Never one to rest on its laurels, the award-winning Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery has a new product or two in the works. Will Groves, brand ambassador and self-described lime-squeezer, says that by the end of the year, the distillery plans to release its new falernum. Falernum is a lime, ginger and clove liqueur that originated on Barbados. “It’s an immediate punch of complexity and tropicality with the clove, all-spice, lime and ginger. It’s a secret weapon,” says Groves. The largest commercial brand, John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, is still made on Barbados, but Groves isn’t shy about his feelings toward using it. “It’s awful,” he says grinning. “Ours is punchier, spicier and it’s a little bit boozier. The ABV is 24.5 percent. It sticks out more in cocktails.”
Falernum is a common companion for rum, especially in classic drinks like Jet Pilot (three kinds of rum, falernum, Cointreau, citrus, cinnamon, Pernod and bitters) and the Corn and Oil (dark rum, falerum and lime), among other Caribbean-derived cocktails. “I think the Corn and Oil is the emblematic drink of Barbados. Falernum has a big history of being co-produced with rum. So it’s very much in our wheelhouse,” says Groves, “There are not a lot of distilleries producing things like falernum, so there’s a big market for it, especially locally. There’s a lot of interest and it fits what we do. We use a lot of falernum in our drinks.” Groves has also observed that most bars in Pittsburgh use house-made falernum, whereas other cities use Taylor’s. “Even in good tiki bars, they’re still using Taylor’s, which is so strange,” he says, shaking his head.
The process of making falernum can be a little labor-intensive for Maggie’s Farm, a company with only three full-time employees, because it involves a lot of lime zest. “We’re the zestiest place. We should buy microplane stock,” Groves say laughingly. The recipe requires toasting a mixture of clove and allspice and grinding it with a mortar and pestle. Every liter of falernum needs the zest of nine fresh limes. Freshly chopped ginger, turbinado sugar, lime juice and overproof white rum finish it off. In the commercial release, they’ll replace the lime juice with citric and malic acid, so it will keep on a shelf and not go rancid. “We use citric and malic acids that are organic, non-GMO and derived from lemons and apples, so I don’t have qualms with using it,” says Groves.
The winter-release timing makes it a spot of sunshine to look forward to. “You’ll get a different take on holiday flavors, and we’ll be ready to run right into spring,” says Groves. He’s particularly excited to make Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktails, consisting of rum, falernum, orange curaçao and lime juice. “It’s the best drink in the world,” he says grinning, “It’s like drinking a spicy orange push-pop.”