On August 12 the Museum of the American Cocktail and the Smithsonian Associates hosted “Cheers to the Chief! Favorite Presidential Cocktails.” MOTAC Co-Founder Phil Greene presented five cocktails to over 150 guests.
To start things off Phil made a classic Daiquiri, one of John F. Kennedy’s favorite drinks. According to his excellent book, And a Bottle of Rum, Wayne Curtis writes that JFK was enjoying a Daiquiri at the Kennedy home in Hyannis Port, Cape Cod, on Election Day, 1960, when he learned he’d soon become the White House’s next resident. We used the award-winning Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum in the Daiquiri, from the Hemingway Rum Company. Only fitting, since Ernest Hemingway and JFK became friends toward the end of Hemingway’s life, and the Hemingway Collection is housed within the JFK Presidential Library in Boston.
Daiquiri (a favorite of President Kennedy)
1.5 oz Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Fee Brothers Rock Candy Syrup
Shake all ingredients well with ice, strain into a cocktail glass or coup (wider-styled Champagne glass)
Phil also featured the McKinley’s Delight, a great variation on the Manhattan, named after the 25th President of the United States. The drink was said to have been created by a St. Louis bartender in honor of the 1896 GOP Convention, held in that city. After the start of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the drink also came to be known as the Remember the Maine! We used Bulleit Frontier Rye Whiskey, Cherry Heering Cherry Liqueur (essential to a true Singapore Sling!), Dolin Rouge, and a dash of Pernod Absinthe. A delicious drink.
McKinley’s Delight (a.k.a. Remember the Maine)
3 oz Bulleit Rye
1 oz Dolin Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Cherry Herring
1 dash Pernod Absinthe
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
In honor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s penchant for mixology, Phil presented a straightforward gin Martini. FDR served Martinis to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (he complained they were “cold on the stomach”) and to British King George VI at FDR’s home in Hyde Park, to the chagrin of both his and the King’s mother! The Citadelle Gin and Dolin worked beautifully together in this classic.
2 oz Citadelle Gin
1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange bitters (optional)
1 tsp olive brine (optional)
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice. Strain into a chilled cocktails glass. Garnish with an olive.
Phil also did a Richard Nixon favorite, the Trader Vic’s Navy Grog. Nixon would often duck out of the White House and go up the street to 16th and K, where a Trader Vic’s was housed within the old Statler-Hilton Hotel. He also loved a good Mai-Tai! The Plantation Original Dark and 3 Star Rums worked beautifully with Dale DeGroff’s amazing Pimento Bitters.
Trader Vic’s Navy Grog
2 oz Plantation Original Dark Rum
1 oz Plantation 3 Star Rum
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1/4 oz (or to taste) Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
Shake all ingredients until icy-cold and serve over a mount (or customarily, and inverted ice cone) of finely shaven ice with a straw stuck in it.
Rounding out the five drinks, Phil did Harry Truman staple, the Old Fashioned. In his excellent book, How’s Your Drink, Eric Felten tells us that Harry and Bess Truman often drank their bourbon neat, saying that the orange and cherry added to a traditional Old Fashioned was too much like fruit punch. Harry loved his bourbon, and was sipping on some in Sam Rayburn’s office that fateful day in April, 1945 when FDR died, making Truman the next President. He rushed to the White House and, ever the gentleman, asked the newly-widowed Eleanor Roosevelt, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She replied, “I think the proper question is, can we do anything for you? You’re the one in trouble now!” Indeed. The Bulleit Frontier Bourbon was perfect in this American classic.
2 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1 tsp Fee Brothers Rock Candy Syrup
2 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic or Whiskey Barrel Bitters
1 orange peel
In a rocks glass muddle the syrup, bitters and orange peel. Add ice add bourbon. Stir well and serve.
As a special guest, Phil asked Mark Will-Weber to join him for the Q&A session. Mark is the author of the soon-to-be-published book Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt – The Complete History of Presidential Drinking. Mark add a considerable amount to the evening, to be sure!
We would like to thank the wonderful volunteers from the Smithsonian Associates along with Luke Johnson and Matt Keller for slinging cocktails for 150 people .
And of course, none of these cocktails could have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors: Fee Brothers Bitters and Rock Candy Syrup, Bulleit Bourbon and Rye, Dolin Dry and Sweet Vermouth, Citadelle Gin, Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum, Plantation Original Dark Rum, Plantation 3 Star Rum, Pernod Absinthe, and Cherry Heering Cherry Liqueur.