Wine & Spirits: Presidential Potables

by WL Author

Washington bars and restaurants serve up drinks inspired by the re-swearing-in of Number 44.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

Josh Berner’s Obama Slamma at Ripple pays homage to Obama’s two hometowns, with a Chicago-distilled whiskey and a house-made orgeat syrup made from Hawaiian macadamia nuts. (Photo by Elizabeth Parker)

Last fall, the District was awash in red and blue drinks, and those inspired by the two presidential candidates. Now, bartenders and mixologists are reaching for bottles and ingredients that hail from Chicago and Hawaii to create drinks that give a nod to our re-elected POTUS. While this is definitely not an exhaustive list, here are some of the presidential potables you can sip between now and Inauguration Day:

Josh Berner’s Obama Slamma at Ripple pays homage to Obama’s two hometowns, using Koval Lion’s Pride Organic Spelt Whiskey from Chicago, and a house-made orgeat syrup crafted from Hawaiian macadamia nuts. Berner mixes both with house-made peachcello and fresh lemon, and tops it with an orange and Campari air. You can get the Obama Slamma for $14 during the month of January.

Bandolero’s Politics Schmolitics punch was created after Head Mixologist Taha Ismail witnessed a spirited conversation between guests during one of last fall’s debates.“One guest was Republican, and the other was an Obama supporter,” recounts Ismail. “They were having a friendly debate before their drinks arrived. After they both received their cocktails and had a few sips, their arguing lessened. Eventually, they clinked glasses and said ‘cheers.’” Ismail’s great equalizer combines Chairman’s Reserve Silver Rum, Gosling’s Dark Rum, Cointreau, Berry Beauty tea, and orange and Angostura bitters, served on the rocks with orange and a brandied raspberry. It’s $10, and available through January 23. “I thought, ‘Politics Schmolitics,’” muses Ismail. “It does not matter once you have a good drink in hand.” Here, here.

The Willard’s barman and recreational historian Jim Hewes has created a special drinks menu at the Round Robin Bar, with cocktails priced $5 to $15, each anecdotally linked to a President. For the upcoming Inauguration, Hewes will serve five, each priced at $15: the Presidental Mojito, Blue Hawaiian, Lincoln’s Hot Spiced Cider, Electoral College and The Camelot Daiquiri.

BRABO Sommelier Matthew Carroll selected a Scotch-based cocktail as the namesake drink for our Commander-in-Chief, available at the bar and restaurant for $12. “Scotch tends to be an ingredient that can take over a drink,” Carroll explains. “We are using Dewar’s White Label—a less aggressive, blended Scotch—and a richer, fruit-driven Port from Cockburn to soften the edges on the whisky.”

The Commander-in-Chief
Recipe courtesy of Matt Carroll, Sommelier, BRABO, Alexandria, VA
2 oz. Dewar’s White Label Scotch
1 oz. Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port
½ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Orange zest, for garnish

Add Scotch, Port, Vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass. Add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe, and garnish with the orange zest.

BRABO’s Commander-in-Chief cocktail. (Photo by Scott Suchman)

The Perfect 44 ($12) at The Hamilton is named for the bar’s version of a Perfect Manhattan. “Instead of using Vermouth Rouge we are using Vermouth Blanc; we have named this cocktail in honor of both the style of the cocktail and for our 44th President,” notes Beverage Manager Samantha Withall. The cocktail uses FEW Bourbon distilled in Evanston, Illinois, which was a dry town until 1971. The Perfect 44 is available at The Hamilton from January 17 to January 21.

Perfect 44
Recipe Courtesy of Samantha Withall, Beverage Manager, The Hamilton, Washington, D.C.
2 oz. FEW Bourbon
¾ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
¾ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
3 rye-soaked cherries

Add the Bourbon and Vermouths to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the cherries.

Sip a Sparkling Second Term January 18 through January 22 at DC Coast, Ceiba, District Commons and Acadiana. The damson plum gin gives the drink a nice tart kick, and anything effervescent is decidedly celebratory.

Sparkling Second Term
Recipe courtesy of Passion Food Hospitality, Washington, D.C.
¾ oz. Averell Damson Plum Gin
¾ oz. Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Cinnamon sugar, for rimming
Lemon twist, for garnish

Moisten the outside of a Champagne flute with a lemon slice, and then rim with the cinnamon sugar. Add the damson plum gin, whiskey and bitters, and stir gently. Top with Cava, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Oyamel’s Isla de Azul ($12) is a modern twist on the Blue Hawaiian. Mezcal offers a smokiness to offset the sweet Curaçao, and coconut liqueur and sorbet make it a tropical tipple.

Isla de Azul
Recipe Courtesy of Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
1 oz. El Dorado White Rum
2 oz. Blue Curaçao
¼ oz. Kalani Coconut Liqueur
¼ oz. Mezcal Vida
1 ½ oz. freshly squeezed pineapple juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 scoop coconut sorbet

Add all ingredients, except sorbet, to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until well chilled. In a separate glass, place sorbet, and strain the drink over the sorbet. Serve with a spoon.

Oyamel’s Isa de Azul is a riff on the Blue Hawaiian. (Photo courtesy of Oyamel)

The bar at Bastille is ladling up Chicago Cohasset Punch—a drink that for decades was the essential cocktail in the Windy City. Victorian-era actor William Crane, who played long runs in Chicago’s Hooley Theatre, was known to throw fashionable parties at his home in Cohasset, MA. One time, he brought Chicago bartender Gus Williams back to Massachusetts to create an original libation for one of his soirees. Williams created a punch that was the hit of the fete, and put it on the menu back at his place, Williams & Newman, where it became known as one of Chicago’s most distinctive drinks.

Chicago’s Cohasset Punch
Recipe courtesy of Bastille, Alexandria, VA
1 ½ oz. Clement VSOP Rhum
1 oz. sweet Vermouth
¼ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. Crème de Peche
½ oz. Grand Marnier
¼ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Orange twist, for garnish

Add all except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter @kmagyarics.

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