American history is full of outstanding Americans who enjoyed a drink now and again. Some of these standout citizens probably enjoyed too many, especially during the freewheeling days prior to Prohibition and long before any legitimate realization of self-wellness. That said, if you’re looking to feel particularly American, here are some iconic Americans’ favorite tipples across time.
Writers especially, as stereotype would have it, are known to wet whistles. John Steinbeck, brilliant author of American classics such as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, is known to have a Jack Rose in his hand. The cocktail was a mainstay in the 1920s and 1930s, a mix of applejack, grenadine, citrus, and, quite often, a dash of bitters. It’s easy to imagine Steinbeck savoring one in the parched stretches of central California, in between chapters. And while many other cocktails of the time have enjoyed revivals, the Jack Rose is a relic that’s never really been brought back to life.
Fellow writer Ernest Hemingway was known for his imbibing. So much so, that it’s hard to determine if he had a favorite drink. The Illinois-born author of The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, and many other fine reads spent a lot of time musing in equatorial locales after a formative stint in Paris. He was never too far from rum and loved a good Daiquiri. The reporter-turned-author was also an avid sportsman, fishing almost as often as he fixed himself a drink.
Presidents, too, can be thirsty. Founding father Thomas Jefferson grew to love fine wine after visits to France. He’s been referred to as America’s first true wine enthusiast. Not only did he have an expansive cellar, but Jefferson had his own vineyard planted on his Monticello estate. The statesman and third President of the U.S. even dabbled in some home-winemaking, mostly unsuccessfully due to disease-prone vines.
Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President and staunch proponent of the National Parks system, drank responsibly and preferred Mint Juleps. The drink, made famous by the American South, is somewhat of an unusual choice for a New Yorker, especially one who often spoke out against segregation and racist policies.
President Obama is rumored to have enjoyed beer to the extent that his office brewed its own batch of beer. We’ve seen the nation’s 44th commander-in-chief sip with all kinds of fellow greats, from Bourdain to Merkel.
Inventor and polymath Thomas Edison went next-level with his drink of choice. One of America’s greatest minds liked Bordeaux wines, sometimes laced with a bit of cocaine for an extra kick (don’t try this at home). Vin Mariani, or coca wine, was a fairly popular elixir of the time, claiming to revitalize and offer energy. Given the ingredients and Edison’s unbelievably prolific career, it’s tough to argue that claim.
Of course, they weren’t all drunks. Countless great Americans barely touched the stuff, if at all. Naturalist and champion of austerity Henry David Thoreau was a coffee man by trade. It kept him up and aware while taking in and writing about the minimalistic pleasures of a life outdoors.
Iconic actress Meryl Streep has admitted to years of debauchery which she says caused her to lose her voice. The celebrated actress is known to appreciate wine, provided she’s not too distracted by an all-consuming role. Of all the people to share a bottle of wine with, the 21-time Academy Award nominee (and winner of three) deserves a spot on most shortlists.
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