The Willard InterContinental Washington’s Round Robin Bar is serving up cocktails fit for a commander in chief. In addition to their inauguration-inspired specialty drinks, the bar has a drink named after and honoring each leader of the United States --based on research of their drink of choice.
Round Robin bartender and history buff Jim Hewes, who has been at the Willard since 1986, has crafted an impressive menu that goes from the George Washington (Madeira wine) to the Barack Obama (a tequila with blue curacao and fresh lime juice).
Each beverage is somehow connected to the president for which it was named. For example, James A. Garfield’s drink is Dewar’s Scotch because Andrew Carnegie sent the 20th president a case of the Scotch whisky as an inauguration present.
Hewes also included some non-alcoholic libations on his menu for the non-drinking presidents. For the Calvin Coolidge, Hewes mixes cranberry juice and soda. The George W. Bush is a diet cola with a slice of lemon (Hewes explained that the 43rd president is a Diet Pepsi guy).
If he couldn’t nail down how a president whet his whistle while in office, Hewes says he considered the tastes of the times, what was socially acceptable and what was available during that era when creating the drink.
“They drank socially all day long,” Hewes says of the presidents.
Hewes added that he is working on expanding the menu with more anecdotes about the presidents and their drinking preferences. And he has some good ones. James Buchanan would stop by a distillery in Washington D.C. every Sunday after church and pick up whiskey. Rutherford B. Hayes’ wife “Lemonade Lucy” refused to serve alcohol at the White House, so the pressmen spiked the oranges with gin at his inauguration.
The items on the presidential-themed drink menu range in price $5 to $15. Hewes says that the drink menu will be featured through Presidents Day.
44. Barack Obama – Blue Hawaiian: Combines the president’s penchant for aged tequila and the cool blue waters of the Pacific. Features aged tequila, Curacao and fresh lime juice.
43. George W. Bush - Diet cola / slice of lemon, “light – crisp” able to keep even the busiest Chief Executive, active, alert, and awake.
42. William J. Clinton – Tanqueray Gin and Tonic: A standard on the Washington cocktail circuit
41. George H. Bush - Absolut Vodka Martini: Always politically correct, with or without garnish.
40. Ronald Reagan - California Sparkling Wine: Introduced to Washingtonians at his first Inaugural
39. Jimmy Carter - Alcohol Free White Wine: served, much to the dismay of the fourth estate, throughout his four years in the White House.
38. Gerald R. Ford – Glenfiddich Whisky, over ice, served in the spirit of bipartisanship. Gerry also favored Budweiser “longnecks” in the bottle
37. Richard M. Nixon - Bacardi Rum and Coke: Dick would relish mixing and stirring, for his guests aboard the presidential yacht Sequoia.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson - Cutty Sark and Branch Water: A post war favorite of” Cactus’ Jack” Garner and Sam Rayburns’ most famous protégé.
35. John F. Kennedy - Beefeater Martini up with olives served regally in the White House to those in the good graces of America’s “Camelot”.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower - J.W. Black Label on the rocks: An acquired taste from his time spent at Allied headquarters in London during WWII
33. Harry S. Truman - Maker’s Mark and Soda: An aficionado of Kentucky’s finest, both he and Bess enjoyed this long-drink while playing poker at the White House.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt – Plymouth Gin Martini: "oh… so cool, so clean, so awfully civilized!" Often scolded by Eleanor for his penchant for the highball, this elegant elixir was served at the most important political party in D.C. -- the cocktail party.
30. Herbert Hoover - Long Island Iced Tea: Prohibition conscious imbibers relished this enticing tall drink, which contained everything on the bar except “the kitchen sink.”
29. Calvin Coolidge - Cranberry Juice and Soda: A gentle New England tonic to fortify one’s Puritan
28. Warren G. Harding - Seven and Seven: Popular highball among the “Ohio Gang” especially when served at Speaker “Nicky” Longworth’s poker games.
27. Woodrow Wilson - French 75: A Versailles’ favorite used to toast the “League” and the end of the “War to end all Wars”.
26. Theodore Roosevelt - Ward 8: Politically-charged concoction, brought to D.C. by “Big Stick” Republicans from New York.
25. William McKinley - Gin Rickey: Lime infused long drink made popular at the Chicago Exposition.
24. Grover Cleveland - Sazarac Cocktail: New Orleans sensation, which swept the nation in the 1880’s.
23. Benjamin Harrison - Ramos Gin Fizz: Popularized a block from the White House after construction of the first ‘soda fountain’ at the Willard Hotel
22. Grover Cleveland - Moet Chandon Champagne: The nation celebrated a White House wedding with the finest of French Champagne.
21. Chester A Arthur- The Gibson: Popular with Tammany Democrats named for Chester’s mentor Senator Gibson from New York.
20. James A. Garfield - Dewars Scotch: Andrew Carnegie had the Scottish Distillers’ send the new president a case for his inaugural.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes - Orange Blossum: Washington’s pressmen spiked the oranges with gin
at the tea totalling Hayes inaugural in 1877.
18. Ulysses S. Grant - Roman Punch: It was so cold in D.C. that this fruit and Champagne refresher froze solid in the bowl.
17. Andrew Johnson - Brandy Toddy: Johnson relied on this potion to cure “various, vicarious,
vapors” known to afflict residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
16. Abraham Lincoln - Apple Cider: Although known to have acquired a taste for corn whiskey in his earlier years, fresh pressed apple juice would revive his constitution.
15. James Buchanan - French Claret: This red wine was the spirit of choice in socially astute pre-war D.C.
14. Franklin Pierce – Oachtel: This nectar of the Aztec Gods was discovered by the hero of the Mexican War and introduced , first in New England, then in Washington DC.
13. Millard Fillmore - Brandy Crusta: All the rage in New York and London.
12. Zachary Taylor - Mamie Taylor: This ginger infused refresher was named for Taylor’s corn-cob ‘smokin’ sweetie.
11. James K. Polk - Jack Daniels and Water: Tennessee ‘walkin’ whiskey is served as a manifest
premonition of our nation’s destiny in 1850.
10. John Tyler - Southern Style Mint Julep: Henry Clay mentored our 10th Chief Executive in the fine art of building this compromisingly elegant elixir.
9. William H. Harrison - Hot Spiced Cider: "Twas a cold and rainy day in March when Tippecanoe
walked up the avenue of the presidents to the White House.”
8. Martin Van Buren - Hennessey Martini: An aristocratic mixture, first given to “little Van” by the Lafayette in 1825.
7. Andrew Jackson - Rye Whiskey straight: A two- finger pour of Tennessee’s Democratic, frontier finest.
6. John Quincy Adams - Hot Buttered Rum: a New England toddy with the spiced flavor of the West Indies.
5. James Monroe - Sherry Cobbler: This cool long drink is often called America’s first cocktail, popularized during the Revolution.
4. James Madison - French Champagne: First Lady “Dolly” loved all things fashionable and French.
3. Thomas Jefferson - Meritage Red Wine: Our third president learned to love French wine
while in Paris in the 1780’s.
2. John Adams – Bitter Sling Cocktail: made with a mix of rum and brandy, two of New England’s finest distilled products.
1. George Washington - Madeira Wine: Our first chief executive favored Malmsey, a fortified wine from this Mediterranean Isle. He was also partial to fruit brandies and Rye Whiskey, which he distilled at Mount Vernon.