The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2017

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A few years ago, a writer named Mark Will-Weber wrote a well-researched piece in the New York Post entitled "A Complete List of Every President's Favorite Drink." It was excerpted from his book about the subject called Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, but I'll save you the time it would take to read this tome by hitting the highlights in this column. Of course, every student who took American History in high school knows George Washington was an aficionado of Madeira (as were many of the Founding Fathers), but he wasn't a true connoisseur of this wine like John Quincy Adams. The fortified wine from an obscure Atlantic island had much to recommend it: elegance, complexity, finesse, and the fact that it could easily survive a long sea voyage to a place that had yet to develop a wine industry of its own. We also know Thomas Jefferson discovered his love for Bordeaux during his sojourn in France. When he returned to Virginia, he attempted to plant a vineyard but was defeated by mildew. He almost bankrupted himself buying wine. Populist Andrew Jackson, meanwhile, made and sold whiskey, but it was Martin Van Buren whose heavy whiskey usage earned him the nickname "Blue Whiskey Van." Franklin Pierce wins the title of our drunkest president: He eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver. James Buchanan was probably runner-up, and his taste ran from Madeira to Sherry. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, hardly ever drank. Grover Cleveland was a heavy beer drinker, and Teddy Roosevelt was devoted to the aforementioned Mint Juleps. Woodrow Wilson loved Scotch and Warren Harding—presi- dent during Prohibition—always had a bottle of whiskey stashed in his golf bag. Franklin Roosevelt was a big lover of cocktails, particularly Martinis. Harry Truman adored bourbon and Ike was a Scotch drinker. Jack Kennedy drank cocktails, wine and beer. Richard Nixon loved being served Château Margaux while his guests were given lesser wines wrapped in napkins. LBJ drank large quantities of Scotch. Ronald Reagan was a true connoisseur and filled the White House cellar with cases from rarefied California boutique wineries. Bill Clinton likes cocktails and beer, George W. Bush had stopped drinking (because of youthful overindulgence) by the time he got to Pennsylvania Avenue, and Obama also loves beer. The current occupant of the White House doesn't drink. Go figure. Anthony Dias Blue A Brief History of White House Drinking LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 4  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2017

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