Wine and alcohol have long played a significant role in the development of the United States. It is said that the pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, in 1620 because they had run out of beer. Consequently, it is claimed that the search for beer literally led to the founding of the country. Whether true or false, it is interesting to note that the preferences of presidents since the 1700s have actually helped to shape markets, influence drinking trends and even secure trade deals.
The United States is traditionally a beer-loving nation, but many presidents have fostered a near obsessive love of wine, and Thomas Jefferson is probably the best-known oenophile among them. It’s been revealed that Obama favours the Spanish white variety Godello even though he loves beer, and at the time, the news prompted a spike in the sales of Godello.
We might not be clear on President Donald Trump’s favourite alcoholic beverage yet, but he has already inspired a couple of breweries who are distributing beer packaged to mock the controversial man. It’s Presidents Day in the United States, so let’s take a quick look at five American presidents and their favourite drinks.
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
America’s 14th and “most alcoholic” president drank everything from beer and cider to wine. When the Democratic party decided not to re-nominate Pierce after his first term in office, he allegedly said “There’s nothing left but to get drunk”. Despite becoming such a powerful man, Pierce had a tough family life. His wife Jane was often ill and depressed and all of their children died young. Most notably, their youngest son was killed in a train accident while the family was traveling, not long before Pierce’s inauguration. He died from cirrhosis of the liver at age 65.
Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
Nixon, United States’ 37th President, was a renowned wine lover but hid it from his guests. It’s been revealed that Nixon often concealed the fact that he was drinking expensive wine by wrapping it in a white napkin while serving his guests cheaper bottles. Apparently, his favourite drinks were Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, and German Riesling from Bernkasteler Doctor.
William Henry Harrison (1841)
The 9th president was a lover of hard cider according to author Mark Hill-Weber. At the time, hard cider was a popular drink among the working class and Harrison’s association with the drink helped him gain favour with Americans as a man of the people against opponent Martin Van Buren. He was in office for just 32 days before dying from pneumonia.
George Washington (1789-1797)
America’s first president loved beer and had a particular fondness for a brew produced in Philadelphia called “Porter beer”. This is according to a book published in 2014 exploring the role of alcohol in US politics – Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, written by Mark Will-Weber. George Washington reportedly spent $6,000 on alcohol in a period of seven months between 1775 and 1776, with most of his money going on Madeira wine.
At the time, the Americans did not know how to cultivate wine grapes, so wine lovers looked to exports. Madeira was particularly popular because it was capable of surviving the long voyage across the Atlantic. The Founding Fathers apparently used 50 bottles of Madeira to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
The 44th president is known for his love of beer and Guinness stout on occasion. He also favoured White House Honey Ale which is made with honey harvested from White House bee hives, and Spanish Godello. The former president also likes Domaine Chandon’s Blanc de Noirs.
Obama was once spotted with a glass of Peza do Rei, produced by the Adega Cachin winery in Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra region at a gala, and the wine became known as “Obama’s wine”, sparking a buying frenzy.