Let’s put policy aside and get down to brass tacks: How well did our presidents know their way around a good drink? I consulted Mark Will-Weber’s guide to learn about favorite Oval Office libations, and this definitive* ranking will tell you who’s best to hang with at a party. (*Just kidding, it’s completely subjective. Come at me in the comments.)
44. Donald Trump
Hard to make it far on a list about your drinking habits when you don’t drink, and it’s even harder to place well when you’re Donald Trump. Despite expressing surprise that people haven’t cracked down on alcohol like they did tobacco and proudly boasting at a 2015 campaign event that “[He’s] never had a drink, never had a glass of alcohol,” Trump certainly didn’t hesitate to slap his name on a vodka brand narcissistically named “Trump Vodka” in the early aughts. To make matters worse, when the spirit launched in 2005, he claimed that the most called for cocktail in America would soon become the “T&T,” the Trump and Tonic. That never came to pass and Trump Vodka was discontinued six years later — short lived, but it still outlasted its namesake’s presidency.
43. Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes’ wife was not. A fan. Of booze. Rutherford backed her up so hard that he made White House staffers use rum flavoring instead of real rum in punch for guests. Ugh. The worst.
42. Benjamin Harrison
Harrison was into the kind of temperance that basically equates alcohol and immorality. So what was probably a silly prank involving stealing a few bottles of liquor on a college campus got blown up into a huge to-do, and everyone was embarrassed, and it was all terrible.
41. Franklin Pierce
Pierce drank a lot and died of cirrhosis. When he asked, “What does an ex-president do except get drunk?” it was maybe a joke, and maybe a cry for help. Drink responsibly, friends.
40. Richard Nixon
Nixon hoarded $700 bottles of vino for himself and served cheap red to the guests. What a Dick. But at least he wasn’t trading real wine for grape juice.
39. Joe Biden
Upon his inauguration in January of 2021, Joe Biden became the second U.S. President in a row to refrain from alcohol. While on the Vice Presidential campaign trail in 2008, the current Commander in Chief explained the reason for his abstinence: “There are enough alcoholics in my family.”
38. Abraham Lincoln
Honest Abe also drank rarely, if ever, which is probably smart, considering he lost a child and had to handle the Civil War. He gets some points for knowing when not to imbibe, but that’s about it.
37. William Howard Taft
The heaviest president at 300 pounds, Taft spent a lot of time on no-booze diets. This is deprivation dieting at its worst, and it makes me sad.
36. Ulysses S. Grant
Grant was a lightweight who still managed to spend tons of money on Champagne. Get it together, Ulysses.
35. James Madison
Madison liked a few glasses of Champagne, but complained about headaches after a little too much. He probably also complains about having to house-train puppies. Look on the bright side once in a while.
34. Millard Fillmore
Fillamore was the president who admitted to being “slightly fuddled” on Madeira. At least he wasn’t complaining.
33. James Buchanan
Buchanan liked sherry. He also didn’t think slavery was an issue worth addressing, but I promised not to talk policy. But seriously — sherry?
32. William Henry Harrison
It breaks my heart to see him so low on the list. After a smear ad said he was too old and should basically be put to pasture in a log cabin with a barrel of hard cider, “Old Tipp” made the insult the backbone of his campaign, portraying himself as a down-to-earth guy to share a friendly drink with. He won the White House — and died of pneumonia within a month. Womp womp.
31. Calvin Coolidge
Cal didn’t drink much, but liked a sweet Hungarian wine called Tokay. His campaign tried to popularize a mixed drink called the Coolidge Cooler, but I’m imagining Cal nursing half a glass of Moscato and all I can think of is this.
30. Jimmy Carter
Carter wasn’t much of a drinker. He chose to BYOB at a Soviet arms summit so he could sip white wine rather than knock back a vodka shot. At least he owned it.
29. Grover Cleveland
Big Steve holds the dubious honor of unhealthiest president. If you make a pact with your buddy to limit it to four beers a day, your next step probably shouldn’t be buying bigger tankards.
28. Andrew Johnson
27. George W. Bush
Most of the non-drinkers are toward the bottom of the list, but W deserves special mention. After partying pretty hard until his 40th birthday, one drunken weekend too many told him he may not have a great relationship with booze. So he quit. Simple as that. Gotta respect someone who can sow some wild oats but also knows when to pack it in. W will nod appreciatively at your bourbon and not throw up on your couch.
26. Warren G. Harding
Harding was president during Prohibition, but managed to smuggle a flask in his golf bag to have an al fresco nip.
25. TIE! Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams
Jefferson loved wine, and refined his palate with tours of Burgundy and Bordeaux. He’d probably show up with an excellent bottle (or several– his wine bills almost ruined him). He’s not higher on the list for overspending and sounding like he’d be kind of snobby. But John Q allegedly identified 11 out of 14 types of Madeira in a blind taste test. Equal parts impressive and insufferable.
