I'm not an expert in my field, let's just start there and get that out of the way. There are numerous sites out there that thoroughly cover the full range of topics in the cocktail and spirit world, and if they don't, the massive library going back over 100 years does. So what can I contribute that's new??? Not sure, but I'm going to pitch a few pennies and see....
My first penny is my own experiments with falernum.
Falernum, for the unitiated, is a syrup/sweetener used in tropical drinks, sometimes with alcohol, sometimes without. Here in Seattle, it is difficult to get a hold of , though the non-alcoholic version by Fee Brothers is now available at DeLaurenti near the Pike Place Market. The alcohol version, however, is unavailable. If you're anything like me, when something is unavailable, I become obsessed with obtaining it somehow (like Creme Yvette, Dave Embury's book etc.) When I learned there were recipes out there to make your own, well, I just had to take a crack at it.
I was first introduced to falernum by Kacy over at the Zig Zag Cafe here in Seattle. (A profile on the Zig Zag will have to be forthcoming, as it deserves a blog entry of its own...). The taste of fresh lime, cloves, almonds was unlike anything I'd ever had. Kacy told me they'd gone through a series of batches until they settled on their current recipe. He gave me the ingredients off the top of his head, but didn't have the proportions with him. He also told me the process, but by then I'd had a few Corn-n-Oils and his instructions were lost in the vapors...
Paul Clarke detailed his own trials and errors on his website, and his latest batch looked like a good place to start, so I gleefully ripped off his instructions without his permission, brought in Kacy's ingredients, and went from there.
6 oz Cruzan 2 year white rum
40 whole allspice berries
1.5 oz ginger (by weight)
Pure vanilla extract
Pure almond extract
Homemade simple syrup
And now for Paul's instructions... with some, ahem, liberal adjustments...
*Zest the limes, being careful not to slice so deep you get the white pith (a microplane grater works best for this), then set the limes aside
*Julienne the ginger (i.e. cut into matchstick strips)
*Add into mason jar, along with the rum, cloves and allspice berries
*Piss off your significant other by taking up room in the refrigerator, right next to your homemade pimento dram, various grenadines and other infused syrups
*Let it sit with optimum serenity overnight
*The next day, strain the solids from the infused rum through a cheesecloth, pressing on the solids to extract all the goodness
*Dump the solids into a saucepan, along with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar, essentially making an infused simple syrup. Heat water until sugar is dissolved.
*After it has cooled, strain syrup into mason jar and mix with the rum
*Add juice pressed from the 9 zested limes held over from the day before
*Add two tsps each of vanilla extract and almond extract
*Wait 24 hours, then, Dr. Frankenstein, test your creation in a much-deserved drink
How does it turn out? At first, the lime and clove dominate, but eventually every ingredient integrates. This falernum keeps it's snappy lime flavor, and the spices and flavorings stay in the background where they belong.
The drink to test it on? The Corn-N-Oil, of course...
2 1/4 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap St. Croix rum
3/4 oz. your freakishly delicious new falernum syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
Build in a rocks glass, garnish with a lime wedge, dutifully squeezing it into the drink.