The morning after George W. Bush celebrated his 40th birthday with multiple bottles of wine at The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, he swore off alcohol.(Photo: broadmoor.com)
If politics drives you to drink, you’re not alone. While Donald Trump is said to be a teetotaler, most of our presidents indulged freely, says Mark Will-Weber, author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking (Regnery, $27.99.) “They drank for the same reasons that most of us drink. They were bored, they used it to socialize, or because of the burdens of the job.” In honor of President’s Day, he shares some favorite sites tied to presidential boozing with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Congress Hall Hotel Cape May, N.J. Long before reality television, our commanders in chief were living it up on the Jersey Shore. While several presidents summered at the 201-year-old resort, including Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Harrison, none indulged more than James Buchanan, considered the best drinker of all the presidents, Will-Weber says. “He could drink for hours and apparently not show any visible signs.” caperesorts.com
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park Texas Before widespread awareness about the dangers of mixing alcohol and driving, Lyndon Baines Johnson used to do both on his Hill Country ranch. He would often cruise around the property drinking bottles of Pearl beer or Cutty Sark from a plastic cup. “If someone said ‘Mr. President, you’re going pretty fast,’ he’d hold his 10-gallon hat over the speedometer,” Will-Weber says. nps.gov/lyjo
Ronald Reagan Lounge Simi Valley, Calif. Ronald Reagan celebrated his Irish heritage during his presidency, sipping a Smithwick’s ale in his ancestral village of Ballyporeen. When the bar closed years later, it was relocated to the Reagan Presidential Library, and is once again serving drinks. reaganfoundation.org
City Tavern Philadelphia When the Continental Congress needed to blow off steam, they retreated to this watering hole near Independence Hall. John Adams, who become our second president, was a regular, Will-Weber says. “He was a big fan of this porter, a dark beer made by Robert Hare.” Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Co. now brews a similar version called George Washington’s Tavern Porter. citytavern.com
Government House Bermuda Not even the threat of armageddon could stop the flow of drinks. Less than a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy convened with top British officials to discuss growing tensions with the Soviet Union. But England’s top atomic scientist Sir William Penney interrupted the talks to order gin and tonic. “For the rest of the discussions, the catch phrase that cracked everyone up was ‘Another gin-tonic please’,” Will-Weber says. The residence’s gardens are open to visitors during the summer. gotobermuda.com
Mount Vernon, Va.
Washington was not just a Founding Father, but a distiller as well. His whiskey-making enterprise has been diligently recreated at his Potomac River mansion, Mount Vernon. While the first president had a stern reputation, he could occasionally let his powdered hair down, Will-Weber says. “Once he had a couple drinks he became much more gregarious.” mountvernon.org
Harry S. Truman’s Little White House Key West The 33rd president acted like a college student on spring break when he headed south to Florida. He would often start his day with a pre-breakfast shot of bourbon, and likely indulged during nightly poker games, Will-Weber says. His landmark retreat has also hosted former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and William Howard Taft. trumanlittlewhitehouse.com
The Broadmoor Colorado Springs While George W. Bush didn’t indulge in office, he certainly did as a younger man. That changed after he celebrated his 40th birthday with multiple bottles of wine at one of the Rockies’ top resorts. The next morning, he went out and tried to jog and only got about a half mile, and he swore it off, Will-Weber says. “His wife was all for it.” broadmoor.com
Ollie Hayes Bar Moneygall, Ireland Like Reagan, Barack Obama celebrated his Irish roots on his mother’s side with a visit to the village of Moneygall. After quickly downing a pint of Guinness, he was celebrated across the country. “It was a huge deal,” Will-Weber says. “He puts his money on the bar and says ‘The president always pays his bar bill.’ Obama made short work of it.” olliehayesbar.com
The Golden Tiger Prague In 1994, Bill Clinton met with Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel, who took him to a working-class pub in Prague, a city famous for its pilsner. The two threw back several pints, and the next morning, Clinton felt the effects, deciding to skip his early morning jog. Clinton, who wrote about his stepfather’s alcoholism, isn’t known for drinking though, Will-Weber says. “He is actually pretty moderate.” uzlatehotygra.cz/en