It’s President’s Day which means lots of sales at big box stores and a day off for some. It also means that it’s time for those of us in F&B media to publish lists of each and every POTUS’ favorite drinks.
George Washington — Washington distilled whiskey and sold it, but he was more widely known as a beer drinker. Specifically, his recipe for “Small Beer,” a molasses heavy Porter survives to this day. The folks at the AHA have all the details and some disappointing tasting notes (apparently, it’s not very good by modern standards). Also, Martha Washington made one hell of a Cherry Bounce.
John Adams – Don’t get Paul Giamatti roles confused; Adams was not searching for California Pinot. Instead, he started every day with a tankard of hard cider. He then moved onto beer, rum, and eventually lots of Madeira.
Thomas Jefferson — Any oenophile can tell you that TJ was America’s first champion of wine. Legend has it that he got the bug while serving as an American diplomat in France. In fact, he spent several months touring wine country during which he famously observed of Burgundy “Chambertin, Voujeau and Veaune are strongest.” Jefferson went on to spend vast sums of money acquiring bottles of Chateau d’Yquem, Lafitte, and other great houses of the nation. Back home, at his estate in Monticello, he even planted European vines and built a proper cellar.
James Madison — Madison loved Champagne, but cautioned that it “was the most delightful wine when drank in moderation, but that more than a few glasses always produced a headache the next day.”
James Monroe — Monroe also loved the bubbly and ran into some trouble when it was revealed that the taxpayers were footing the bill for his habit.
John Quincy Adams — JQA is said to have inherited his father’s love for Madeira.
Andrew Jackson — True to his Tennessee roots, Old Hickory distilled, sold, and drank whiskey. However, Jackson is also closely associated with American Orange Punch. The potent rum drink was served at his notoriously raucous inauguration (white) house party. Socialite Margaret Smith described the scene. “There was orange punch by the barrelful but as the waiters opened the door a rush was made, the glasses were broken, the pails of liquor were upset, and the semblance of order could only be restored by carrying tubs of punch into the garden to draw off crowds from the rooms.”
Martin Van Buren — Van Buren was notorious for his high tolerance and love of whiskey. His friends even called him “Blue Whiskey Van.” Unfortunately, his love of the spirit hurt him in 1840 when William Henry Harrison defeated him at the ballot box following a smear campaign focused on Van’s alleged alcoholism.
William Henry Harrison — Harrison’s tastes in drinks was evident through his campaign slogan: “the log cabin and hard cider candidate.” If that motto was too subtle, Harrison also gave away log cabin-shaped flasks filled with hard cider as a promotional tool.
John Tyler — Like many of his predecessors, Tyler was “very fond” of Champagne.
James K. Polk — Polk was no teetotaler, but he was more of a sipper than his peers. Accordingly, he opted for wine and brandy.
Zachary Taylor — Taylor liked whiskey—straight. His own campaign giveaways were whiskey flasks inscribed with the phrase, “General Taylor Never Surrenders.”
Mildred Fillmore — The 13th POTUS stayed away from booze for the most part. Famously, he once—once—admitted to drinking enough to feel “slightly fuddled.”
Franklin Pierce — Pierce was a straight up alcoholic who drank whatever he was offered. When his own party did not nominate him for re-election, he told the press, “There’s nothing left but to get drunk.” Pierce ultimately died of cirrhosis of the liver.
James Buchanan — This man loved a drink. He demanded that the White House be stocked with large format bottles of Champagne instead of splits or 750’s and every Sunday, he personally went to the distillery to pick up a gallon jug of whiskey. (He also like cognac—daily.) A contemporary reporter noted that he could hold his booze though. “There was no headache, no faltering steps, no flushed cheek. All was as cool, calm and cautious and watchful as in the beginning,” wrote the journalist.
Abraham Lincoln — Honest Abe had bigger issues on his mind than drinking. There are no recorded accounts of the man touching alcohol. Although, he did state, “t has long been recognized that the problems with alcohol relate not to the use of a bad thing, but to the abuse of a good thing.”
Andrew Johnson — Johnson liked his whiskey, maybe a little too much. The 17th POTUS was often tanked in public. During Lincoln’s second inauguration, Johnson was so loaded that he fell off the stage. “The inauguration went very well except the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties & disgraced himself & the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech,” recalled Senator Zachariah Chandler.
Ulysses S. Grant — Grant is often labeled an alcoholic. Historians debate the validity of this assessment. However, we do know that during long sieges in the Wilderness Campaign, Grant began drinking. Supporters stress that he would abstain from the sauce at moments when lives were actually on the line. By the time he reached D.C., Grant favored Champagne (often at the taxpayers’ expense).
Rutherford B. Hayes — Hayes stayed away from alcohol for the most part; in fact, he banned booze from the White House. His wife also tried to push non-alcoholic drinks so hard that she was nicknamed, “Lemonade Lucy.”
