Most often, we think of the office of our President as strictly business. After all, how much mischief can our Commander-in-Chief get up to with Secret Service agents (and before 1865, police officers) lurking around every corner? You might be surprised! From parties to fist fights to uproarious night escapades, our great leaders have participated in their fair share of shenanigans—most involving alcohol! Below, we have pulled together some of our history’s funniest and most outrageous stories from the Oval Office, and even provided drink recipes, to boot! Which of these stories is the wildest? You be the judge, and let us know in the comments section!
Andrew Jackson Today, the White House is heavily guarded, including the grounds surrounding the residence. But during the days of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, people were allowed to wander freely about the gardens and yard. On Inauguration Day, 1829, hundreds of excited citizens followed their new President home from the Capitol Building. Wanting to be a leader for all people, Jackson invited them in, and chaos promptly ensued! The crowd quickly consumed the spiked punch set out for refreshment and began to break furniture as they crammed into the front rooms. As quickly as staff could provide more punch, the people drank it, dancing on the tables, brawling, and pressing forward in an attempt to meet their President. Finally, Jackson fled the residence through a back window to hide beyond the gardens. A short time later, police and staff arranged several large tubs outside and filled them to the brim with heavily spiked punch. Following the alcohol, the people piled out of the residence and took up their party on the front lawn, allowing Jackson to quietly sneak back into his home.
Jackson’s Inaugural Punch 3 cups fresh orange juice 1 cup fresh lemon juice 1 cup Mulled Orange Syrup* 1 cup dark rum 1 cup cognac 2 cups soda water
*Mulled Orange Syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and heat to boiling, stirring until all sugar dissolves. Reduce to a low simmer. Add the peel from an orange, 3 cinnamon sticks, and several whole cloves and allspice berries. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and let cool for several hours. Strain.
Combine the Mulled Orange Syrup and all other ingredients in punch bowl with ice. Serve with a dash of Angostura bitters in each glass. Enjoy!
Andrew Johnson A little bit like that embarrassing relative who drinks too much at Christmas dinner, then holds the room hostage with a rambling toast, Andrew Johnson showed up completely drunk for his vice-presidential inauguration. His speech, which was scheduled to last no more than five minutes, droned on for more than 18, until Senator Hannibal Hamlin yanked hard on his coattails, and he stumbled from the podium. His antics, however, weren’t quite finished. As he took the oath of office, Johnson said in a loud voice, “I kiss this Book… in the face of my nation, the United States!” before sloppily puckering his lips and pressing them to the Bible. Just before President Lincoln headed outside to give his second inaugural address, he leaned over to Senator John Henderson and instructed, “Do not let Johnson speak outside.” Johnson’s drink of choice on inauguration day? Whiskey.
Johnson’s Whiskey with a Splash 2 oz good whiskey Small glass or ramekin of ice water
Pour whiskey into tumbler. With a straw or pipette, collect ice water. Two drops at a time, add to whiskey, then swirl and taste. When the flavor “opens” on your tongue, your perfect drink is ready to enjoy!
Rutherford B. Hayes While many of our funny stories from the White House have their origins in drinking, this one is the result of just the opposite! After an 1877 state dinner hosted for Grand Dukes Alexis and Constantine, sons of Tsar Alexander of Russia, became raucous, First Lady Lucy Hayes urged her husband to ban alcohol from the White House. While temperance organizations wholeheartedly approved, the change was not met with universal excitement. After one such “dry” dinner, Secretary of State William M. Evarts snidely remarked, “It was a brilliant affair; the water flowed like champagne.” After several functions were met with these types of comments, the White House staff began putting bowls of Roman rum punch out at each event. Critics remarked that while no wine or champagne was served with the meals, at least these “Life-Saving Stations” were available to make the parties more enjoyable. The joke, however, was on them. True to his word, President Hayes served no alcohol at any event. The Roman punch was “spiked” with non-alcoholic rum flavoring!
Non-Alcoholic Roman “Rum” Punch 2 cups lemonade 1 cup orange juice 2 tbsp lemon juice 2 cups non-alcoholic rum*
*Non-Alcoholic Rum: Combine 2 cups pineapple juice with molasses to taste and ¼ tsp almond extract -OR- Combine 2 cups pineapple juice with 1 tsp (or to taste) rum flavoring.
Combine all ingredients in punch bowl with ice. Serve with a dollop of meringue, whipped cream or top with a small meringue cookie.
