Friday, January 23, 2009

Whole Grain Mixology


After relentless pressure from some of my fellow cocktail enthusiasts, I’ve finally pulled together my first batch of homemade falernum. Over the past year or so I’ve made many batches of various syrups, but this is my first dance with the Big F.

Like many who have gone before me, I decided to use Paul Clarke's venerable "#8" recipe. This particular recipe seems to have become the go-to blueprint for first-time falernum-makers, so who am I to buck a trend? (Actually, I buck trends pretty frequently, but anyway…) I’ll paste it here, but I strongly suggest you zip over to Paul’s site and check out the original post to get the full scoop and read the comments.

Falernum #8

- 6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
- zest of 9 medium limes, removed with a microplane grater or sharp vegetable peeler, with no traces of white pith
- 40 whole cloves (buy fresh ones — not the cloves that have been in your spice rack since last Christmas)
- 1 1/2 ounce, by weight, peeled, julienned fresh ginger

Combine these ingredients in a jar and seal, letting the mixture soak for 24 hours. Then, strain through moistened cheesecloth, squeezing the solids to extract the last, flavorful bits of liquid.

- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup (two parts sugar to one part water, shaken in a jar or bottle WITHOUT HEAT until all the sugar is dissolved)
- 4 1/2 ounces fresh, strained lime juice

Shake it all together and serve.

Normally I’m a “learn the rules before you break them“ kinda guy, but in this case I took a couple teeny liberties right out of the gate:

~ I didn’t use cold-process simple syrup
~ I didn’t use fresh cloves (but I did “rejuvenate” them with a light grind in a mortar & pestle)

These slight deviations didn’t seem to louse anything up. The final product ended up being wonderfully bright-tasting, citrusy, sweet and spicy. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I did a side-by-side taste test with a bottled brand, and the difference is shocking. The homemade stuff is profoundly better in so many ways, and given how easy it is to make, I’m pretty sure I’ll be opting for it over store-bought most of the time.

Random tip:

~ Rather than using cheesecloth, I used a flat-bottomed tea strainer. This allowed me to use a muddler to really mash the daylights out of the solids and get virtually 100% of the liquid loose.

Granted, I’m not distilling my own spirits or growing my own garnishes yet, but this is a step in the right direction. I’ve been observing other booze nerds concocting their own ingredients for awhile now, and I have to say I can see the appeal now that I’ve done likewise. I have an affinity for handmade, artisinal stuff, and cocktail crafting is clearly an arena where that approach really pays big dividends.

And now that I had a decent amount of a nifty-tasting, just-made cocktail ingredient, I immediately began casting around for a fun way to use it. Here’s something I came up with that I liked pretty well:

Shima Sour

2 oz. sake (I used Momokawa Diamond)
1 oz. homemade falernum
.25 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Shake well w/ ice and strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish w/ slice of honeydew melon.

It’s my understanding that shima means “island” in Japanese, so I figure the name is appropriate given the two main ingredients. Sake and falernum may seem like an odd combo, but the Diamond is on the drier end of the spectrum and has noticeable fruit tones, (particularly melon) so I think it pairs well with the falernum. It’s also easy to calibrate to your taste- if you want the sake to come through a bit more, just pull back on the falernum...and vice-versa if you want it a bit sweeter.

Next time…hemp underwear!


Anonymous said...

Great post and i LOVE the drawing!

When i made my first falernum i used this same recipe and i did also not use the cold syrup method.I also lightly toasted my cloves.

Nothing beats homemade stuff!

Anonymous said...

Oh..forgot to say that that drink you made looks very interesting! i will try it but i might have to use another Sake.

Dr. Bamboo said...

Thanks Tiare! I never thought to toast the cloves, but I might take a stab at it for batch # 2.

Chip and Andy said...

There's no turning back now..... your hooked. You are going to start hoarding bottles and every trip to the market will soon become an expedition into possible ingredients for your next batch of something.

It's soo much fun!

nerdling said...

Woo! Go homemade!

And I need a print of that illustration for the bar! Get thee one for sale, sir!

Dr. Bamboo said...

C&A: I've been hoarding bottles for a while now...and I'm always on the lookout for strainers & funnels too!

Marleigh: I really should look into getting some decent prints made- a few other people have asked about it too.

And I'm jealous you have a bar ;-)

Anonymous said...

everything is hole grain these days. now liquor?

J-town girlz said...

haha. healthy liquor!

Unknown said...

Just had to drop by and leave a *WOOT WOOT* for both your falernum AND the Shima sour. That was delish. Also, I think you should offer the ginger-root flag garnish option for us melon-haters as well. In addition to it, well, not being MELON, I think it's very Japanese and therefore fitting. Hee. :)

kaiserpenguin said...

Success! Have you had success in anti-rotting? My next batch is definitely going to omit the lime juice.

Chris said...

Oh, once summer hits, you should TOTALLY grow your own garnishes! A trip to the garden store is sure to inspire.

I've found that Thai Basil works better in some drinks, and that having spearmint, chocolate mint, and pineapple mint is just sort of fun. Some things grow better than others, and that will vary from place to place, but it's not too hard to throw some pots outside and let 'em grow!