Teetotalers, Connoisseurs, and Alcoholics: Drinking Habits of the U.S. Presidents Slideshow

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Even the Commander-in-Chief deserves a drink every now and then

1st President: George Washington

David Souza, founder and head distiller of Souza comments on our first Founding Father’s taste in booze, “like many men of his day, was known to prefer fortified wines like Madeira and Port. Also, he owned a whiskey distillery which operates today at Mt. Vernon. Corbin continues, “Washington knew absolutely nothing about how to distill spirits. In fact, it was his Scottish farm manager who convinced him to start a distillery. Smartly, Washington recognized that booze was a potentially huge revenue source and used ingredients grown on his land to produce an estate-grown blended rye whiskey.” 

7th President: Andrew Jackson

President Jackson or “Old Hickory,” a nickname he earned from the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, had a taste for racing and betting on horses. Another vice he often enjoyed was rye whiskey, served neat. We can only assume that one too many led to some pretty hefty bets placed during races.

8th President: Martin Van Buren

Former Commander in Chief Martin Van Buren’s presidential term unfortunately included running the country while it was in a state of financial hardship. Thankfully for him, whiskey was always there for him after long days of major decision-making.

10th President: John Tyler

Our tenth chief executive assumed his title by default, due to the untimely death of his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, who succumbed to pneumonia a month after the took office. Tyler had expensive taste, preferring Champagne, which was very sweet in the 1800s. Perhaps he had the pleasure of trying Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Cliquot's original sweet version or her dryer Veuve Clicquot (which we know and imbibe to this day). 

14th President: Franklin Pierce

Unfortunately, Franklin Pierce is remembered as something of a drunk. Apparently, he never turned down a glass, especially after he left office. Mark Will-Weber, author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, quotes Pierce as having asked rhetorically, “What can an ex-president of the United States do except get drunk?” Well, at least he was coherent enough to survive one term as our country’s leader, but it is said that he died of alcoholic excess.

16th President: Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe Lincoln strayed away from bubbly, brews, and spirits. Although unclear, this may have been due to his Baptist upbringing or perhaps he just didn’t have a taste for alcohol. Either way, he was an exemplary president, whose sober influences are still felt today.

17th President: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson only served one term, as he was the first president to be impeached. In the aftermath of the unfortunate occurrence, it’s highly likely that he reached for his favorite spirit, whiskey.

18th President: Ulysses S. Grant

Like President Tyler, Ulysses S., interestingly, had a fairly low tolerance for alcohol. Nonetheless, he enjoyed entertaining at the White House so much that he accrued a bill of $1,800 for Champagne alone.

19th President: Rutherford B. Hayes

President Hayes seldom drank as his wife Lucy was a teetotaler and wanted her husband to follow her lead and abstain as well. Some historians believe that White House staffers were sympathetic to presidential guests who may have wanted an alcoholic drink, so the kitchen staff decided to infuse rum into the oranges used in punch. President Hayes intercepted the plan and ordered staffers to substitute rum flavoring instead. 

21st President: Chester A. Arthur

If President Arthur were alive today, he would take the phrase "red, white, and brews" to heart, as he savored beer and other liquors nightly. Needless to say, he was no supporter of the temperance movement. When asked to create legislation banning liquor consumption, he responded, “I may be the president of the United States, but what I do with my private life is my own damned business!”

25th President: William McKinley

President McKinley’s preferred libation was rye whiskey. In fact, he had the honor of having a cocktail named after him, a variation on the Manhattan called McKinley’s Delight. Popular around the time of his election in 1896, the drink is made up of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe.

31st President: Herbert Hoover

President Hoover was a wine collector and martini enthusiast. According to author Mark Will-Weber, Hoover’s esteemed wine collection was precious to him, but Mrs. Hoover poured it all out at the start of Prohibition. He also had a devout appreciation for martinis: once, he even asked for a good and dry martini while battling pneumonia.  

32nd President: Franklin D. Roosevelt

32nd President: Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Eric “ET” Tecosky, owner and founder of Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice, notes of President Roosevelt that “[I]t’s well-documented that he enjoyed a dirty martini from time to time and poured with a heavy hand.” Tecosky continues, “Some even claim he invented it, though hard evidence is difficult to come by. No one knows what prompted him to add a bit of olive juice to his gin, except maybe that it’s delicious."  It might also be noted that it was under Roosevelt that Prohibition was repealed.

33rd President: Harry S. Truman

Some of us choose coffee or tea in the morning, but President Truman preferred a shot of bourbon before tackling the issues of the day. Known for liking the hard stuff, he often chose to indulge in an old fashioned, and would complain if the potency didn’t meet his high standards.

35th President: John F. Kennedy

J.F.K. often swilled daiquiris and Bloody Marys. When he wanted to loosen his tie, he would opt for Heineken, which was considered a luxury at the time he was in office because it was not yet widely imported.

36th President: Lyndon B. Johnson

As Senate majority leader, Johnson would request staffers to make his Scotch and soda weak so he could stay focused while meeting with dignitaries. In fact, his love for Cutty Sark was very clear at his lavish gatherings at his Texas ranch. He wouldn’t be caught without his Styrofoam cup full of the whisky.

38th President: Gerald R. Ford

Assuming the office of presidency after the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation, President Ford definitely needed his vice: Martinis. WTOP.com reports that he took his mid-day break seriously with more than a few martinis at lunch.

38th President: Gerald R. Ford

Assuming the office of presidency after the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation, President Ford definitely needed his vice: Martinis. WTOP.com reports that he took his mid-day break seriously with more than a few martinis at lunch.

39th President: Jimmy Cater

While in the White House, Carter would choose non-alcoholic white wine to end the day. Much to the dismay of others in the White House, no one dared to question his choice.  

41st President: George H. Bush

President George Bush, Sr. was a social drinker who didn’t get out of hand (or so it seems). He didn’t discriminate when it came to cocktails, although he was partial to beer and vodka martinis. (Bush's son George W., our 43rd President, was a serious drinker, no stranger to hangovers, as a young man, but quit cold turkey in 1986.)

44th (and current) President: Barack Obama

President Obama appreciates great beer whether craft or mainstream. The White house reports that President Obama brought a home brewing kit for the kitchen and now brews White House Honey Brown Ale (with honey from the property’s hives) — the first alcohol brewed or distilled on the White House grounds. Due to such success, we say "Ale to the Chief!"