DISCUS

Distilled Spirits Council Raises a Glass to the Spirits of Past Presidents

February 12, 2007 07:00 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Throughout American history, numerous occupants of the Oval Office have been integral to the legacy of distilled spirits, and have even been known for creating their own signature cocktail.  This President’s Day, in honor of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other great presidents who have helped shape America, the Distilled Spirits Council raises a glass to the spirits of the presidents.

“The presidential ties to the distilled spirits industry throughout our country’s history are fascinating,” said Council President Peter Cressy.  “In fact, our two most celebrated presidents, Washington and Lincoln, both played an important role in the history of American spirits – one as a distiller and the other as a retailer. There could be no better role models for the spirits industry.” 

Did you know George Washington, who put down the Whisky Rebellion during his first Presidential term, went on to become early America’s most successful whiskey distiller?

In 1797, Washington constructed a large whiskey distillery adjacent to his gristmill on the banks of Dogue Creek in Fairfax County. The enterprise became the most successful whiskey distillery in early America – producing 11,000 gallons in 1799, worth the then-substantial sum of $7500. 

After five years of archaeological excavation, Washington’s distillery has been authentically reconstructed using 18th-century building techniques and a museum has been added to the second floor.  It will be open to the public beginning Saturday, March 31.

During the Revolutionary War, Washington made the following statement to the President of Congress on August 16, 1777: “In like Manner, since our Imports of Spirit have become so precarious, nay impracticable, on Account of the Enemy’s Fleet which infests our Whole Coast, I would beg leave to suggest the propriety of erecting Public Distilleries in different States. The benefits arising from moderate use of Liquor, have been experienced in All Armies, and are not to be disputed.”

Did you know Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s most iconic leaders, was in the retail liquor business for several years in his 20s?

Lincoln grew up in the spirits industry.  His father, Thomas Lincoln, worked at the Boone distillery on Knob Creek in Kentucky.  Recognizing Lincoln’s character and work ethic at an early age, the Boone family is known to have prophesied: “That boy is bound to make a great man no matter what trade he follows and if he goes into the whiskey business, he will be the best distiller in the land.” 

Though he never became a distiller, Lincoln did acquire a retail liquor license that can be seen on display at the Oscar Getz Whiskey Museum in Bardstown, KY, the epicenter of America’s distilling industry.  “Groceries” – a euphemism used by some to describe Lincoln’s stores during his early life were really nothing more than improvised saloons.  These stores were gathering spots for men and whiskey was served regularly. 

During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, who went on to become president, was a bourbon drinker and was often criticized.  Lincoln, so inspired by Grant’s leadership during that period, responded to that criticism by inquiring “What brand of whiskey General Grant preferred,” as he “would like to send some to his other generals.”

Cocktails for Your President’s Day Parties:

Potomac Fever
This drink is popular wherever politicos, in the spirit of bipartisanship, gather on the banks of the Potomac to chart the future of western civilization.

1 ¼ oz. Bourbon
¼ oz anisette
dash of Angostura bitters
fresh fruit(slice of orange/cherries)
teaspoon of honey

Place honey, fresh fruit, and anisette in a rocks glass. Soak with bitters and gently muddle with a spoon. Add ice and bourbon. Stir and serve.

Texas Landslide
L.B.J. liked nothing more than an election turnout where everything went into the ballot box to ensure a favorable turnout, otherwise known as the Texas landslide.

1/4 ounce each; Coffee Liqueur, Bourbon, Irish Cream, White Crème de’Menthe, Sambuca

Pour each over ice in the order listed to layer contents.

The Fireside
This favorite of F.D.R. was personally prepared for his guests at the White House during what FDR said was the “most important hour of the day.....the cocktail hour.”

1 ¼ oz. Dry Gin
¼ oz. of sweet and dry vermouth
½ oz. each of orange, lemon, lime and pineapple juice

Combine ingredients over ice. Shake vigorously and serve straight up in chilled cocktail glasses.

President Harrison’s Spiced Cider
“Tippecanoe” surely could have used a dose of this elixir after his inaugural walk from the Capitol to the White House in the cold rain.

1 oz. Apple Brandy
½ oz. Orange Liqueur
6 oz. Hot Apple Cider; spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg

Serve in cups garnished with clove studded orange peel.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is a national trade association representing the leading brands of distilled spirits. Council member products include the full spectrum of quality distilled spirits such as Bourbon, Scotch and other whiskeys, vodka, gin, tequila, rum, brandy, cordials and liqueurs.  Distillers take special pride in their products as well as in their commitment to encourage responsible beverage alcohol consumption by adults who choose to drink distilled spirits.  DISCUS and its members want to remind you if you choose to drink, be sure to consume sensibly and responsibly.   An important part of responsible drinking is understanding that a standard drink of regular beer (12 ounces), distilled spirits (1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits) and wine (five ounces) each contains the same amount of alcohol.

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