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Presidents Day cocktails with a dash of history

From left, Thomas Jefferson’s white wine spritzer, Theodore Roosevelt’s mint julep and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Haitian libation.<252><137>avorite cocktails for President's Day in Fort Worth, TX Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) <137><137><252><137>
From left, Thomas Jefferson’s white wine spritzer, Theodore Roosevelt’s mint julep and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Haitian libation.<252><137>avorite cocktails for President's Day in Fort Worth, TX Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) <137><137><252><137> Star-Telegram

Life can be stressful, and when you’re president of the United States, even more so.

So, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that, throughout history, quite a few of our presidents had a marked affinity for libations and were known for letting off steam with some good, old-fashioned partying.

Books like Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office, by Brian Abrams (Workman Publishing Co., $11.75) and Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, by Mark Will-Weber (Regnery History, $20.68), have documented the drinking habits of various presidents — and as an extra treat, published recipes for some favorite presidential cocktails.

In honor of Presidents Day, we picked a few to share. So break out the cocktail shaker and pour one (or two) and raise a toast to leadership in America.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Though his 12-year tenure saw many monumental moments, FDR’s most memorable act as president might be the repealing of Prohibition.

While many thought his reason for doing so was to boost the country’s economy, others thought the act was more personal. Not only did Roosevelt enjoy consuming cocktails, he also enjoyed making them.

Reportedly, Roosevelt often acted as unofficial White House bartender, and his cocktail creations sometimes drew criticism for the overuse of vermouth.

Fun party facts:

▪ For Roosevelt’s 52nd birthday, White House insiders threw him a toga party. Roosevelt wore a knockoff version of Julius Caesar’s civic crown.

▪ Roosevelt smoked a pack of cigarettes every day until his health took a turn for the worse.

▪ After signing the Cullen-Harrison Act to allow the manufacturing and sale of beer in the United States, Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Thomas Jefferson

A foodie long before the word existed, Jefferson loved hosting elaborate dinners at his Monticello home.

Meals consisted of no less than eight courses (even when it was just Jefferson dining alone), and he kept these gatherings informal by requiring guests to serve themselves and clean up afterward — by placing their soiled plates in dumbwaiters.

Despite his vast wine budget, he drank moderately, often consuming after the meal instead of during.

Fun party facts:

▪ Jefferson allocated more than $16,500 for wine during his two terms (today that comes out to between $300,000 and $350,000).

▪ At one point, his wine collection grew to 20,000 bottles.

▪ Jefferson’s typical monthly wine order included 630 gallons of Madeira, one barrel of sherry, 540 bottles of sauterne and 400 bottles of claret.

Theodore Roosevelt

Stories of Roosevelt’s larger-than-life persona are plentiful, making it easy to imagine the 26th president of the United States as the type of party guest who might simultaneously down giant steins of beer and toss back shots.

In actuality, Roosevelt is described as a modest drinker — although he often found himself defending his drinking habits against individuals who tried to paint him as a lush. In an effort to silence his detractors, Roosevelt once wrote a letter that stated that he never drank whiskey and never drank wine on trips.

Of course, reports of his affinity for mint juleps offer a contradiction to at least half of that statement.

Fun party facts:

▪ In 1909, Roosevelt went on a hunting expedition to Africa, taking along a case of champagne and a bottle of good brandy in the expedition’s supplies.

▪ Roosevelt’s beloved mint juleps were made with fresh mint grown on the White House grounds.

▪ Created in 1912 as a tribute to Roosevelt, the Teddy Hat Cocktail features a lemon garnish cut into the shape of Roosevelt’s famous Rough Rider hat.

Haitian libation

One of Roosevelt’s favorite cocktails was said to be the Haitian libation, a drink he learned to make when he traveled to Haiti as assistant secretary of the Navy.

Serves 1

1 1/2 ounces orange juice

3 ounces dark rum

1 egg white

Dash brown sugar

Ice

Pour the ingredients into a frosted tumbler. Shake and strain into a rocks glass. Good luck.

— “Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office,” by Brian Adams

White wine spritzer

Long before the wine spritzer had an actual name, Jefferson was said to be a fan of mixing wine with water during picnics at Monticello. While he’s not actually credited with creating the cocktail, he might have created one of its earliest prototypes.

Serves 1

Dried strawberries, chopped

Fresh strawberries

White wine

Soda water

Store the dried, chopped strawberries in the freezer ahead of time to use as ice cubes. Muddle the fresh berries in a bowl with a fork until the consistency is all pulp and juice. Fill a glass halfway with wine, then top with the strawberry pulp, a splash of soda water and the strawberry ice cubes.

— “Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office,” by Brian Adams

TR’s courtside mint julep

An avid tennis fan, Roosevelt was commonly spotted sipping mint juleps between sets. Prepared by White House steward Henry Pinckney, the courtside cocktail broke from tradition by using rye whiskey with a splash of brandy instead of the usual bourbon.

Serves 1

10 to 12 fresh mint leaves “muddled” (until they resemble a paste) with a splash of water and a sugar cube

2-3 ounces of rye whiskey

1/4 ounce of brandy

Sprig or two of fresh mint as a garnish

First fill a bar glass with the muddled mint, then fill the glass generously with finely crushed ice. Top off with the rye whiskey, brandy and mint garnish.

— “Mint Juleps With Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking,” by Mark Will-Weber

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