Saturday, June 6, 2020


1/2 Cognac (2 oz Courvoisier VS)
1/2 Falernum (1 oz Velvet)
1 dash Angostura Bitters (2 dash)

Build in a rocks glass, add crushed (cracked) ice, and stir; I added a lime twist.

Back in October, the Boston chapter of the United States Bartender Guild hosted rum distiller Richard Seale at Shore Leave for "A Conversation About Rum." During the talk, Seale discussed the history of falernum, and he was able to trace it back to a bill of goods of import from 1821 which suggested that it had been around since the 1700s of before on Barbados. Seale declared that falernum was very misunderstood: it was made on a sugar (rum) estate as the every day drink of the planter and not in homes as a folk cordial. All of the distillers had their own recipes including Doorly, Seale, and Taylor, and it was a simple combination of sugar, rum, and lime juice and not a mix of a dozen plus ingredient. Moreover, the alcoholic strength has always been low but high enough to preserve the combination. Spicing probably came into being later as a way to differentiate brands perhaps once the production shifted from plantation production to commercial bottling. While falernum was picked up in the 1930s by Tiki legends like Trader Vic and Donn Beach in drinks ranging from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club to the Zombie, one of the earliest uses was the Corn'n'Oil. The name derives from Deuteronomy 11:13-15:
13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
While most people will associate that recipe with rum (and the newer versions with black strap rum which would not be traditional found on Barbados), falernum, Angostura Bitters, and sometimes lime juice, Seale mentioned that earlier recipes were different. Seale's dad's Corn'n'Oil was half brandy, half falernum, and a dash of Angostura served over crushed ice, and brandy only got replaced by rum after World War I. As evidence, Seale put up the recipe found in the 1911 West Indian & Other Recipes compiled by Mrs. H. Graham Yearwood which mirrored Seale's father's preference. When I posted this recipe on Instagram, people questioned how this could be. I brought up the concept of how the Mint Julep was a Cognac drink before it became an American whiskey drink. I explained, "French brandy was what you drank when you were well off, and it gets recorded because those people write the history books as well. Early rum and American whiskey were looked upon as bulk commodity spirits for the common people and not for the cocktail class."
I ended up adapting the recipe slightly to dry it out a bit by shaping it to my preferred Manhattan spec of 2:1:2 (see the recipe above). Once prepared, the Cognac shined through to the nose along with aromatic notes from the lime twist garnish that I added. Next, the falernum's lime notes sang out on the sip, and the swallow proffered brandy, ginger, and clove flavors. Overall, it was an interesting change from the rum recipe, but I do miss the small amount of fresh citrus juice included in many modern recipes (the one I linked to had a quarter ounce of lime) for brightness' sake.

1 comment:

Square Bottle said...

Hello! Your books were just recommended to me. Any chance they might be released as kindle or epub books?