At the beginning of this year I'd bought a bottle of Fee Brothers falernum, but I don't think I even opened it. When I was in Chicago a couple months ago, I spotted a bottle of velvet falernum, made in Barbados with white rum, and I thought, boy, this has got to be better than the non-alcoholic stuff!

I've had a few days in my calendar where I've been caught up on its recipes, so yesterday I decided to mix up a couple cocktails using falernum. The first was one off Internet Cocktail Database called the Royal Bermuda cocktail.

This calls for 1 3/4 oz Barbados rum, which I didn't have on hand but I've actually seen locally, unlike most 'exotic' rums, so I used rhum agricole instead, 1/2 oz lime, 1/4 oz cointreau, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and 1/4 oz falernum.

Before I started, I took a couple swigs of falernum to see what the good stuff tastes like. Sips, I mean. I immediately tasted cloves. I like cloves in baking and on a ham, so this was a nice surprise in a liqueur. Also lime. The bottle says falernum also has almond flavoring, but I didn't catch that when I tasted it.

This cocktail has so much going on that frankly I didn't taste the falernum. You probably could have left it out and never known. Rum cocktails aren't my favorite, but this one isn't bad, with a little more complexity than a lot of rum cocktails.

For a second drink, I decided to go with something simple where I could taste the falernum, so I poured a little in a glass with ice and topped with the dregs of a bottle of Absolut Mandarin.

The cloves and lime go well with the orange vodka. I needed to stir this up a little better, because I got more cloves as I went deeper into the glass. Another ingredient, like bitters maybe or a good gin, would have made the cocktail even better. Even brandy or cognac perhaps.

I tried again with regular vodka and falernum. This time I learnt a lesson: a little falernum goes a long way. I poured too much in this drink, and the cloves were overpowering. (And I even stirred it up enough.) I took a few sips and dumped the rest.

But in general, falernum - the real stuff - is a great ingredient (if you like cloves). Just keep the cocktail simple.