In a letter to his close personal friend Tom Donaldson, Hayes talks about the punch served at his White House parties:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON 30th Dec 1880
Dear Tom: This cup is not a drinking cup. It will do for those swindling spoon victuals called Roman punch, which contains no rum or other spirits but are merely flavored with juniper or the like - but use it or show it as you please... Sincerely R B HAYES Thos Donaldson &c &c
Theodore Roosevelt Unarguably the most “mountain man” of our great nation’s historical Presidents (he once finished a speech after he got shot in the chest!!!), you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking Roosevelt was the type of guy who had a constant tumbler of bourbon in his hand. Surprisingly though, he was a moderate drinker, preferring to sip the occasional Mint Julep. (Don’t worry, that never stopped him from getting into trouble!) While traveling through Montana, Roosevelt stopped at a hotel bar for a drink and a meal, and noticed an armed cowboy, pacing around the bar and shouting profanities. Though Roosevelt seated himself at a back table and tried to ignore the cowboy, the man began to demand that Roosevelt buy everyone a round, saying, “Four Eyes is going to treat!” When Roosevelt continued to ignore him, the cowboy strutted over, a gun in each hand, and repeated his demand. Roosevelt stood, delivered three quick punches, and knocked the man out cold. The patrons of the bar cheered, then dragged the unconscious man outside to a shed to sober up. By the next morning, it was reported the bully had left town on a freight train!
Teddy Roosevelt’s Perfect Mint Julep 12 fresh mint leaves 1 cube sugar 1 tsp water 2 oz rye whiskey ¼ oz brandy 1 cup crushed ice
Muddle mint leaves, sugar cube and water in the bottom of a glass until it resembles a paste. Add ice to glass. Pour in whiskey and brandy. Garnish with sprig of mint. Enjoy!
Franklin D. Roosevelt One of FDR’s greatest joys was a freshly made martini. In fact, he loved them so much that he often made them part of international affairs, prompting one official to characterize US-Soviet relations during his presidency as “four martinis and let’s have an agreement!” Though he became President in 1933, it wasn’t until February 1945, during the Yalta Conference, that FDR perfected his favorite drink. One morning, while he, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin were eating breakfast, FDR complained of a hangover. Stalin recommended a folk remedy from his country for hangover headaches: adding pickle juice to vodka. Because neither pickle juice nor vodka was readily available, Churchill pulled a bottle of gin from his bag, found a jar of olives, and the three world leaders proceeded to create the Dirty Martini—which instantly became FDR’s favorite way to make his already favorite drink.
Franklin Roosevelt’s Dirty Martini 2 oz. gin ½ oz dry vermouth ¼ oz olive brine
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass or shaker with plenty of ice. Stir (never shake!) until well chilled and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with pick or skewer holding 3 good quality green olives. *Fun fact: It’s considered bad luck to garnish a martini with an even number of olives!
Ronald Reagan It should come as no surprise that Reagan, who enforced a national 21-year-old minimum legal drinking age, was a very light drinker. What might surprise you is that he drank very lightly, even during his heyday as a Hollywood actor. While filming the WWII action film Desperate Journey with Errol Flynn, Alan Hale Sr., and Arthur Kennedy, the castmates would often gather for drinks in Flynn’s trailer at the end of the shooting day. According to Kennedy, though Reagan would thank Flynn politely for the drink (and, reportedly, enjoyed the flavor), he almost always dumped most of it into a spittoon when he thought no one was watching. The drink he poured out? Errol Flynn’s own creation.
Errol Flynn’s Bourbon Cocktail Juice of 3 large lemons Juice of 1 small lime Good gin Cointreau Squeeze lemons and lime and strain juice into a glass. Add both gin and Cointreau in amounts equal to that of the freshly squeezed juice. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in both juice and liquor. Shake until mixture is very cold. Pour contents of shaker into a glass without ice. *According to Flynn, it is bad luck to add a garnish to this drink! However, it is acceptable to serve with pistachio nuts, Sicilian olives or salami on a separate plate.
Bill Clinton No newsletter about White House shenanigans would be complete without a drunken chase! In 1995, when the communist Soviet Union had broken up and the Cold War had officially ended, the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, made a diplomatic visit to the White House to meet with President Clinton. As with most diplomatic guests, Yeltsin was housed in Blair House, the guest quarters adjacent to the White House. Late on the first night of Yeltsin’s visit, after the two men had shared a meal and several Snakebite cocktails, President Clinton received a phone call: President Yeltsin had been found, clad only in his underwear, walking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue and trying to hail a cab. When asked what he was doing, Yeltsin calmly told the agents he was going to get pizza! Yeltsin wasn’t finished, however. The next night, again drunk, Yeltsin was caught scaling the back stairs of the Blair House and attempting to break into the basement. The Secret Service believed he was an intruder and chased him down, only realizing it was Yeltsin when he was dragged into the light.
Clinton’s Snakebite 8 oz. hard cider, chilled 8 oz. lager, chilled ¼ oz. crème de cassis
Pour the cider into a chilled glass. Holding an inverted spoon over the glass, slowly pour the lager into the glass. Top with the crème de cassis. Enjoy!