Oct 23 2020

The Bourbon President: Harry Truman

If you're like me, then two things are on your mind:

  1. You're a history lover
  2. You are so beaten down by what has felt like an endless Election season.
This campaign has seemingly never ended...remember Michael Bloomberg? That was so long ago! The fireworks from last nights debate are still ringing in my ear...So this next post is not meant as a beat down regarding the Presidential Election, but an interesting piece of history that I found and wanted to share in honor of the American Presidency.


When you think of whiskey and the American President, it's pretty easy to jump straight to Andrew Jackson or give the nod to FDR for repealing Prohibition. However, there is one pretty remarkable President that doesn't necessarily get the bourbon love that he deserves. In my opinion, that President is Harry Truman.

Harry Truman is pretty fascinating guy: a military veteran from small town Missouri, ending World War Two, rebuilding Europe through the Marshall Plan, integrating the armed forces and laying the ground work for the Civil Rights movement; he accomplished a lot throughout his life and presidency having come from such humble beginnings. I highly recommend the Pulitzer Prize winning biography Truman by David McCullough. His accomplishments aside, I'd like to focus on Truman's unapologetic love of bourbon whiskey.

Truman's morning routine included a two mile power walk and "an egg, a slice of toast, a slice of bacon, a glass of skim milk and a shot of Old Grand-Dad." President Truman claimed that a shot of bourbon in the morning "got the engine running." In fact, Truman's fondness for bourbon whiskey was so well known that in 1945, the Baptist General Convention of Texas tried to prevent Baylor University from giving Truman an honorary degree due to his fondness for bourbon and playing poker. It tough to say which bourbon was Truman's favorite because he certainly enjoyed a lot of them; the top two being Old Grand-Dad and Wild Turkey, however Old Forester and Old Crow were certainly in the mix. While campaigning against Thomas Dewey in 1948, Truman's fondness for bourbon was used as a way to humanize Truman and show that he was a regular guy, unlike the martini-drinking, elitist Governor of New York. The love of whiskey ran in the family as well. His wife, Bess, even schooled the White House bartender on how to make an Old Fashioned after several dismal attempts were not to her liking. To her, adding too much sugar or a cherry made it taste like fruit punch. Here's the recipe for the Truman Old Fashioned those interested . While this may sound like he was a bit of a booze hound, Truman kept it to just a few drinks a night; a life long friend claimed "He can make a highball last longer than anybody I ever saw." In fact, just as our distilleries were beginning to produce whiskey instead of the industrial alcohol needed for the war effort, Truman made the difficult decision to shut them down for twenty days and sent the grain to a starving Europe instead.

"As Americans, we believe that every man should be free to live his life as he wishes. He should be limited only by his responsibility to his fellow countrymen. If this freedom is to be more than a dream, each man must be guaranteed equality of opportunity. The only limit to an American’s achievement should be his ability, his industry and his character.” - Harry Truman

A bourbon drinking Democrat from Missouri...sound like anyone else you know?