Jan Hegewald is the bar manager at the Cornerstone Bar and Grill on Main Street in Ketchum, Idaho. He has worked at bars including Cavallino Lounge and in the food and beverage industry since age 14, starting out in his parents’ restaurant. He enjoys taking trips down memory lane, including this homage to Ernest Hemingway.
The first time I had a sip of Pernod I was hanging off Ernest Hemingway’s Memorial, drunk, amongst friends on a snowy January night while reading an excerpt from Across the River and Into the Trees. How the hell did this happen, and what is this magical stuff?
Well, earlier in the evening I’d organized an event for Powder Magazine’s Cop Car Tour at the Cellar Pub in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was a rookie bartender hoping to fund another season of ski-addiction. For reasons, obvious and not, bartending and skiing go hand in hand. Much to the dismay of “responsibility,” I still engage in both. Frequently. One supports the other. In some capacity or another, this will always be.
The event went well. The bar made money. People won prizes. Got rowdy. Pictures were taken. Fortunately, Facebook didn’t exist then. The Cop Car drivers, Matt and Dave, were given “missions” from Powder Headquarters to complete on each stop during their leg of the tour. With three out of five accomplished, only two missions remained: To drink Pernod while reading Hemingway at his memorial up the road in Sun Valley, and to ski.
Photo credit: HenryFigueroa/Flickr (via Creative Commons)
Not easy tasks on many, many levels. They procured a bottle and proceeded to assemble an all-star team. The Cellar Pub cook, a 230-pound semi-pro hockey player, an X Games ski cross gold medalist, a hippy redneck ski bum, my bewildered girlfriend and myself. None of us were chosen for our reading abilities. We piled into two cars, one being the very suspicious looking black-and-white, where ski racks replaced red and blue lights, and drove off into a blizzard towards a bronze bust of one of the most famous drinkers, ever.
Ernest Hemingway killed himself in a fit of alcohol-charged disease about three quarters of a mile from where I live. I pass the cabin nearly every day. He’s buried between two giant pine trees in our local cemetery. Papa spent his final years fishing and hunting in and around the Big Wood River that runs through Ketchum, the town adjacent to the more famous resort of Sun Valley, Idaho. He also drank and told stories in its bars. Two of which remain today. There’s a lot of history here in this little town. Some fueled by booze and are quite tragic, yet revered nonetheless.
Pernod, the brand and the liquor, is historical in and of itself, and Hemingway’s relationship with them borders on fanatic. It’s the French equivalent to his rum-fueled Soviet sub-chasing Papa Doble’s days in Cuba and the Florida Keys. Absinthe features prominently in For Whom the Bell Tolls, where Hemingway shows his reverence for the stuff describing it as a cure-all championed by his protagonist, Robert Jordan. Arguably, it’s also one of the main reasons he moved to Spain in the early 1920s, as the country never outlawed the liquor. During this time, Pernod operated an absinthe distillery in the country. This stint gave rise to the Death in the Afternoon cocktail, which shares a name with his book on bullfighting.
The Pernod brand dates back to 1797 when Henry-Louis Pernod opened a small absinthe distillery in Switzerland. He then moved operations to a much larger commercial facility in France in 1805, where his sons took over and produced the wonderful liquor, unmolested, for more than 100 years. In 1915, when the French outlawed the production of absinthe, the Pernod-Ricard distillery needed to stay in business so they reformulated and removed the wormwood, and voila! Pastis was born. This gave rise to the liquors we know today as Pernod and Ricard. The Pernod-Ricard Corporation is now one of the largest beverage companies in the world, owning Seagram’s, Absolut, Jameson and about 40 other brands.