Potable POTUS

Seattle’s Ultimate Presidents’ Day Bar Crawl

Imagine that every U.S. president in history somehow winds up in present-day Seattle. And they all could use a drink.

By Allecia Vermillion February 1, 2014 Published in the February 2014 issue of Seattle Met

George Washington (1789-97)

The father of our country enjoyed his Madeira, but late in his tenure he set up his own distillery at Mount Vernon, where five copper stills cranked out rye whiskey. Since Washington generally drank his booze unaged, he’d enjoy the house moonshine at Radiator Whiskey; it’s made by 2Bar Spirits in SoDo and is one of the cleaner-tasting, more approachable white dog (aka unaged) whiskeys around.

What Would POTUS Drink? The Bohr, essentially a Manhattan made with that white whiskey. The mole bitters would blow an eighteenth-century mind. radiatorwhiskey.com

John Adams (1797-1801)

Hard cider is intertwined with images of the founding fathers, and none more so than Adams, who reportedly drank it for breakfast. In between achieving peace with France and strengthening our nascent federal government, he might quite like a visit to Capitol Cider, where his likeness looks down from an oil painting and cider choices span 14 drafts and 72 bottles.

What Would POTUS Drink? Ordering actual British cider is akin to treason, but the Eagle Screechin’ Scrumpy from Methow Valley Ciderhouse is a local take on those dry creations from the UK. seattleciderbar.com

Thomas Jefferson (1801-09)

In his four years as minister to France, our third president developed an appreciation of the nation’s wine, especially those from Burgundy. RN74, Michael Mina’s winecentric restaurant, is named for the road that today traverses the famed wine region. 

What Would POTUS Drink? Jefferson would get a kick out of ordering off RN74’s last-bottle list, displayed on a European train station–style sign. michaelmina.net/restaurants

James Madison (1809-17)

Known as the father of the Constitution, Madison also drafted much of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing Americans certain personal freedoms. Hence, at 15th Avenue spirits mecca Liberty, he could exercise his First Amendment right to assemble peaceably. And order a cocktail, since the 18th Amendment—the one establishing Prohibition—was still 130 years away.

What Would POTUS Drink? A perfectly executed Sazerac from the classics menu to commemorate the battle of New Orleans libertybars.com

James Monroe

Image: Mark Kaufman

James Monroe (1817-25)

The man whose doctrine asserted U.S. power in the Western hemisphere and officially expanded our influence from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific deserves a westward-facing water view. Like the one at the brand-new bar inside Ray’s Boathouse. You don’t have to be born and raised in Virginia to marvel at the sun setting over Puget Sound.

What Would POTUS Drink? A classic Floridita, a daiquiri made with grapefruit and maraschino, to celebrate the purchase of Florida from Spain rays.com

John Quincy Adams (1825-29)

Before his one-term presidency—like father, like son—JQA was one adroit diplomat, negotiating the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812 and arranging for the U.S. to jointly occupy Oregon Country (including Washington) with Britain. Much like Adams’s career, Urban Family Public House in Ballard includes highlights from Belgium and the Pacific Northwest, albeit in beer form. 

What Would POTUS Drink? Since he ostensibly won the presidency through a corrupt bargain with Henry Clay, Adams owes him a round of Saison Maidens—the house’s hoppy, rye-infused take on a Belgian farmhouse ale. urbanfamilybrewing.com

Union Bar Old Hickory would appreciate the bloody Mary with green beans, cheese, pepperoni, celery, lime, lemon, and an onion.

Andrew Jackson (1829-37)

When Old Hickory wasn’t getting in duels or expanding the spoils system, he championed the union as indivisible—individual states can’t nullify federal laws within their borders. He wouldn’t find much opposition at pleasantly low-key newcomer Union Bar in Hillman City. Hopefully Jackson’s capacity to hold a grudge doesn’t extend to anyone making questionable choices on the well-stocked jukebox.

What Would POTUS Drink? Jackson was a plantation owner with more refined tastes than one would guess—he’d dig the garnish-laden bloody Marys served during brunch. 206-258-4377

Martin Van Buren (1837-41)

At five foot six, Van Buren was one of the most diminutive U.S. presidents in history (only James Madison was slighter in stature). So, clearly he’s down for a night out at Shorty’s in Belltown. The Trophy Room, a separate, swankier bar in the back, is perfect for conducting the sort of political deals that earned this wily New Yorker his political career and the nickname the Little Magician. 