James Garfield — The Prez’s friend Thomas Donaldson once wrote,: “Garfield… liked beer and drank but little else.”
Chester A. Arthur — Arthur like a good drink. In fact, he even stashed bottles in secret compartment hidden around the presidential dwelling. When the Temperance Movement petitioned him for support, he soundly rebuked the cause, setting it back decades.
Grover Cleveland — Beer! While running for District Attorney in Erie County, New York in 1870, Cleveland and his opponents all agreed to drink only four beers a day. In short time, they decided that in order to meet said quota, they must use larger mugs. By the time that race was over, the candidates had all abandoned the pledge.
Benjamin Harrison — Harrison was really into the Presbyterian Church thing. He did not mess with the devil’s water.
William McKinley — McKinley had his own cocktail. “McKinley’s Delight” was comprised of overproof rye, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe.
Teddy Roosevelt — T.R. loved a good Mint Julep. In fact, he even used them as an incentive for cabinet ministers to come visit.
William Howard Taft — Taft like Champagne. However, he was concerned about his 30+ pound frame and in the interest of weight loss, he tried to stay away from alcohol in his later years.
Woodrow Wilson — Wilson was an outspoken proponent of Scotch. His campaign jingle was actually plagiarized from a whiskey brand’s promotion.
Warren G. Harding — Harding theoretically did not drink… since he was President during Prohibition and all. However, the Volstead Act didn’t stop him from keeping a bottle of moonshine in his golf bag.
Calvin Coolidge — Silent Calvin also served during Prohibition. He paid about as much regard to the law as his predecessor. When he snuck a drink, he opted for Tokay wine. (Yeah, Hungarian dessert wine!)
Herbert Hoover — Hoover was quite wine collector—until his wife destroyed the entire cellar at the onset of Prohibition. He did manage to circumvent the rules by stopping by the Belgian embassy (technically foreign soil) for a tipple. After the 21st Amendment, he drank dry martinis.
Franklin D. Roosevelt — FDR loved himself some cocktails. Given the age that he lived in, his tastes fell mainly with Golden Age classics and some Prohibition Era creations. Plymouth Gin Martinis and Bermuda Swizzles were a couple of his favorites. Prohibition also ended on his watch.
Harry S. Truman — Truman enjoyed most drinks, but bourbon held a special place. Every morning, he would take a shot of Kentucky whiskey before his daily walk.
Dwight D. Eisenhower — The doctors told Ike that he needed to limit his drinking. So, he made his limited rations count with some quality Scotch.
John F. Kennedy — JFK’s father was a notorious bootlegger and the love of alcohol did not skip a generation. Kennedy was a heavy drinker of just about everything around. Also of note, Kennedy’s affinity for Heineken did much to popularize the then-exotic, imported beer.
Lyndon B. Johnson — LBJ was a scotch and soda guy. Like a good Texan, he liked to drive around his ranch drinking while drinking out of a plastic cup. He took advantage of his position when the cup ran dry; at that point, he would hold the barren vessel out the window and a secret service agent in the tail car would run out and freshen up the drink.
Richard Nixon — Tricky Dick was a fairly heavy drinker. He loved Martinis and Cuba Libres. He also drank some pretty nice First Growth Bordeaux. Nixon also subscribed to the school of “serve the bad stuff to the guests,” instructing the White House staff to hide the labels with a towel. In fairness, 39 also advanced the cause of California wine, 1969 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs to Chinese Premiere Zhou Enlai during the historic “Toast to Peace.”
Gerald Ford — Ford was a lifelong Martini fan, but Nixon ruined that also. After Ford inherited the Oval Office, his staff suggested that he chill out a little with the drinking.
Jimmy Carter — The very religious Carter was not much of a drinker. However, during special events, he would request a small glass of white wine for toasting.
Ronald Reagan — The Gipper was a big fan of French wine. His advisor Michael Deaver recalled that Reagan looked pale on TV because he avoided makeup. Deaver came up with a solution. “[Reagan] could not resist a good French wine, and I figured if I put the bottle on the table, and he could see the label and the vintage, he’d have to have a taste,” he recalled. Deaver said that the drink “brought all the capillaries out in his cheeks” and avoided the pale complexion.
George Bush — Pappy Bush favored Martinis and beer common during his patrician upbringing.
Bill Clinton — Bubba always enjoyed a good drink. Notably, during his tenure as a Rhodes Scholar, he picked an affinity for an English specialty called the “Snakebite” (equal parts cider and beer).
George W. Bush — W. enjoyed drinking a little too much early in his life. By the time he entered the executive, his boozing days were well behind him.
Barack Obama — Obama’s love of beer is well documented. During his terms, the White House even produced their own micro-brews. Plus, early in his administration, he hosted a “beer summit” to bring together opposing parties and foster a dialogue about race in America.
Donald Trump — Our current President does not drink… but, he sure tweets as if he does.