24. William McKinley
23. Harry S. Truman
Truman’s Old Fashioned is easier to find a recipe for than McKinley’s fave, but Truman reportedly complained if the drink wasn’t strong enough. Hopefully he brings a bottle of bourbon to share.
22. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ike liked Scotch, and sometimes went against doctor’s advice to have an extra glass. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?
21. James Garfield
Garfield liked beer. Easy enough.
20. James K. Polk
Polk didn’t drink a lot, but enjoyed some wine, Champagne, and brandy. He probably would have described his musical taste as “a bit of everything, except rap and country.”
19. Ronald Reagan
As a Hollywood actor, Reagan naturally became familiar with California wines. He’d probably combine Jefferson’s good taste with a dash of movie charm, so he gets a higher slot.
18. John Adams
Our second president kicked off each new day with a bottle of hard cider. He also loved beer, Madeira, and rum. The a.m. pre-gaming is a bit of a warning flag, but he held it together enough to run the country, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he knew his limits.
17. Herbert Hoover
Requesting a dry Martini instead of chicken soup when you’re laid up with pneumonia is a baller move. Letting your wife dump your amazing wine collection just because Prohibition hit is not. A moment of silence for the lost vintages.
16. George Washington
The father of our nation’s a puzzler. He got “merry” on Champagne, but wrote downer letters about aching heads. He straight up made whiskey, but didn’t drink it much, preferring porter beer with molasses, which sounds like an old-timey wine cooler.
15. James Monroe
Ever spend the rent money on wine? Monroe feels you. He bought 1,200 bottles of Burgundy and Champagne instead of furniture. We’d sit on crates to hang out with him.
14. Lyndon B. Johnson
The kind of president who’d drive around the ranch while swigging Scotch out of a plastic cup, LBJ will turn any party into the best kind of college party. Unlike Truman, Johnson liked his drink to be weaker than everyone else’s. Which is thoughtful, considering the high-speed driving.
13. Bill Clinton
A snakebite, half hard cider and half lager, has to be one of the easiest “mixed” drinks to concoct. Laid-back attitudes and drink recipes you can eyeball must come in handy at political events.
12. John Tyler
Tyler liked Champagne, polka dancing, and his May-December romance with the “Lovely Lady Presidentress.” Sounds fun!
11. Chester A. Arthur
Will-Weber wrote that Arthur was not afraid to tell a teetotaler to step off his private life. Hear, hear! I only wish I could arrange a time-travel conversation between him and Rutherford B. Hayes.
10. John F. Kennedy
JFK loved trendy, brunchy drinks like daiquiris and Bloody Marys. He liked Heineken, too, mostly because it was considered a fancy import. He’d probably have strong opinions on craft beer today. He gets a top 10 spot because hopefully he’d bring something good.
9. George H.W. Bush
Strong opinions are all well and good, but at the end of the day, it’s nice to hear, “I’m not picky. I’ll have whatever you’re having.” Bush Sr. just doesn’t want to be left empty-handed. I’ll drink to that.
8. Andrew Jackson
Ain’t no party like an Andrew Jackson party because an Andrew Jackson party almost destroys the White House. He had to escape his own party through a window! The controversial president loved whiskey, and clearly had experience with some next-level rowdiness.
7. Gerald Ford
Ford is the perfect counterpart to Andrew Jackson’s wild shenanigans. Ford was a fan of the three-Martini lunch and snuck away from a presumably stuffy presidential Christmas to pal around with the press. Pretty remarkable, considering that in the wake of Nixon’s Watergate scandal, a new president might have thought the press was ready to catch any slip. This is a guy who knows how to set differences aside and have a good time.
6. Martin Van Buren
You may not even remember he was a president, but you’ll never forget that his nickname was Blue Whiskey Van. He sounds like a one-man indie banjo folk group, and it’s amazing.
5. Barack Obama
This beer-drinking president served a special Honey Ale, courtesy of White House beehives. If you’re hoping to talk about environmental policy and “save the bees” efforts, there’s no better way to introduce the subject.
4. Zachary Taylor
“Stop your nonsense and drink your whiskey!” is a fantastic response to hearing you’ll be nominated for president. In fact, this seems like an excellent line to use in many scenarios. Try and find one today.
3. Theodore Roosevelt
Mint juleps are basically the perfect mixed drink. Not too girly, not too strong, just sugar, mint, and bourbon in beautiful harmony. Brings a patriotic tear to my eye. Bonus points for using White House garden mint in the muddle.
2. Woodrow Wilson
Why in the name of bald eagles did we stop writing adorable jingles for presidential candidates? The Wilson whiskey jingle provided a catchy tune that carried President Wilson to victory. And now you’ll hum, “It’s Wilson –that’s all” for the rest of the day.
1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FDR is a legend among drink-loving folks. He repealed Prohibition, which already practically cinches the No. 1 spot. He also mixed drinks like it was the Roaring ‘20s all through the Depression. This is a guy who has mixology chops and knew how to turn hard times into great ones. When life gives him lemons, he makes Bermuda Rum Swizzles.