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Presidents and Their Drinks of Choice

Presidents and Their Drinks of Choice

Most presidents like to drink. It’s a simple fact. The founding fathers got wasted as often as they could and the mentality carried through to almost everyone else who’s inhabited the Oval Office. In honor of that tradition, we thought we’d put together a list of presidential drinking habits. That way, you could have political and drinking role models in the same person.

Thomas Jefferson | Wine

Thomas Jefferson’s relationship was less a casual, sipping curiosity and more a raging obsession. As Minister to France, Jefferson spent three months touring the most famous wine producing areas in the world, traveling all over France and Northern Italy. He was also one of the first Americans to begin aging his wine. Most Americans were content to make or buy the stuff and drink it right away. Jefferson rejected this, noticing older wines tended to taste better than the usual young American drinks. And apparently Jefferson loved old wines so much he almost went bankrupt expanding his collection. Link

Martin Van Buren | Whiskey

Drinking in moderation can be a reasonable way to stay healthy. Drinking constantly will kill you agonizingly slowly, if Martin Van Buren is the rule, not the exception. Van Buren earned his drinking reputation by the time he was 25 years old, so it’s fairly certain Van Buren could party with the best of them. But “Blue Whiskey Van,” as he was known to some, soon started to experience health problems that could be attributed to his heavy drinking. He struggled with obesity, gout, colds, flu, nausea, asthma, sleep apnea, and circulatory problems, all of which made for a miserable aging process. It’s depressing, but Van Buren’s a good reminder to keep your own indulgences under control. Shoot for the beneficial aspects of alcohol rather than the life ruining level. Link

William Henry Harrison | Hard Cider

William Henry Harrison is one of the few presidents who have died in office (he was actually the first one), but, luckily for our purposes with this article, it wasn’t alcohol related. It was pneumonia. Harrison’s drinking reputation comes mainly from the presidential campaign of 1840, when he successfully ousted Van Buren. The hard cider originated in what passed for a 19th century attack ad, where Democrats said Harrison was ill suited to the White House and would rather sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider. It backfired, as the Whig party loved the image and co-opted it for their candidate, using it as a slogan that propelled Harrison to the White House. There’s also an unsubstantiated rumor that E.C. Booz, a Philadelphian distiller, distributed hard cider at Whig political rallies. If it’s true, we’re not sure why that ever stopped. Link

Grover Cleveland | Beer

We’d venture you like to have a beer or two with dinner. Totally cool and normal. But those come in 12 or 16 ounce bottles. Imagine drinking a gallon of beer a night and you get close to what Grover Cleveland considered a light night, one he was putting effort into keeping light. That wasn’t the only time Cleveland tried to cut back on his beer consumption. He and a political opponent once pledged to cut back to four beers a night. Apparently that was too difficult though, so he and his opponent bought bigger steins. Decent loophole.

William McKinley | McKinley’s Delight

Things go in and out of fashion in politics the same as anywhere else, and it seems one tradition we lost was the campaign cocktail. During William McKinley’s campaign, McKinley’s Delight won voters over with its unique twist on a rye-based Manhattan, though there seems to be some gin recipes by the same name floating around. The gin cocktail must not have been as good though, because it’s the rye that stuck around. We’d also hope this is a genuine expression of McKinley’s drinking habits and not a cynical publicity stunt for votes. We’ll go with the one that makes us feel better. Recipe

Teddy Roosevelt | Mint Juleps

For as badass as he is, we were surprised to find out Teddy Roosevelt was alcohol averse. He would have been completely dry, if it wasn’t for the allure of the famous mint julep. We know he liked mint juleps mainly from a libel case he brought against George Newett, the editor of the newspaper the Iron Ore. An article published in the paper claimed Roosevelt drank much and frequently, which brought the righteous power of Roosevelt’s dignity and will down on the paper. During the case, Roosevelt unequivocally stated, “I have never drunk a high-ball or cocktail in my life. I have sometimes drunk mint juleps in the White House. There was a bed of mint there, and I may have drunk half a dozen mint juleps a year, and certainly no more.” If anything, his resilience makes us respect him more. Link

Woodrow Wilson | Scotch

Woodrow Wilson was like Roosevelt in that he didn’t bother much with intoxication, if at all. He had a favorite drink and that’s what he stuck to responsibly enjoying. In Wilson’s case, he was a fan of a Scotch and soda. He was also president in the early years of Prohibition, which means his favorite drink was outlawed not long after he entered office. He did veto the Volstead Act, the law that outlawed alcohol, as he believed Prohibition would be nearly impossible to enforce. But the veto was overturned and we know the rest. Wilson proved himself right, at least, since he brought a cask of Scotch with him when he left office in 1921. Link

Franklin Delano Roosevelt | Any Gin-based Cocktail

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not a stranger to social drinking. Beginning in his tenure as governor of New York, FDR would often host a cocktail hour before dinner, giving his friends and associates a chance to socialization and relax. He even mixed the drinks himself and didn’t measure, which is our own preferred way to prepare our cocktails. His specialty appears to have been old fashioneds and martinis, with even more attention paid to the martini. He was constantly tinkering with his recipe, generally settling around two to three parts gin to one part vermouth. Also interesting to note, FDR preferred his martinis shaken, not stirred. Link

Lyndon B Johnson | Scotch Fueled Joyrides

We tried to limit our plastic cup drinking days to college. It’s a little classier to keep that behavior to a minimum. But, evidently Lyndon Johnson wasn’t particularly concerned with class. Most famously, Joseph Califano Jr., special assistant to Johnson, tells a story about a typical day out drinking with LBJ. LBJ was another Scotch and soda man, and he and Califano would be out and about at LBJ’s ranch, tooling around in a golf cart while Johnson chugged his favorite drink out of a white plastic up. If he started to run low, he’d simply slow down, stick his left arm out of the cart, and shake. A Secret Service agent would run up, take the cup, run back to the vehicle other agents were using to follow the president, and prepare another drink. Then he’d have to run the refill up to the still-moving presidential golf cart. Johnson preferred Cutty Sark too, so draw your own conclusions from the story and the spirit. Link

Barack Obama | White House Honey Ale

Barack Obama’s drinking habits are absolutely a product of our times, as the first black president has a taste for craft beer. Enough of one that the White House had to return to a tradition not seen since the founding fathers and brew its own beer. It’s also highly likely this is the first alcoholic beverages ever made on White House grounds, which is impressive given how many presidents got drunk on the job. Link

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