Tipplers (and Teetotalers) in Chief

Presidential Drinks With Drinkology Author James Waller

James Waller is a writer and editor who lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He is the author of Stewart, Tabori & Chang’s Drinkology (2003), Drinkology Wine (2005), Drinkology Beer: A Book About the Brew (2011).


If Mitt Romney, whose religion prohibits alcohol consumption, wins the presidency on November 6, the White House will go dry. (And—somewhat ironically—first lady Ann Romney won’t be hosting any literal tea parties, since Mormonism likewise forbids “hot drinks.”) So the question voters really ought to be asking themselves before casting their ballots is this: Are teetotaling presidents trustworthy?

The last abstainer to occupy the Oval Office—recovering alcoholic George W. Bush—wasn’t exactly a model of sobriety when conducting foreign policy. And before Bush there was Jimmy Carter, a staunch Baptist who forswore liquor; Carter’s one-term presidency (1977–1981) was a disaster, domestically and internationally. (Carter’s post-presidential career as a peacemaker and human-rights advocate has transformed him into a respected, beloved figure; he also now drinks wine. Are the two connected?)

Our current president—Mitt Romney’s opponent, in case you’ve been too plotzed to pay attention—does imbibe, but his drink of choice is insipid light beer. Barack Obama’s sometimes wishy-washy performance in office (not to mention his watered-down and flavorless fizzle during that first presidential debate) makes one wish he’d try downing something a bit bolder. (Though to be fair to Obama, the White House under his watch has been home-brewing its own craft ales; recipes are available on line.)

Were Obama to switch from light beer to harder stuff, he’d be in good presidential company. George Washington not only brewed ale but also distilled rye whiskey at his Mount Vernon estate—and the latter practice has recently been patriotically renewed at Mount Vernon’s rebuilt distillery. And Franklin D. Roosevelt, who by most reckonings was the modern era’s greatest chief executive (and who enthusiastically signed the constitutional amendment ending Prohibition!), drank to grand excess. Roosevelt—a true democrat —liked virtually every manifestation of booze, but favored whiskey-based cocktails like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned.

But if Obama would prefer something more effete, he need only look to the example set by Jack Kennedy. One might think that Kennedy’s Irish upbringing—and the Rat Pack pals he hung out with—might have pointed him in the whiskey direction, but his favorite cocktail was the Cuban-born Daiquiri (the classic shaken version, not the frozen blender drink). One wonders whether Kennedy sipped Daiquiris while tangling with the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. If so, that’d show that a nice cocktail can enhance presidential decision-making.

Excellent recipes for the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Daiquiri appear, btw, in the revised edition of my Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, published by STC in 2010. Depending on how things go for your guy, you may want to have one (or more) on election night.

Drinkology (2003), Drinkology Wine (2005), Drinkology Beer: A Book About the Brew (2011) are available now wherever books are sold!



on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
in Cooking
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