From the debauched inauguration of Andrew Jackson, to the love letters of Warren G. Harding (he refers to his penis as “Jerry”), to the martini-fueled fumbles of Gerald Ford, Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief from the Oval Office (Workman; February 2015) exposes a White House under the influence. Humor writer Brian Abrams takes readers on an irreverent—and well-researched—tour through the hard-partying antics of America’s leaders: illicit affairs, drunken escapades, secret pill habits, and, of course, vomiting. John Mathias, whose work has appeared in The Washington Post and The New York Times, illustrates the madness with portraits, infographics, and comic strips throughout.
There’s George Washington, who plowed through three to four glasses of Madeira during lunch. Ulysses S. Grant had a reputation for riding drunk into battle—and once vomited all over his horse. FDR threw toga parties but was notoriously bad at mixing cocktails. During the Cold War era, Harry Truman threw back an ounce of Old-Granddad each morning “to get the engine going.” Who could forget the infamous sexcapdes of JFK? Gerald Ford enjoyed a drink or three on virtually every Air Force One flight and once, while enjoying martinis with the Press Corps in Vail, stuck his foot in an entire wheel of brie—and never noticed. And after George H. W. Bush vomited at a televised state dinner in Japan, “Bushusuru,” meaning “to do the Bush thing,” aka “to boot ‘n rally,” became part of the Japanese nightlife lexicon. And don’t forget the first ladies! If there was someone who could rival the presidents’ partying ways, it’s Dolley Madison, the vivacious entertainer who made the White House a social hotspot.
And because no book about drinking would be complete without cocktail recipes, each presidential profile is accompanied by a drink inspired by the president. Some historical, some contemporary, recipes include concoctions like persimmon beer, mint juleps, meringue-and-Roman punch, and many more.
Hilarious and brash, Party Like a President is history with a side of cheek and reminds us that the great men in the Oval Office are just like us: flawed and in need of a stiff drink after a long day.
“The definitive account of White House alcoholism…There’s no better way to enjoy the declining days of this American empire than reading a book that teaches you how your favorite presidents got plastered.” —Roseanne Barr
ABOUT BRIAN ABRAMS:
Brian Abrams is the author of AND NOW . . . An Oral History of “Late Night with David Letterman,” 1982–1993. He has written for High Times, Mental Floss, Playboy, and other publications. He lives in New York City.