Monday, July 11, 2016
Recent Reads: Drinking with the Democrats and Republicans
Mark Will-Weber has written a pair of election year trivia books about the connection between alcohol and the Presidents of the United States, from their personal drinking habits to alcohol related policies and anecdotes. Each of the volumes, Drinking with the Republicans and Drinking with the Democrats, tells the alcohol-related stories of that party's presidents, although, presumably in the interest of completion, the Democratic volume includes the Democratic-Republican Presidents and the Republican volume includes the Federalists and Whigs.
I have to admit that when they sent me these books, I didn't have high expectations. Aside from being a whiskey blogger, I'm a big U.S. history buff, and I figured this would be some gimmicky election year book filled with a bunch of half-truths and stories I'd already heard.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised. These volumes are well researched and while the format is certainly that of a trivia book - a collection of anecdotes about each President - there is a lot of information in here that's not widely known, including not only the drinking habits of every president but also alcohol-related historical incidents and issues. For instance, we learn that Andrew Johnson went on a day and a half long bender after his inauguration as vice-president, that James Buchanan predicted that a national prohibition would fail long before we actually tried it, that Theodore Roosevelt grew mint at the White House for his juleps and that Martin Van Buren was known for "imbibing enormous amounts of intoxicants without the usual results." There are numerous stories about Presidents trying to tactfully avoid the Chinese spirit maotai during diplomatic meetings.
The one flaw in these books is the inclusion of a number of cocktail recipes, most of which have, at best, a tangential relationship to their subjects. The recipes have the feel of a heavy-handed editor saying, "What this book needs is cocktail recipes; people love cocktails!"
Regardless of that minor annoyance, both of these books are full of fun and interesting stories and well worth a read for any fan of political or liquid history. The books are published by Regnery History and are listed at $15 each.
Thanks to Regnery History for the review copies.