What Would POTUS Drink? Another of Van Buren’s many nicknames was Blue Whiskey Van. So forget all the cheap beer in the main room; he’ll have a custom brown liquor concoction, consumed in a tall leather swivel chair at the bar for added stature. shortydog.com

William Henry Harrison (1841)

When the hero of Tippecanoe ran for president, Democrats tried to smear him with a most ruinous accusation—that he would rather sit around drinking hard cider than attend to the business of running a nation. But…who wouldn’t? Harrison co-opted this vilification as a way to identify with the common man. Exactly the type that hangs out at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle, enjoying the selection of ciders on draft and by the bottle.

What Would POTUS Drink? Seattle Cider Company’s semisweet has the broad appeal of a war hero. beveridgeplacepub.com

John Tyler (1841-45)

His Accidency was the first president not elected to the job—he was vice president when Harrison died. Much like Tyler’s ascendance, Il Bistro’s cocktail reputation happened by a twist of fate. In the case of the Pike Place Market Italian restaurant it was a happy one—the arrival of a young barman named Murray Stenson back in 1990. 

What Would POTUS Drink? Somehow the ever-hospitable Stenson would know the perfect cocktail for drowning one’s sorrows over causing a Constitutional crisis. ilbistro.net

James K. Polk (1845-49)

Our nation’s first-ever successful dark horse candidate won in large part because he supported expanding our national boundaries. He could celebrate adding half a million square miles to the country at Westward…outside by the fire pit overlooking Lake Union. 

What Would POTUS Drink? The Northwest Passage, made with vodka, ouzo, orange liqueur, and lime westwardseattle.com

Zachary Taylor (1849-50)

Old Rough and Ready isn’t a pinot noir kind of guy. The famously disheveled war hero would feel at home in Georgetown’s gritty 9LB Hammer. A few straightforward beers, shuffleboard, and free peanuts should feel like a luxurious spread compared with an army camp on the Rio Grande.

What Would POTUS Drink? Probably not cherries and iced milk, which legend has it caused his untimely death. Perhaps a pint of the porter brewed by nearby Georgetown Brewing. ninepoundhammer.com

Millard Fillmore (1850-53)

The last of the Whig presidents failed to defuse roiling tensions over slavery, but he did send an emissary to open up trade with Japan. The guy deserves credit—and a night out at International District izakaya Fort St. George—for ending nearly three centuries of U.S.-Japan silence. A man born in a log cabin should be able to handle the utter lack of decor. Hell, he might even like the J-pop.

What Would POTUS Drink? Ordering off the shot list doesn’t seem very presidential, so perhaps a stiff combo of Grey Goose vodka, yuzu citrus, and soda. fortstgeorgeseattle.com

Franklin Pierce (1853-57)

While he had charm and good looks aplenty, Pierce regularly lands on historians’ lists of our country’s worst presidents for his staunch support of the Civil War–enflaming Kansas-Nebraska act—plus his personal friendship with Jefferson Davis. A Terrible Beauty is both a fitting description of Pierce and the name of a cozy Irish pub with locations in West Seattle, South Lake Union, and Renton.

What Would POTUS Drink? A Guinness. Bold new directions weren’t really Pierce’s thing. aterriblebeauty.com

James Buchanan (1857-61)

The last in a parade of doughfaces was a bit naive about the divisive rancor that would soon ignite into the Civil War. And we’re not one to make assumptions, but, uh, Buchanan is the only U.S. president to spend his whole life a bachelor. Either way he could use a welcoming, no-judgment environment, like The Lobby Bar on Pike.

What Would POTUS Drink? A few whiskey and colas to loosen up. The Lobby Bar is known for a stiff pour. thelobbyseattle.com

Image: Mark Kaufman

Abraham Lincoln (1861-65)

An upscale cocktail bar seems an unlikely choice for Honest Abe, but Lincoln practiced law and is the only president who ever had a tavern license—ergo, Tavern Law. Even if his establishment served nothing as elegant as the flips, punches, and classic cocktails found in these candlelit environs, Lincoln would be raconteuring those Capitol Hill scenesters in no time. Plus his beard would fit right in.

What Would POTUS Drink? Something with bourbon for the Kentucky-born rail splitter tavernlaw.com

Andrew Johnson (1865-69)

The man who became president upon Lincoln’s assassination harbored a none-too-subtle fondness for whiskey. He’d appreciate a stiff drink at Needle and Thread, the pseudo speakeasy above Tavern Law. It’s the perfect place to lay low when radical Republicans are spearheading a vote to impeach you for not heeding their Reconstruction policies. 

