Booze and politics are natural bedfellows. Historically, during the campaign, alcohol was an accepted lubricant – George Washington served rum to voters to ‘encourage’ their favor during his election to the House of Burgess. And LBJ is said to have convinced Anheuser –Busch to provide free beer during his campaign. While Abraham Lincoln didn’t drink, Martin Van Buren was known as “Blue Whiskey Van” because he was known for being a prodigious imbiber who could hold his alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages have played a major role in the history of the POTUS as Mark Will-Weber has uncovered in his new book “Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: A complete History of Presidential Drinking.” And, not surprisingly, so too did cocktails. Herewith, a few of the recipes –either created in honor of the Commanders-in-Chief or served in the White House — that Will-Weber uncovered in his meticulous research.
William McKinley – Given the era in which he was in office (the Temperance climate was fierce), McKinley tried to strike a moderate pose. Still, a man had to drink. At the 1896 GOP Convention, Republicans toasted him with what was essentially a Manhattan variation.
The McKinley Delight
- 3 oz. Rye whiskey (at least 100 proof)
- 1 oz. Sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Cherry brandy
- Dash absinthe
Preparation: Shake it up and pour it over ice in a rocks glass.
Theodore Roosevelt – Roosevelt was quite resolute in all walks of life. When asked if he drank whiskey, he insisted in a letter to a colleague,
“I do not drink it myself and I do not intend that any scoundrel of the type some of our opponents shall be able to assert that I do drink or have drunk it.”
Except when it came to Mint Juleps. Somehow, the fact that a Julep is made with whiskey eluded Teddy, who admitted that he enjoyed his Juleps made with mint culled from the White House grounds. And, to make things even more contentious (to Julep purists, at least), Roosevelt chose rye – not the traditional bourbon – in his cocktail.
Teddy’s Mint Julep
- 10 to 12 Mint leaves
- Splash of Water
- Sugar Cube
- 2 to 3 oz. Rye Whiskey
- 1/4 oz. Brandy
- Sprig of Fresh Mint for Garnish
Preparation: Muddle mint leaves with water and sugar cube in a serving glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Top off with rye whiskey and brandy. Garnish with mint.
Like a number of Presidents, Roosevelt was gifted with several cocktails in his name. The “Teddy Hat”, which combined orange bitters with gin, raspberry syrup and Dubonnet – topped with a lemon wedge cut into the shape of Roosevelt’s Rough Rider hat, and the “New Roosevelt,” composed of San Juan rum, vermouth, gin, absinthe, and Kirschwasser.
Harry Truman – In office at the height of the Moscow Mule cocktail’s popularity, Truman had a Mule named for his birthplace and served to him at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel, London. According to Will-Weber, however, Truman tended to drink his bourbon straight, no modifiers necessary.
- 2 parts Bourbon whiskey
- 2 parts Applejack
- 1 part Campari
- 1 part Cointreau
Preparation: Shake all ingredients together with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.
John F. Kennedy – JFK liked to drink; his White House was known for generous doses of Daiquiris, Bloody Marys, and Veuve Clicquot, Jackie Kennedy’s favored Champagne. Jackie’s blended Daiquiri recipe is far from classic, but it’s a perfect window into the ‘60s cocktail ‘culture.’
- 2 parts Rum
- 2 parts Frozen Limeade
- 1 part Fresh Lime Juice
- Dash of Falernum (2-3 drops max, to desired sweetness)
Preparation: Blend and serve.