|Commander in Chief....Of Drinking
by Jim Attacap
Some people surely believe that every American President was a teetotaler. The fact of the
matter is that every single one of our nation's leaders enjoyed an adult beverage. As beer
drinkers we would like to think that they all shared our passion for beer. In many cases they
actually did to the point of having their own brewery. In his new book, “Mint Juleps with Teddy
Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking” (Regnery), journalist Mark Will-
Weber tells the history of presidency through booze. Here are some of our favorite parts:
Washington sold whiskey (made near Mount Vernon), but he probably rarely, if ever, drank it.
The formula was about 60% rye, 3% corn and a very meager amount of malted barley. As for
his favorite drink — he loved dark porter (laced with molasses) that was made in Philadelphia.
Adams loved alcohol, starting almost every morning with a hard cider.
Then porter beer,rum and copious amounts of Madeira.
Martin Van Buren
Drank so much whiskey that it earned him a nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.” He also enjoyed
something called Schiedam (a gin-like Dutch specialty unique to New York’s Hudson Valley).
Pierce drank a lot of everything and died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 65. When Democrats
failed to support him for re-election in 1856, he allegedly said: “What can an ex-president of
the United States do except get drunk?”
Ulysses S. Grant
When Grant did drink, he did not do it well. He reportedly suffered from low tolerance. In office,
one of Grant’s White House entertaining bills included $1,800 for Champagne alone
Grover mostly drank beer, and lots of it. He and a fellow politician once took a vow to
hold themselves to four beers a day. When they found this too arduous a task, they
simply switched to larger beer steins.
Teddy liked Mint Juleps and used them to entice his cabinet to come play tennis with
him at the White House. He used fresh mint from the White House garden:
Wilson loved Scotch. His campaign song — “Wilson! That’s All!” — actually came
from a brand of whiskey that was popular early in the 20th century.
Warren G. Harding
Even though Harding was president during Prohibition — and it was unlawful to
transport liquor — he habitually stashed a bottle of whiskey in his golf bag and
thought nothing of taking a pop before he teed up.
Hoover supposedly had a fantastic wine collection, but his wife allegedly dumped it
down the drain when Prohibition hit. While suffering from pneumonia at the age of 80,
he did have one request — a good, dry martini.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR is most associated with cocktails. He enjoyed mixing gin-based martinis
(and occasionally whiskey-based Manhattans). His favorite thing to sip while
sailing was the Bermuda Rum Swizzle.
Truman loved bourbon and quite often knocked down a shot of it in the morning;
part of his routine that also involved a brisk walk and a rubdown. He also liked a very
strong Old Fashioned and would complain if his staff made it too weak.
John F. Kennedy
JFK drank lots of different stuff, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. Some were trendy
drinks of the rich — daiquiris, Bloody Marys, and (considered at the time a big deal
because it was imported) Heineken beer.
Nixon would drink expensive bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild (costing hundreds of dollars);
at the same time, he instructed his staff to serve mediocre red wine to his guests — with towels
wrapped around the bottle’s label so they did not know what they were getting.
Ford grew accustomed to a few martinis, sometimes even at lunch, when he was in the
House of Representatives. When he became president in the aftermath of Watergate,
Ford’s staff had to suggest he cut back.
The current president likes beer. The Executive Mansion also features White House
Honey Ale (with honey from the White House hives) for special guests.
Want to enjoy a drink of Presidents? Here are a few recipes for some of the Presidents'
favorite cocktails. If you want to try President Obama's beer the recipe is online.
William Clinton: As a scholar at Oxford, Clinton reportedly indulged in the Snakebite:
Ingredients: 8 oz. hard cider, 8 oz. lager beer (Add ¼ oz. black currant liqueur for a "Diesel".)
Ronald Reagan liked California wines and a drink called an Orange Blossom Special. Here is
his preferred recipe: 1 oz. (or slightly less in Reagan’s case) vodka. 1 oz. of either grenadine
or sweet vermouth 2 oz. fresh orange juice All brought together in a glass filled with ice.
Franklin Roosevelt's beloved Bermuda Rum Swizzle: 2 oz. dark rum, , 1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. orange juice, 1 generous dash of Falernum (a sweet syrup).
You may never get an invitation to a White House party but
at least now you can drink just like a President. Cheers!