President Obama has garnered a lot of attention lately with the so-called ‘Beer Summit’ at the White House, between himself, Harvard professor Henry Gates Jr., and sergeant James Crowley of the Cambridge, Mass. Police Department. The story between these three is well documented by every major news outlet in the country, so rehashing it here seems redundant to me. My interest in this stems from the President using beer as the medium to sort out their differences, and that has caused me to do some research into other spirits of the Oval Office. What have been the preferred beverages of some of our notable Commanders in Chief?
George Washington (1789-1797) was regarded as the most successful whiskey producer in the country after his tenure of President was over. His Mount Vernon distillery produced 11,000 gallons of Rye Whiskey per year, but within a decade of his death, it fell into disrepair. Washington was also known to have dined and drank whiskey at Charleston, South Carolina’s famous McCrady’s Tavern in 1791, during his Southern Tour.
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) is regarded today as one of the healthiest early American presidents, and also the foremost wine connoisseur to have ever held office. According to a letter to an inquiring doctor in 1819, he would drink 3 to 4 glasses of wine at dinner, but never a drop otherwise. He wrote that he did not drink ardent wines or spirits, and he would also water down his wine so as to weaken its effect on him.
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) was born into a bourbon family; His father was a distillery hand at the site that Knob Creek bourbon is named after today (in a distillery that was owned by one of Daniel Boone‘s relatives, no less!). Reaching adult hood, he applied for and received a license to sell alcohol in Illinois, and went on to operate numerous taverns. Despite the taverns and a grocery store that sold primarily whiskey, his personal stance on alcohol was one of educated, responsible drinking in moderation. As for his personal tastes, it’s hard to figure out because he spent a good portion of his political career appeasing the Temperance group, which eventually evolved into the Prohibition group.