8 Presidential cocktails and how to make them

That’s right: It's election season.

What can you do to slice through the promos, the talking points and all of the spin? How can you find that much needed peace-of-mind? Where can you go to gather with friends and strangers and discuss the issues of the day without the static noise? To your local watering hole of course. To the bar, the pub, the speak-easy, the mixologist’s laboratory. Some may say that no good could possibly come from alcohol fueled debate about our nation’s leaders or the parties they represent. The naysayers will argue that such conversations are beneath the good stature of general public discourse and should be left to nobler halls.

Although much has been documented about the drinking habits of the past Presidents, I’d like to present you with a Do-It-Yourself list: here are 8 of best Presidential cocktails, the people who drank them and how to make them yourself (or instructions for your favourite bar keep, as it were):

1. Ronald Reagan – Orange Blossom Special

Not only was the Orange Blossom Special a fiddle tune once played by Johnny Cash and named after a passenger train, it was also one of Ronald Regan’s favourite drinks. Traditionally, the drink is made with Peach Schnapps or sometimes with Bourbon, but Reagan preferred it with Vodka.


Just a bit less than 1 oz. of vodka (better make it Belvedere)

2 ½ oz. lemon-lime soda

3 oz. orange sherbet

1 ½ oz. ice cream (vanilla)

2 ½ oz. light cream


Mix all ingredients with a handful of ice and blend until smooth. Serve in a sundae glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. I don’t think it’s typically served with a twirlly straw or an umbrella, but it couldn’t hurt right? It’ll show the voters that you’re down-to-earth and on their level.

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt – Haitian Libation

Roosevelt could have been on this list multiple times. He could have had his own list. He has been known to drink gin martinis, whiskey-based Manhattans, and a Rum Swizzle or two. But, the drink that was quite possibly his favourite least-known drink is curiously named the Haitian Libation.


3 oz. of orange juice

1 oz. of dark rum

1 egg white

1 teaspoon of brown sugar


Pour all of the ingredients into a tumbler, and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks or Collins glass, over ice or straight up and if you require a garnish try mint or basil leaf. Please note: I’ve also had this drink with 1.5 oz of Orange Juice and 3 oz. of Dark Rum. The only thing left to ask is which way would you drink it if you had just ended prohibition?

3. Calvin Coolidge  - The Coolidge Cooler

While it is understood that Calvin didn’t drink at all during his stay in the white house, and he toasted with water when visiting Cuba, he was known to drink a small amount of Tokay wine, followed by another small amount of Tokay wine. The Coolidge Cooler however, was created on Mr. Coolidge’s birthday:


1½ oz. of white vodka
½ oz. of American whiskey
2 oz. of orange juice
Club soda


Mix all of the ingredients with ice in a rocks glass. Add the club soda last and let it breath for a minute or two before consuming to allow all of the ingredients to mix properly. Not bad for a ‘dry’ President.

4. Teddy Roosevelt - Mint Juleps

Teddy and the famous Mint Juleps. Traditionally, the mint julep is a southern drink and should therefore be made with brandy. It has been reported that Teddy drank a rye version, but I’m a bit of a purest when it comes to mixed drinks and I’ve really been enjoying Bourbon lately so here it is:


4 fresh mint leaves “muddled” with two teaspoons of water and a sugar cube

2 oz. of Bourbon (or rye) whiskey

¼ oz. of brandy

Sprig or two of fresh mint as a garnish


In a highball glass, muddle together the first four mint leaves with the water, sugar and the small amount of Brandy. If you don’t have a sugar cube, simply use a single teaspoon of sugar. Fill the glass you’ve just muddled, with shaved, cracked or hammer-smashed ice about 80% full and pour the 2 oz of whiskey over top. Garnish with your remaining mint leaves. If you happen to be drinking in the middle of the summer AND you happen to have silver or pewter glassware – serve the drinks in those and only touch the bottom of the glass with your hands. This will allow frost to build on the outside of the cup, and will inform fellow revellers of your high-minded predilection.