What Would POTUS Drink? A custom whiskey concoction to toast avoiding impeachment by a single vote tavernlaw.com

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77)

The first army commander since Washington to hold rank of lieutenant general was an excellent horseman, who bonded deeply with the mounts that carried him throughout the Civil War (he even rode one named Jeff Davis…burn). The unpretentious environment, steady flow of booze, and equine decor at Brave Horse Tavern in South Lake Union would be right up Grant’s alley.

What Would POTUS Drink? A shot of whiskey and the house Brave Horse Ale, an IPA from SoDo brewery Schooner Exact, while reminiscing about his war service bravehorsetavern.com

Rain Shadow Meats Squared Celery sodas provide nonalcoholic fizz for temperance boosters.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81)

When your wife is the ultimate celebrity endorser of the temperance movement, you’d best stick to something nonalcoholic. Rain Shadow Meats Squared is a butcher shop, not a bar, but it is one of the only local spots serving Seattle Seltzer Company’s excellent celery soda. It’s complex enough to take your mind off losing the popular vote in one of the most contested presidential elections in history, yet it keeps one clearheaded to do battle with Congress over the spoils system.

What Would POTUS Drink? A celery soda rainshadowmeats.com

James A. Garfield (1881)

Garfield was shot by an assassin four months into his presidency, and hung on another 78 days before he died. Is it insensitive to suggest he go for a beer at The Pine Box? Too soon? Sure, the bar is housed in the former Butterworth mortuary on Capitol Hill (and named after a coffin). But beer suits Garfield’s humble origins, and the Pine Box’s eye-popping array would impress the dark horse candidate from Ohio.

What Would POTUS Drink? Nothing fancy, and certainly nothing aged. Garfield would seize the day with a dunkel lager from Chuckanut Brewery in Bellingham. pineboxbar.com

Chester A. Arthur (1881-85)

This consummate New York politician appreciated a good wine-fueled steak dinner at power spots like Delmonico’s. Seattle’s closest approximation is Metropolitan Grill, where master sommelier Thomas Price would be on hand to suggest just the |right bottle to lubricate a little wheeling and dealing over civil-service reform and custom house spoils.

What Would POTUS Drink? Cabernet, for sure, since it’s a local standout and exudes power. For maximum impact, Price would uncork a 100-point Quilceda Creek 2007 cabernet—if there’s any left. themetropolitangrill.com

Grover Cleveland (1885-89, 1893-97)

It seems the only time this antigraft crusader and staunch reformer cut loose was when he was eating and drinking. Quinn’s pub has a menu hearty enough to feed a 250-pound man with an appetite for rich food and copious beer. Visiting during Beer O’Clock (all drafts are half price from 3 to 5pm) would be fiscally prudent.

What Would POTUS Drink? A nice, straightforward local stout, plus a second round for being the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms quinnspubseattle.com

Benjamin Harrison (1889-93)

The interregnum between Cleveland’s two terms also happens to be the guy who signed Washington into statehood. He put us on the map literally, the way Zig Zag Cafe did figuratively amongst the national cocktail set.

What Would POTUS Drink? El Presidente, a classic 1920s-era rum cocktail zigzagseattle.com

Image: Mark Kaufman

William McKinley (1897-1901)

The languorous Havana vibe at Rumba, Seattle’s first rum bar, would inspire McKinley in his efforts to free Cuba from Spain peaceably. That is, until the sinking of the USSMaine in Havana’s harbor led us into the Spanish-American War.

What Would POTUS Drink? A sipping rum, an easy transition from the whiskeys of McKinley’s era

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09)

The cowhide booths, mounted buffalo head and antlers, and logging-camp feel at the Frontier Room in Belltown would appeal to a man who relished the great outdoors, championed conservation, and yet appreciated a good taxidermic flourish. Roosevelt could also hold his own in any fistfights that might break out in the neighborhood later that night.

What Would POTUS Drink? TR went pretty light on the sauce (he once successfully sued a newspaperman for calling him a drunk), so he’d nurse one of the IPAs on draft. frontierroom.com

William Howard Taft (1909-13)

Our heaviest president supported Prohibition. But such a girthy dude would clearly enjoy a good milkshake of the variety served at the Rachel’s Ginger Beer’s flagship in Pike Place Market. Any “wet” companions (like Taft’s wife Nellie) could get a cocktail on tap.

