Bartender Jim Hewes is a dean of the Washington cocktail scene, and also something of a cocktail historian. Every inauguration season, he brings out a special menu of drinks based around what our 44 presidents drank, or might have drunk. (I wrote a much longer piece about this menu and the process of writing it back in 2006.)
Hewes has certainly done his homework. Franklin D. Roosevelt represented by a Plymouth Gin Martini (the first drink he mixed up after the end of Prohibition), while James Garfield’s tipple is a Dewars Scotch, since industrialist Andrew Carnegie sent Garfield a case of Dewars to celebrate his inauguration.
Some of the list is based on conjecture: We don’t really know if Warren Harding ever drank a Seven and Seven, for example, though the mix of Canadian Whiskey and 7-Up was popular in his day. But it’s a fun and delicious trip through the history of drinking in America.
The full, annotated list is below:
44. Barack Obama: Blue Hawaiian
Combines the president’s penchant for aged Tequila and the cool blue waters of the Pacific. Features aged Tequila, Curacao and fresh lime juice.
43. George W. Bush: Diet cola with a slice of lemon
Light and crisp, able to keep even the busiest Chief Executive, active, alert, and awake.
42. William J. Clinton: Tanquerary Gin and Tonic
A standard on the Washington cocktail circuit.
41. George H. Bush: Absolut Vodka Martini
Always politically correct, with or without garnish.
40. Ronald Reagan: California Sparkling Wine
Introduced to Washingtonians at Reagan’s first Inaugural.
39. Jimmy Carter: Alcohol-Free Sparkling Wine
Served, much to the dismay of the fourth estate, throughout his four years in the White House.
38. Gerald R. Ford: Glenfiddich Whiskey over ice
Served in the spirit of bipartisanship. Gerry also favored Budweiser “longnecks” in the bottle.
37. Richard M. Nixon: Bacardi and Coke.
Dick would relish mixing and stirring for his guests aboard the presidential yacht Sequoia.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson: Cutty Sark and Branch Water
A post-war favorite of “Cactus Jack” Garner and Sam Rayburns’ most famous protege.
35. John F. Kennedy: Beefeater Martini, served up with olives
Served regally in the White House to those in the good graces of America’s “Camelot.”
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Johnny Walker Black Label on the rocks.
An acquired taste from his time spent at Allied headquarters in London during WWII
33. Harry S. Truman: Maker’s Mark and soda
An aficionado of Kentucky’s finest, both he and Bess enjoyed this long-drink while playing poker at the White House.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Plymouth Gin Martini
”Oh… so cool, so clean, so awfully civilized!” Often scolded by Eleanor for his penchant for the highball, this elegant elixir was served at the most important political party in DC; the Cocktail Party.
31. Herbert Hoover: Long Island Iced Tea
Prohibition-conscious imbibers relished this enticing tall drink, which contained everything on the bar except “the kitchen sink”.
30. Calvin Coolidge: Cranberry juice and soda
A gentle New England tonic to fortify one’s Puritan constitution.
29. Warren G. Harding: Seven and Seven
Popular highball among the “Ohio Gang,” especially when served at Speaker “Nicky” Longworth’s poker games.
28. Woodrow Wilson: French 75
A Versailles favorite used to toast the “League” and the end of the “War to end all Wars.”
27: William Howard Taft: Manhattan
The judge enjoyed his straight with two cherries.
26. Theodore Roosevelt: Ward 8
Politically-charged concoction, brought to D.C. by “Big Stick” Republicans from New York.
25. William McKinley: Gin Rickey
Lime-infused long drink made popular at the Chicago Exposition.
24. Grover Cleveland: Sazarac Cocktail
A New Orleans sensation, which swept the nation in the 1880’s.
23. Benjamin Harrison: Ramos Gin Fizz
Popularized a block from the White House after construction of the first “soda fountain” at the Willard Hotel.
22. Grover Cleveland: Moet Chandon Champagne
The nation celebrated a White House wedding with the finest of French Champagne.
21. Chester A Arthur: The Gibson
Popular with Tammany Democrats, and named for Chester’s mentor Senator Gibson from New York.
20. James A. Garfield: Dewars Scotch
Andrew Carnegie had the Scottish Distillers’ send the new president a case for his inaugural.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes: Orange Blossom
Washington’s pressmen spiked the oranges with gin at the tea-totalling Hayes inaugural in 1877.
18. Ulysses S. Grant: Roman Punch
It was so cold in DC that this fruit and Champagne refresher froze solid in the bowl.
17. Andrew Johnson: Brandy Toddy
Johnson relied on this potion to cure “various vicarious vapors” known to afflict residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
16. Abraham Lincoln: Apple Cider
Although known to have acquired a taste for corn whiskey in his earlier years, fresh pressed apple juice would revive his constitution.
15. James Buchanan: French Claret
This red wine was the spirit of choice in socially astute pre-war D.C.
14. Franklin Pierce: Oachatel
This nectar of the Aztec Gods was discovered by the hero of the Mexican War and introduced first in New England, then in Washington D.C.
13. Millard Fillmore: Brandy Crusta
All the rage in New York and London.
12. Zachary Taylor: Mamie Taylor
This ginger infused refresher was named for Taylor’s corn-cob ‘smokin’ sweetie.
11. James K. Polk: Jack Daniels and water
Tennessee “walkin” whiskey is served as a manifest premonition of our nation’s destiny in 1850.
10. John Tyler: Southern-Style Mint Julep
Henry Clay mentored our 10th Chief Executive in the fine art of building this compromisingly elegant elixir.
9. William H. Harrison: Hot Spiced Cider
‘Twas a cold and rainy day in March when “Tippecanoe” walked up the avenue of the presidents to the White House.
8. Martin Van Buren: Hennessey Martini
An aristocratic mixture, first given to “Little Van” by Lafayette in 1825.
7. Andrew Jackson: Rye Whiskey
A straight two- finger pour of Tennessee’s Democratic frontier finest.
6. John Quincy Adams: Hot Buttered Rum
A New England toddy with the spiced flavor of the West Indies.
5. James Monroe: Sherry Cobbler
This cool long drink is often called America’s first cocktail, popularized during the Revolution.
4. James Madison: French Champagne
First Lady “Dolley” loved all things fashionable and French.
3. Thomas Jefferson: Meritage Red Wine
Our third president learned to love French wine while in Paris in the 1780s.
2. John Adams: Bitter Sling Cocktail
Made with a mix of rum and brandy, two of New England’s finest distilled products.
1. George Washington: Madeira Wine
Our first chief executive favored Malmsey, a fortified wine from this Mediterranean Isle. He was also partial to fruit brandies and Rye Whiskey, which he distilled at Mount Vernon.