Big Barnacle Bill

The time-traveller's cocktail


Jan Hegewald is a founder, designer and the bar manager of 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. Here, he takes us on trip – or headlong rush – down memory lane, back to the first time he made a Barnacle Bill

The Barnacle Bill is as much a cocktail as it is a mechanism for time travel. One moment you’re staring down at a swamp-water-green concoction with the ethereal luminescence of louched Pernod, and the next you’re waking up to the cold embrace of the linoleum on your kitchen floor.
I have no information on the historical context of this drink, so I’ll give you a little of my own. The drink found me early on in my cocktail apprenticeship. My boss Damon Ferrari, the owner of the now-defunct Cavallino Lounge in Sun Valley, Idaho, handed me his collection of antique bar-tending books. “Go to work and find something interesting,” he said, as he begrudgingly sugared another Lemon Drop for a Porsche Cayenne-driving blonde and her friends.

I had recently become involved with Green Chartreuse and, senses tuned, set out to find cocktails containing this beloved, holy herbal liqueur. Scanning musty pages for an hour or so, writing down anything of interest, I stumbled across the Barnacle Bill. Equal parts Pernod, Green Chartreuse, and Parfait Amour… It had two of the greatest things the French ever produced! But where would I find Parfait Amour?

Idaho liquor stores are a haven for obscure liquors, where hard-to-find items linger unnoticed on the shelves gathering dust until someone with a palate for the obscure haphazardly stumbles upon them. Hence the random availability of Marie Brizard’s fruit liqueurs; I remember a deep purple one, tasting like grape jellybeans and marshmallows, and smelling of the milk left after a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. So, of course, we had a bottle of another purple liqueur -- Parfait Amour -- at the bar.

“Hey, Damon,” I said. “It’s slow; let’s try this Barnacle Bill.” And so we did. It left two seasoned drinkers mumbling like a couple of high-schoolers after a bottle of bum wine. I grabbed a barstool and pretended to remain coherent, while my boss, the consummate professional, dumped two Cosmos down the drain while rubbing his forehead and muttering to himself.

The Bill is advanced drinking. Pernod is 80 proof, Green Chartreuse 110, and Parfait Amour 50. It’s sweet and syrupy, but quite well-balanced for a cocktail with no traditional liquor as its base. The anise of Pernod hits first, followed by the pungent herbal flavors of Chartreuse, and the Parfait Amour is evident throughout.

This cocktail has inspired grown men to engage in ladies’ footwear races in the middle of winter: the Barnacle Bill Challenge, where a record seven were imbibed, followed by a night of aimless narcotic-like wandering, and sleeping in the bushes. A more potent version, Barnacle William, was named after one of my bartenders, who thought that Pernod wasn’t strong enough so he substituted absinthe.

The drink has gained an almost iconic status in our little mountain town of Ketchum. People speak in hushed tones about the debauchery that ensued after starting their night off with a couple of Bills. However, one of the benefits of time travel is that if you don’t remember what you did, did it really happen?

If you can find all the ingredients, turn up The Velvet Underground, fire up the flux capacitor, and mix yourself a big, strong Barnacle Bill. But you might want to put a pillow in your kitchen first…

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: jo hunt
    628485 5

    How hard is it to find pernod, armor. green chartreuse to make the cocktail?

    Nov 05, 2010 at 10:16 AM

  • Pernod and G. Chartreuse are readily available. PA is a bit trickier, but production has increased with growing demand. It was once impossible to find. Ask your local liquor purveyor, or check online. Good Luck!

    Nov 05, 2010 at 1:30 PM

  • You've made me thirsty -- again!! Think I'll be able to procure the crappy-hotel-bar version of this drink in Wailea? Can you live-chat the bartender for assistance? Otherwise, I'm sure that around here they'll manage to reproduce it as 30 proof. Loved your article!

    Nov 05, 2010 at 1:57 PM

  • Snooth User: LuisRo69
    491913 19

    Excellent article! Great wit; I laughed my ass off and no harm can ever come of that. Of course, for those of us with immature egos this is sort of a challenge and the curiosity to try one is killing me.

    Nov 05, 2010 at 4:47 PM

  • Tried this last night. It was as I expected. Very syrupy, overly sweet and herbal. Actually this might work well as an after dinner cocktail.

    Nov 06, 2010 at 9:25 AM

  • I just got all the ingredients for this potion - cost me $89! I showed this article to my 19 year old daughter and she wondered what it was that would make me want to try this drink. Haven't tried it yet -- I am thinking I'll get my bestie friend over here this weekend to give it a shot.

    Nov 17, 2010 at 10:57 PM

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