A sipping history: What were the presidents’ favorite tipples?

Edward Finstein

via Pixabay.com

Ever wonder what tipple the presidents were sipping while in the White House? Whether personally or at state dinners, most enjoyed a drink of some sort in varying degrees. Here’s a lesson on what they liked and, perhaps, served to their guests.

 George Washington spent a lot of money on alcohol, especially Madeira. Apparently, he loved the stuff. Thomas Jefferson had a great wine cellar filled with high-end Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Sauternes. John Adams loved his drink: hard cider, Madeira, beer (porter), rum, and French Bordeaux. 

Champagne was the sipper of choice of James Madison, while Burgundy and Champagne were favored by James Monroe. John Quincy Adams was supposedly a Madeira expert and could blindly identify different styles. Andrew Jackson was a whiskey man. Martin Van Buren also loved whiskey, as well as Champagne. 

William Henry Harrison did not drink, but John Tyler loved Champagne. James K. Polk was said to occasionally enjoy wine, Champagne, and brandy. Zachary Taylor was an abstainer, and Millard Fillmore rarely drank. Franklin Pierce, on the other hand, loved his drink, and enjoyed all kinds. 

James Buchanan was a Madeira and sherry man, and occasionally sipped bubbly. Abraham Lincoln was one of the driest presidents, and very rarely touched the stuff. Andrew Johnson apparently liked whiskey for soothing a cold. Ulysses S. Grant had a low tolerance to alcohol, but was known to occasionally sip Champagne.

Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, kept the White House dry, while James Garfield drank beer and little else. Chester A. Arthur collected Madeira, and Grover Cleveland favored beer.

Prohibition-era presidents

Benjamin Harrison never drank, but William McKinley enjoyed whiskey cocktails while in office. Teddy Roosevelt really enjoyed mint juleps. William Howard Taft occasionally had Champagne, but most of the time abstained, as he was watching his weight. Scotch was Woodrow Wilson’s tipple. 

Although Warren G. Harding was in office during Prohibition, it is said that he often stashed
a bottle of whiskey in his golf bag. Herbert
Hoover supposedly had a fantastic wine collection, until his wife allegedly dumped it down the drain when Prohibition hit. Calvin Coolidge was a teetotaler, but did enjoy Tokay every now and then. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt loved his cocktails, while Harry Truman really liked bourbon and a really strong old-fashioned. Although Dwight D. Eisenhower was advised by his doctor not to drink too much because of several heart attacks, he stilled enjoyed the occasional Scotch.

 John F. Kennedy had varied tastes in alcohol, sipping many forms, from cocktails to Heineken beer. Lyndon B. Johnson loved Scotch, while Richard Nixon was a wine guy, favoring Bordeaux and German selections. Gerald Ford leaned toward martinis, but Jimmy Carter drank very sparingly. 

Ronald Reagan was a huge advocate of California wine and served lots of it at state dinners, while George H.W. Bush drank a little bit of everything, including beer and vodka martinis. Bill Clinton loved a “Snakebite” cocktail. George W. Bush “retired” from drinking years before he became president, and Barack Obama liked beer. 

As for Donald Trump, he doesn’t indulge at all. However, he does own a winery in Virginia, and there’s a good possibility that’s what’s served at White House dinners nowadays.

© Edward Finstein, “The Wine Doctor,” 2017. “The Wine Doctor” is Edward Finstein, award-winning author, TV/radio host, renowned wine journalist, international wine judge, professor of wine, and consultant. Find his blog here, him out on Twitter and Facebook. 


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