Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Seven of our favorite presidential imbibers

August 17, 2012 by Anita Dumas


As we think back to the time of Prohibition, we can’t help but to reflect in turn on some of our favorite past presidents who were noted for their drinking habits.

Franklin Pierce

While there are many to choose from, these are some of the best-known drinkers in the history books. So here is a cheers to our favorite presidential partiers!

John Adams: You can tell a lot about a person by how they start off the day. President John Adams started his breakfast many mornings at Harvard with a beer. Also he was known for having a certain fondness for his wife’s hard cider, and was able to drink large quantities.

Franklin Pierce: Known as the only president from New Hampshire, he is also known as a president with documented drinking habits. It is said that when he was not renominated for the Democratic party at the end of his term President Pierce told reporters, “"There's nothing left... but to get drunk." A sentiment many college students, post finals, take on today.

George Washington: Setting the precedent for our country once again, President Washington ready future presidents for acceptably drinking and watching over the country simultaneously. Our first president had his own distillery, which happened to be the most profitable part of his Mount Vernon plantation.

Andrew Johnson: Though not to Lincoln’s pleasure, Vice President Andrew Johnson gave what appeared as a drunken ramble during the March 4, 1865 acceptance speech. While showing up to be sworn in to office is perhaps not the most appropriate place to be intoxicated, Johnson (not typically a drinker) had typhoid fever as an excuse and thus ended up with imaginably one of the most memorable swear-ins America has seen.

FDR: Ever need a drink after a bad day? After dealing with problems during his terms that included the Great Depression, Hitler, Nazis, and attacks on his dog, Fala – it is safe to say FDR deserved a few of the martinis he was famous for. Also he had Prohibition repealed during his first term, to throw that out there.

William Howard Taft: While not a drinker himself, Taft was a guy you would love to party with – if you didn’t mind waking up somewhere strange in the morning. Known for getting everyone else particularly inebriated, you would love to attend his party at the White House.

James Buchanan: What is the best way to spend time as a wealthy bachelor running the country? Celebrated drinker, President Buchanan would say to consume, consume, consume. He was famous for his Sunday rides to pick up a 10-gallon cask of his favorite whiskey and his apparent resistance to alcohol’s effects – as noted by the press.

Anita M. Dumas was an editorial intern at the National Constitution Center this summer.

Recent Constitution Daily Stories

Dog issues nothing new for presidential candidates GOP members talk about 17th Amendment repeal Understanding Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan in three minutes

Sign up for our email newsletter