Quirky and compelling product origin stories (the kind routinely dreamed up by marketers) are everywhere.
Though the one behind falernum, a rum-friendly citrus-and-spice syrup from Barbados, is likely one of those bullshit fables, I desperately want to believe it.
I've heard it told something like this: A newcomer to Barbados, probably a gentleman involved in the sugar trade back in the day (the small Caribbean isle was once a dominant satisfier of the world's sweet tooth), was taken with an unfamiliar syrup often served with rum in Bajan households. When he inquired about the recipe, a knowing local lady replied, "Ha fi learn em," meaning, "You just have to learn it, buster."
In my mind, the mythical matriarch instructed Mr. Sugar to roll up his sleeves and start zesting limes right then and there while she dropped some knowledge on him.
Tall tales aside, we don't know much about falernum except that it hails from Barbados and there's more than one way to make it - and that no tiki bar is complete without it.
It can be alcoholic or not (the commercial liqueur John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum isn't available here) but always contains lime zest, sugar and cloves and often ginger, star anise, cinnamon and almonds. Rum is often added to the homemade stuff.
Make a batch of your own. It's relatively quick and painless, there's more than one right way to do it, and many, many recipes online.
Or you can appreciate its zippy complexities thanks to some of Toronto's kick-ass bartenders.
Swing by Rasa (196 Robert, 647-350-8221, rasabar.ca) for bar manager Chanel Wood's delicious Chartreuse Swizzle (green Chartreuse, pineapple, lime and macadamia falernum, $15).
Then hit up newly opened DaiLo (503 College, 647-341-8882, dailoto.com) for bar manager Shane Mulvany's Sling ($14).
Before shutting it down, head to Rhum Corner (926 Dundas West, 647-346-9356) for a sweet, frosty fresco (rum, pomegranate syrup and falernum, $10), a Haitian treat by Jen Agg and David Greig.