5. William McKinley – McKinley’s Delight

Created during the President’s 1896 election campaign, this drink is one of historic sophistication. It’s based on the popular Manhattan but spiced up with absinthe. If you don’t have time to drink each of these eight drinks tonight, I’d start with this one.


3 oz. rye whiskey 
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes of cherry brandy
1 dash absinthe

Lemon Peel

Glass full of ice


Add all of the ingredients into the mixing glass full of ice and stir. Let the ingredients sit in the ice while you prepare the glass. Take a chilled but not frosted cocktail glass and twist the slice of lemon peel over the glass. Take the juiciest section of the lemon peel and run it around the inside of the glass. Strain the now chilled ingredients into the glass. For extra finesse, use Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye (97.5 Rating), and if you’re really feeling adventurous do your best to find absinthe containing wormwood (always obey your local laws) and get ready for a good time.

6. Martin Van Buren - Schiedam

Martin had a notorious love affair with whiskey and it was this love that earned him the nickname: Blue Whiskey Van. He also enjoyed New York’s Hudson River Valley and the local flavour of the area. One such flavour is the Schiedam which was named after an area in souther Holland and closely resembles the Holland Gin Cocktail. The Schiedam was only served in the Hudson River Valley area at the time, but has since made its way around the world.


½ large bar glass of cracked ice

3 dashes Peychaud bitters or orange bitters

1 jigger Schiedam gin

1 piece lemon

Dash of absinthe

Cracked Ice


Mix all ingredients in the glass and add the cracked ice after the fact. Stir the drink until all ingredients have cooled. Strain into a cocktail glass and twist the piece of lemon and drop right in. The Van Buren Boys would be proud.

7. Bill Clinton – Gin & Tonic / Snakebite

As a result of the notoriety that followed Clinton since his Presidency, it would be reasonable to assume that his favourite drinks would come with a certain amount of flare and pageantry. What is surprising is that they are quite the opposite.

The Snakebite is a British drink made by mixing equal parts of lager and cider; however a stout may be used in the US as a substitute for the lager. In England they commonly add blackcurrant squash, but the practice never seemed to make it across the pond. I wonder why…

The Gin & Tonic is of course, simply a gin and tonic occasionally with lime, always delicious. Mix, drink, repeat, stay refreshed, mix, drink, repeat, hydrate, mix, drink, call your ex and/or intern as the case may be.

8. George Washington - Cherry Bounce

A man of moderation, who enjoyed his sprits but abhorred public drunkenness and at one time owned the largest distillery in America. This is a man who knows his drinks. And what drink did he take with him during the long trek over the Allegheny Mountains in 1784? Well, besides Madeira and port which were pretty much like water back then, he brought Cherry Bounce. As delightful as it sounds and sure to keep spirits high on long mountain journeys provided you have the time to prepare it in advance. Like the man, this drink is involved.


(During his journey over the Allegheny Mountains, Washington was said to bring an entire canteen of the stuff with him, so this recipe should fill your canteen as well. Providing you have a canteen)

12 pounds of fresh sour cherries OR 3 jars of preserved cherries

4 cups brandy

3 cups sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

2 or 3 whole cloves

1 piece fresh whole nutmeg


Crush the pitted cherries through a strainer and collect the juice. If you have a juicer this could be helpful but you might want to tone down the number of cherries you’re using. Add the brandy and sugar, and refrigerate covered for one day. Shake the container every few hours. Add juice from the container to a sauce pan, covering the pan with about a ½” of juice. Turn on the burner to medium heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Once hot, let the mixture simmer for five minutes. Strain the mixture back into the container and store for another fourteen days. Shake the container at least once per day. At the end of the fourteen days, your mixture is ready to be served. This drink can be served over ice but is meant to be served at room temperature.

And remember, drinking all eight of these cocktails in a single sitting will not allow you to harness the powers of the eight Presidents who preferred them, but you may find yourself in need of a Presidential pardon.  

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