Will-Weber says old letters show Washington loved a particular Philadelphia-based beverage called “Porter Beer.” A modern-day version is currently brewed by Yards Brewing Company.
“He loved it and mixed molasses with it which may explain why Washington’s teeth were not that great, but it was just enough sweetness and thickness to add to the authentic porter which they used to get from Britain before the war … they then learned to brew their own.”
Many presidents have a complicated history of alcohol use in office, but Will-Weber said that the inspiration for the book came from President Warren Harding during prohibition.
“You weren’t supposed to drink or transport alcohol but Harding thought nothing of taking a fifth of whiskey to the golf course, and stashing it into his golf bag and every three holes or so he would take a pop of whiskey – that was the little seed that got me curious about what the rest of the presidents drank.”
While the book chronicles many drinking habits of the presidents, Will-Weber explained that several drinks stood out.
President William Henry Harrison, the ninth president who held office a short 32 days in 1841 after dying from pneumonia, was a fan of hard cider. In the 1840s, hard cider was the popular drink among the working class—much like beer is today.
“The logo of his campaign was a log cabin and hard cider and all his followers would meet to build little log cabins and drink hard cider.” Will-Weber says this helped to portray Harrison as a man of the people against his opponent Martin Van Buren.
William McKinley, the 25th president, preferred something stronger. When he was running for president in 1896, a bartender at that year’s Republican convention decided that the then candidate should have his own drink – “McKinley’s Delight.”
Will-Weber says the drink “is nothing to mess around with three ounces of rye whiskey, some sweet vermouth” along with two dashes of cherry brandy and a dash of absinthe.
President Theodore Roosevelt became known for the "Teddy Hat Cocktail" during his unsuccessful reelection run in 1912.
“His supporters had this cocktail and it came from [when] he used to say ‘my hat is in the ring,” said Will-Weber. The drink is a half jigger of San Juan Rum, a forth jigger of dry gin, and a dash of absinthe. The drink is also topped off with a lemon usually made in the shape of Roosevelt’s roughrider hat.
Other fun bits in the book include how President Richard Nixon sipped expensive wine wrapped in a white napkin so no one could see the label, while guests drank the cheaper stuff, and how Franklin D. Roosevelt once hid in a cloak closet to mix up a cocktail so his mother wouldn’t scold him for having more than one.