such as rum, scotch and American whiskey. One of my favourite ingredients at the moment is Falernum – a Caribbean rum-based specialty that can be easily made at home and used in a variety of tasty tipples.

Falernum – which takes its name from the famous ancient Roman Falernian wine – is a lime, clove and almond-flavoured, rum-based liqueur. It's used in classic – if a little obscure – cocktails such as the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the Corn 'n' Oil.

Falernum recipe

1 700ml bottle of white rum (overproof if you can find it)

Zest of 8 limes (use a fine grater)

1 dozen cloves

1 tsp almond essence

2 cups of castor sugar

1 cup boiling water


Place lime zest, rum and cloves in a large sealable jar or plastic container. Leave to infuse for 72 hours. In a large steel bowl combine sugar and boiling water then stir well to dissolve sugar. Strain your infused rum through a sieve into your sugar syrup. Add almond essence and finally decant into bottles for future use.

Corn n' Oil

This is a traditional Caribbean tipple – popular in Jamaica and Barbados in particular – that makes use of the falernum recipe above. The 'oil' may refer to the appearance of dark rum used in the mix. As for the 'corn' part, well, that's anyone's guess.

40ml dark rum (the darker the better, look out for brands such as Myers, Coruba, Golsings and Captain Morgan's)

20ml home-made falernum

½ a lime squeezed with a citrus press

2 dashes Angostura bitters


Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Half fill with ice and stir. Top up the glass with more ice. Turn your half-lime inside out and place on top of the drink as a garnish.

Mandarin Swizzle

The 'Tiki' or 'Polynesian pop' movement of the mid-20th Century was all about escapism. Tiki bars would oft times pop up in areas far from tropical climates with rum-based potions and island themes transporting guests to an idyllic paradise. This next beverage, too, is a perfect bit of escapism:

30ml Gold rum

20ml falernum

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

40ml fresh mandarin juice


Build in a tall glass or tumbler. Add ice to half way and 'swizzle' with a long barspoon. Top with fresh ice and garnish with a cherry and a kitsch cocktail umbrella.

Chartreuse-spiked 'real' hot chocolate

Next weekend I've no doubt you'll have a surplus of chocolate, and this is the perfect adult treat to make use of your Easter windfall. Chartreuse – and intensely herbal monastic liqueur from Voiron in France – works superbly with the rich fruit flavours of a good dark chocolate.

You'll need:

(serves 4)

1 block (or several Easter eggs) of dark chocolate

120ml of Yellow Chartreuse

600ml of full cream milk

1 whole nutmeg


Break up your chocolate and melt in a double boiler. Heat milk in a saucepan, being careful not to burn it. Warm-up four glass coffee cups and pour in your Chartreuse. Mix together the hot milk and melted chocolate, pour into your coffee cups and finish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

What's your favourite seasonal tipple?