What Would POTUS Drink? The blood-orange ginger beer milkshake, made with ice cream from Cupcake Royale, tastes like a thinking man’s Orange Julius. Perfect for the only president to go on to the Supreme Court. rachelsgingerbeer.com

Woodrow Wilson (1913-21)

Our 28th president vetoed on technical grounds the bill that ultimately created Prohibition (Congress overrode it). So he’d have no problem hanging out at Canon, though the professorial Wilson would more likely geek out with Jamie Boudreau about his glassware collection and the provenance of his rare whiskey bottles than get housed on sidecars.

What Would POTUS Drink? A Negroni experiment (a trio of the cocktail, made with gin, rye, and rum) in honor of Prohibition, the nation’s so-called noble experiment canonseattle.com

Warren G. Harding (1921-23)

Ostensibly Harding would hit up the apothecary-inspired cocktails at Ballard Ave’s Percy’s and Co. for his heartburn, indigestion, and frazzled nerves. But really this notorious lothario would order something to enhance his prowess with the ladies. Bartenders would do well to keep an eye on this guy’s whereabouts—he reportedly had adult relations in the Republican cloakroom in the U.S. Capitol.

What Would POTUS Drink? The lavender sour, made with egg whites and house-infused vodka, goes well with the libido tincture on the menu. It’s a nice change from the bootleg liquor that stocked Harding’s White House during Prohibition. percysseattle.com

Calvin Coolidge (1923-29)

Silent Cal enjoyed horseback riding, so he installed a mechanical horse in the White House. His ability to ride electric animals would serve him well on the mechanical bull at Cowgirls Inc. down in Pioneer Square. Plus, people-watching in the thick of the bachelorette-party scene with a man known for his few, but witty words would be a blast.

What Would POTUS Drink? A fiscally restrained cheap beer or two—but not enough to get him dancing on the bar. cowgirlsinc.com

Herbert Hoover (1929-33)

Before his name became synonymous with the Depression, Hoover preached efficiency as Secretary of Commerce, convincing manufacturers across the nation to standardize things like bolt sizes and car parts. The cocktails on draft at Montana would appeal to his love of efficiency. The Capitol Hill dive’s dark, rugged environs would bring back memories of his early years as a mining engineer.

What Would POTUS Drink? A straight-up Rachel’s Ginger Beer for this Prohibition-era president montanainseattle.com

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45)

FDR had complicated feelings about Prohibition. Ultimately he signed the repeal, buoyed by the impact it could have on the economy. Sun Liquor’s distillery on Pike Street isn’t a place for the sort of overindulgence that led to the outlawing of alcohol. It’s one of a handful of places in the nation with a dual bar and distillery license, and recently it even branched out into making tiny bottles for Alaska Airlines—cheers to economic stimuli. 

What Would POTUS Drink? The devout martini drinker would order his with the distillery’s bracing Gun Club gin. sunliquor.com

Harry S. Truman (1945-53)

Though some may dispute it, a plaque in downtown Bremerton commemorates the spot where an eager supporter first yelled the eventual slogan, “Give ’em hell, Harry!” during a tour of the South Sound. The nearby taproom at Silver City Brewery could take the edge off a long day of speechifying.

What Would POTUS Drink? Though he’s mostly a bourbon guy, a pint of Whoop Pass double IPA would suit Truman’s pugnacious disposition. silvercitybrewery.com

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61)

Our interstate highway system exists thanks to a bill Ike signed into law in 1956. It’s also the easiest way to get to the newly reborn Hollywood Tavern in Woodinville. The unadorned watering hole would appeal to a guy from Kansas, and the Supreme Allied Commander should dig the 1950s-style comfort food and updated grandma vibe in the attached dining room.

What Would POTUS Drink? An old fashioned made with one of the tavern’s 29 whiskeys. thehollywoodtavern.com

Image: Mark Kaufman

John F. Kennedy (1961-63)

The epitome of 1960s glamour, part of a highly effective family dynasty, and the man who urged the U.S., “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” If JFK had gone into hospitality, he’d totally be a Canlis.

