JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
As we discussed, the president's inauguration isn't until tomorrow. But here in Washington, a lot of parties are already starting, with a blast of something. We're talking about inaugural celebrations: balls, galas, cocktail parties. Emphasis on the cocktail.
The Round Robin Bar is just a stone's throw from the White House, and it's a Washington mainstay. At the moment, it's bedecked in red, white and blue bunting. And Jim Hewes is a veteran bartender there of nearly 30 years standing. He's wearing a matching bow tie. Dapper.
JIM HEWES: Welcome to the Round Robin Bar at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. And you are standing here in the oldest bar in continuous operation in Washington, D.C.
LYDEN: A capital fixture since the mid-1800s, the Willard Hotel is synonymous with presidential history. Abraham Lincoln slept in the original Willard the night before his inauguration. President Grant enjoyed drinks in the lobby. Today, the bar is adorned with portraits of past presidents, and Jim Hewes is inspired.
HEWES: You hear these stories, and that legacy continues. You know, the history is all around us. I'll say to people, you know, you're walking in a shadow of giants.
LYDEN: In honor of the inauguration, Jim Hewes has come up with a very special drinks menu distilling that presidential history into 44 cocktails. Our first president, George Washington, favored Madeira, a fortified wine from the Mediterranean. President number 35, John F. Kennedy, would kick back with a Beefeater martini served with olives.
And as for our current president, his drink, the Blue Hawaiian, is more of an homage to his homeland than something we have even one scintilla of evidence showing he actually enjoys.
HEWES: This is a beautiful drink. You know, you feel like you're, you know, looking at the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific. And, of course, this honors the president's heritage in terms of growing up in Hawaii.
LYDEN: Absolutely. I can almost hear the surf moving.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HEWES: I had heard that the president has a taste for fine-aged tequila. So we've taken a little bit of Patron tequila with some blue Curacao and some fresh lime juice, and then rigorously shake this up. And then I'll actually strain this over crushed ice and, of course, serve it with fresh lime and some pineapple.
HEWES: It's a wonderful cocktail, a light libation of extraordinary character.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LYDEN: Tell me about the Orange Blossom. Who's that for?
HEWES: Rutherford B. Hayes. And in 1877, he enters the White House. Thing is is that he was a teetotaler. He did not drink. In fact, his wife was known as Lemonade Lucy because she was always serving lemonade at functions. So the gentleman who was the head of the Washington Press Corps actually bribed White House staffers to spike the oranges with distilled spirits.
LYDEN: So they'd actually drink gin inside oranges?
HEWES: They would actually do - they would actually cut a hole, dig it out a little bit and pour a little gin in there and then put the plug back in.
LYDEN: Wow. Wow.
HEWES: And there you go. You got yourself a - an Orange Blossom special, which is gin. We're going to use Plymouth gin, and I'm going to use fresh squeezed orange juice. It's a very simple drink.
LYDEN: Fresh squeezed. Mm.
HEWES: So a little bit of an orange liqueur and a dash of orange bitters. Vigorously shake this, marrying all the flavors. And there we have it.
LYDEN: I'm going to sample it. Mm. That is lovely. Thank you very, very much.
HEWES: Let's try a hot buttered rum.
HEWES: And a hot buttered rum is a cocktail in our collection for John Quincy Adams.
LYDEN: Our sixth president. He becomes president in 1825.
HEWES: This is a wonderful cocktail, especially at the time of inaugurals, weather tended to be rather inclement. A hot toddy or a hot buttered rum was a very, very popular drink at the time made with Caribbean rum, fresh spices from the islands and fresh fruit.
HEWES: I've added my dark aged...
LYDEN: Cruzan rum.
HEWES: ...Cruzan rum, pat of butter.
LYDEN: A generous, beautiful pat of butter.
HEWES: And what we have is a hot buttered rum...
LYDEN: Wow. That is lovely.
HEWES: ...which President Adams would have enjoyed in the morning.
LYDEN: Oh, this is just delicious, Jim. This drink is like hot apple pie.
HEWES: And where's the ice cream?
LYDEN: So do you have a presidential hangover cure?
HEWES: I've been making this for years. Fresh lemon, fresh ground ginger - or you can use ginger ale - and soda water and then top it off with bitters, either Angostura bitters or my preference is Peychaud bitters, which is the Louisiana bitters. Can't beat it.
LYDEN: Well, Jim Hewes, you have made our visit to the Round Robin bar at the Willard Hotel here in Washington, D. C., on this inaugural weekend so much fun.
HEWES: Thank you for joining us here.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRINKING WINE SPO-DEE-O-DEE")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Drinking that wine turns day into night. When they get drunk they want to bump and grind. Whooping and a hollering several nights. When they get drunk they begin to fight. Drinking wine, spo-dee-o-dee...
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.