The 2008 election has come and gone, and wasn’t it enough to drive anyone to drink? In this week’s Dig column, we suggested whipping up a batch of Martha Washington’s Rum Punch to muddle through that post-election hangover. (You can read more about the punch here.) Here’s a list of some other Presidential favorites from administrations past and some fun facts on Presidential partying, culled from Sarah Hood Solomon’s book of Presidential fare and trivia Politics and Pot Roast. Imagine yourself in period garb, washing down any of these concoctions before, during, or after a White House dinner, and see how fun history and politics can be.
From the First administration…
MOUNT VERNON’S MINT JULEPS
Recipe from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
Handful of fresh mint
1 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 to 1/2 cup water
Crushed ice (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 1 cup bourbon
Reserve one mint sprig for garnish. Put remaining mint in the bottom of a (tall) glass, and crush with a mortar. Put in simple syrup (made from the sugar and water). Fill with crushed ice. Pour bourbon on top. Dip mint sprig in powdered sugar as garnish. Quantities of the ingredients may be adjusted for individual tastes.
From the Madison Administration, President #4…
President Madison’s Favorite WHISKEY SOUR
Recipe supplied for Montpelier, the Madison home in Virginia by a family descendant. It is supposed to produce the same whiskey sours served at the White House during Madison’s tenure.
1/2 pint water
1/3 cup sugar (more to taste)
1 pint aged bourbon whiskey (100 proof)
Squeeze juice from the lemons and set aside. Boil water, sugar and lemon rinds for 3 minutes. Cool. Add lemon juice and bourbon. Taste, adding a little more sugar if needed, and refrigerate at least 12 hours. Remove rinds and squeeze dry. Strain and bottle.
From James K. Polk’s Administration, President #11
President James K. Polk occasionally sipped these poured over crushed ice; adapted from The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Marie Child, 1844
4 cups fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
2 cups brandy
Place raspberries in a bowl and pour in vinegar and lemon juice. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Crush the berries to a pulp with a spoon or potato masher. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let the mixture sit for 5 hours at room temperature.
Remove the cloth and strain the juice to remove all seeds and pulp. Mix brandy with the juice. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. This dinner drink can be served at room temperature as an after dinner drink, or served over crushed ice on a hot summer day.
From Ulysses S. Grant, President # 18
1 quart lemon sherbet
1 cup rum
1/4 cup Cointreau
1 split champagne
Put lemon sherbet into a chilled bowl. Slowly mix in rum and Cointreau. Quickly add champagne and stir until it is a mushy texture. Ladle into sherbet dishes. Serves 10.
Presidential Tipplin’ Trivia
- In later years the Mount Vernon distillery became a commercial operation, making Washington the first and only founding father to own and operate a commercial distillery. It enjoyed two good years of robust whiskey production before Washington’s death in 1799.
- Though Polk occasionally partook in the aforementioned Raspberry Shrub, he and his wife Sarah took their roles in the White House very seriously (and solemnly). Food & drink were not served at most receptions and dancing was forbidden.
- Grant’s Army quartermaster served as White House chef for a brief time, preparing basic and unimaginative menus for the first family. Eventually Grant’s wife rebelled and hired an Italian to chef replace him. State dinners became extravagant affairs where the new Italian chef Melah served Roman Punch as a post-entree digestivo. It was also served at daughter Nellie Grant’s White House wedding.
- The simple ceremony planned to celebrate Andrew Jackson’s inauguration went horribly awry when 20,000 people invaded the White House mansion. The celebrants caused a ruckus of epic proportions, breaking windows, china, furniture and causing several fires. The place was so packed that people who came in the door had to crawl out the windows. Clever cooks eventually lured revelers out of the Presidential mansion by putting out tubs of whiskey on the lawn.
- President James Buchanan had a legendary tolerance for alcohol & once reprimanded a liquor merchant for sending pint bottles of champagne to fulfill orders of bubbly because they were too small. On his way to church, he liked to stop at the Jacob Baer distillery to purchase a 10-gallon cask of “Old J.B.” whiskey, tickled that he and the whiskey shared the same initials.
- Alice Roosevelt, Theodore’s oldest daughter, was an independent woman after our own hearts: “She smoked on the White House roof, wore pants, and was known to have a cocktail.” To Alice!
- Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt were fond of informal Sunday dinners consisting of eggs scrambled by the First Lady in a tableside chafing dish (allegedly the only recipe in her repertoire) and martinis poured by self-appointed bartender, FDR.
- While Governer of NY, FDR never let a guest’s glass go empty, often pressing his company to have a second and third cocktail. “How about another little sippy?” he’d ask and pour another of his favorite drink, a ‘Haitian Libation’ (made with orange juice, rum, and grenadine.) Over-served guests dumped the excess in the houseplants.
- President and First Lady Truman were fond of Old Fashioneds, which their butler never seemed to make correctly. They were finally satisfied the day he tried the following recipe: pour bourbon over ice; serve. Truman was prescribed 2 shots of bourbon a day by his doctor, which he took each morning with a glass of orange juice.
- John F. Kennedy’s favorite drink was beer; Jackie Kennedy liked daiquiris.
And as we look ahead and drink in a new administration, we offer you this advice, taken from the sage “Etiquette Rules for State Dinners” in The White House Cook Book, circe 1887.
“Don’t, when you drink, elevate your glass as if you were going to stand it inverted on your nose…Drink gently, and not pour it down your throat like water turned out of a pitcher.”