What Would POTUS Drink? A man of exquisite taste who tends to keep company with private people, he’d imbibe in the Canlis wine cellar where he could drink scotch—21-year Springbank smuggled out of Scotland by the Canlis’s minister brother—straight from the giant barrel. Management is too discreet to discuss any Hollywood starlets entering or leaving the cellar. canlis.com 

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69)

Though a savvy political operative, Johnson was decidedly lacking in polish. Redwood Tavern feels rough and tumble enough for him (especially if he has to use the bathroom). LBJ’s support for liberal programs and Great Society goals should be good for some common ground with the Capitol Hill crowd…as long as nobody brings up Vietnam. 

What Would POTUS Drink? Shiner Bock, the beloved beer of Texas, makes a rare Seattle appearance on draft. 206-329-1952

Richard Nixon (1969-74)

Maybe the White House’s biggest wine geek since Jefferson, Nixon was also an unabashed francophile when it came to drinking. The engaging staff at Bottlehouse wine bar could give him a much-needed education in Washington wines, emerging styles, and personal charm and human connections in general.

What Would POTUS Drink? Co-owner Henri Shock would uncork a 2010 Tapteil from Cadence Winery to introduce the Chateau Margaux–loving Nixon to Washington’s take on a Bordeaux-style blend. bottlehouseseattle.com

Gerald Ford (1974-77)

A former center for the University of Michigan Wolverines would definitely feel most comfortable in a sports bar. Namely Buckley’s in Belltown, where the team packs the joint on game days. Just don’t expect Ford to pardon anybody who brings up that old Chevy Chase impression.

What Would POTUS Drink? IPAs be damned—Ford is a Coors guy. He reportedly shuttled cases back to the White House on Air Force One. Here he’ll have to settle for a Coors Light. buckleysseattle.com

Jimmy Carter (1977-81)

The Georgia-born 39th president worked his Baptist religious beliefs into his politics, much as Witness infuses the spirit of a Southern church into a bang-up cocktail bar. The temperance-minded Carter might feel less guilty about being surrounded by alcohol if he’s sitting in a booth made from a church pew.

What Would POTUS Drink? The menu’s custom “fancy nonalcoholic beverage” offering witnessbar.com

Ronald Reagan (1981-89)

Big Picture, with its full bar and plush seating would let the Great Communicator set aside the cares of who knew what when in the Iran-Contra affair and relive his glory days as a silver-screen heartthrob in Belltown’s swankiest movie theater lounge.

What Would POTUS Drink? Just a leisurely glass of wine (from California) delivered right to the Gipper’s seat. thebigpicture.net

George H. W. Bush (1989-93)

When the elder President Bush vomited on the prime minister of Japan, it wasn’t from overservice. But imbibing to the point of excess is a legitimate risk at Miyabi 45th, Wallingford’s Japanese gastropub full of house-infused booze. And Bush senior could slurp his soba noodles for extra diplomatic points with the Japanese.

What Would POTUS Drink? A sampling from the Japanese whiskey list makes a dignified choice and a tactical foreign relations move. And a patrician oilman wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the $275 price tag on the 25-year Hakushu. miyabi45th.com

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

Clinton’s a vegan now, but when he was in office, the cheeseburger-loving, people-pleaser would likely have been a huge fan of Li’l Woody’s. He’d wash his Fig and the Pig burger down with a beer, both for common-man cred, and because a Li’l Woody’s burger and a beer is a damn fine pairing. Plus, with a beery slur or a Southern drawl, the burger shack’s name is basically interchangeable with Slick Willy.

What Would POTUS Drink? Clinton’s still savvy enough to go with the hometown favorite. So, Manny’s. Definitely a Manny’s. lilwoodys.com

George W. Bush (2001-09)

Slim’s Last Chance, the Georgetown saloon known for its various styles of chili, to satisfy his ever-present Tex Mex cravings. Hopefully the service is prompt; this nondrinker is notoriously punctual.

What Would POTUS Drink? Some antacid in preparation for a bowl of Texas Red–style chili with the works slimslastchance.com

Barack Obama (2009-2017)

Our current late POTUS introduced home brew to the White House and used beer to broker goodwill in the face of racial controversy. Though he frequents upscale restaurants, Obama appreciates a good neighborhood hole-in-the-wall. Tiny Central District newcomer Standard Brewing coaxes a range of excellent beers from a single barrel (supporting small business is politics 101) plus has a community vibe reminiscent of Obama’s early Chicago days.

What Would POTUS Drink? His advance team would advise IPA as the regional specialty, but Obama might try a true Northwest creation—the dark, yet hoppy Cascadian Dark Ale. Just one, though. The alcohol content is 9.5 percent. standardbrew.com

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