How 10 US Presidents Took Their Booze
Fun fact: Harding liked to sneak a few in his golf bag
Think your job’s stressful?
Imagine the triple threat of terrorism, economic collapse and trying to keep two teenage daughters on the straight narrow. You’re a brave man, Barry O.
So this Presidents’ Day Weekend, let us reflect on the decorated men who shaped our nation by toasting to — and with — their beverages of choice.
Who better to begin with than our powdered-wig-clad progenitor himself? When he wasn’t crossing the Delaware or fending off those pesky redcoats, George Washington like to craft his own beer: a dark porter with hints of molasses for a sugary, caramel finish that inspired GW Porter, a signature selection at Yards Brewery in Philadelphia.
More than just a dude with the kickass muttonchops, Martin Van Buren liked to drink to his Dutch roots with Schiedam: an aggressive, clear liquor akin to gin. Such was his penchant for consumption that he earned the nickname “Blue Whiskey Van.”
If you’re wondering what Abraham Lincoln was drinking, it’s well-known fact that he practiced temperance. That didn’t stop him from selling, though: Honest Abe co-owned Berry and Lincoln, a general store that proffered liquor and remains functional today as a historical landmark in New Salem, Illinois.
Looking to raise a glass to Teddy Roosevelt? Head to New York’s posh Gramercy Tavern, just steps from his birthplace. The order? Our only Manhattan-born President relished the cool comfort of a Mint Julep after a heated tennis match or some manual labor.
Warren G. Harding served in the White House during Prohibition, but that didn’t stop him from imbibing. His speakeasy was his golf bag, which he used to smuggle a fifth of Seagram’s onto the course. You can stagger in his footsteps at the Harding Golf Course in L.A.’s Griffith Park.
Harry S. Truman inherited the responsibility of dropping atomic bombs — a job that required gumption, fearlessness and bourbon. His potable of choice was a stiff Old Fashioned, which — if his staff didn’t mix strongly enough — was oft met with staunch criticism.
Noted diplomat and New England blue blood John F. Kennedy clinked glasses with leaders and socialites the world over during his political career. He wasn’t kidding when he declared himself a Berliner: JFK was often spotted cradling a Heineken well before imported beer became all the rage.
Prior to becoming the Leader of the Free World, Ronald Reagan was a member of the Hollywood elite, oft regaling friends and consorts at the famed Chateau Marmont. The Gipper’s favored libation was Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, with a smoky flavor that will instantly transport you to the glitz and glamour of 1950s Tinseltown.
He might not have inhaled, but Bill Clinton sure loved his Arnold Palmer-esque Snakebites, a concoction of lager and hard cider.
And Barack Obama, a beer man, and remains a loyal patron of Chicago’s Goose Island Clybourn, a brewery with a towering list of malts and hops, including two pilsners produced on premise. While they don’t carry the President’s own creation (White House Honey Ale), you just might rub elbows with members of his Cabinet or even the man himself next time you visit.
Hail to the Chiefs!
— Scott Josephson