For those of us who failed American history in high school, now is the perfect time to visit the Round Robin Bar in Washington, D.C., the only place in the world where you can get a history refresher while sampling the drink menu. To commemorate the drinking habits of Jefferson, Nixon, Obama, and their presidential ilk, Round Robin mixologist and history buff Jim Hewes has crafted a signature cocktail for each American head of state, 44 cocktails in total. Class is now in session.
“The selection is representative of our Founding Fathers’ tastes, the spirits of the era, as well as the availability of certain spirits, which was much different from our day,” Hewes says.
The specialty drinks menu debuted just in time for this year’s Inauguration at the hotel bar of the “Residence of Presidents,” the Willard InterContinental hotel in D.C. The bar will continue to serve the 44 cocktails year-round.
Not surprisingly, a popular choice is the Blue Hawaiian, inspired by Barack Obama. The cocktail combines the sitting president’s penchant for aged tequila with curacao, giving the beverage a similar tint to the azure waters near Obama’s birthplace. That’s the Pacific, not the Indian Ocean.
Other interesting selections include Tanqueray for Bill Clinton, California sparkling wine for Ronald Reagan, and Maker’s Mark for Harry S. Truman. Richard Nixon served Bacardi and Coke aboard the presidential yacht, while the Beefeater martini was the signature cocktail of JFK’s Camelot.
Our Founding Fathers preferred foreign wine to spirits, however: Madeira Mediterranean wine for Washington, French red wine for Jefferson. James Monroe was the first president to shake things up with the Sherry Cobbler, commonly referred to as America’s first cocktail.
Hewes hasn’t forgotten about the presidents who chose to abstain from alcohol. Abraham Lincoln replaced his early taste for whiskey with an affinity for apple cider, Calvin Coolidge embodied New England Puritanism by drinking only cranberry juice and soda, and buzzkill Jimmy Carter introduced alcohol-free white wine to the White House.
The true lush of the executive office, however, was Herbert Hoover, who personally recalled Prohibition by “nobly experimenting” with loaded Long Island Iced Teas. Hail to the chief indeed.