'Party Like A President' Recalls Mixology, Mischief Inside Oval Office : The Salt In his new book, author Brian Abrams chronicles the drinking habits and debauchery of former presidents.
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'Party Like A President' Recalls Mixology, Mischief Inside Oval Office

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'Party Like A President' Recalls Mixology, Mischief Inside Oval Office

'Party Like A President' Recalls Mixology, Mischief Inside Oval Office

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  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On this Presidents Day, here's something you might not know about President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

BRIAN ABRAMS: He was an awful bartender.

GREENE: That's Brian Abrams. His new book is called "Party Like A President: True Tales Of Inebriation, Lechery And Mischief From The Oval Office." Presidents Day, not usually a big party holiday, but why not? Just avoid letting FDR make your drinks.

ABRAMS: He would mix the oddest combinations of garnishes with his, you know, martinis, cocktails. And I think that he really had a fondness for the mixology culture that was born in the Prohibition years.

GREENE: He just wasn't good at it.

ABRAMS: No, it was terrible. I mean, there was a Supreme - I think it was a Supreme Court justice who poured his cocktails in a potted plant almost every time.

GREENE: (Laughter). If this was going on in the White House, this kind of drinking, I mean, is there a moment - a president, an incident - that sort of stands out to you and things just got out of hand in that building?

ABRAMS: The one to talk about before any is Andrew Jackson's inauguration in March of 1829. You know, we're talking about someone with no college education. He's a military hero. You know, his blue-collar type constituents really looked up to him. And so when he was being sworn in, constituents from Tennessee would go to Washington to meet him. The trouble was since John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson had two very combative elections, there was no real communication between both administrations in terms of security. So after Jackson had his swearing in on the Portico, as far as he knew, he and just a select few others were going to go inside for, you know, some punch. There was no one to hold back the rest of the crowd.

GREENE: There were no adults to kind of protect this place?

ABRAMS: No. There was a lot of crystal that was broken, people standing on chairs to get a look at the president. He's getting, you know, pulled right and left by people. So staff essentially, they started opening up the windows and they dragged pails and buckets of this orange, spiked punch out into the front lawn and that definitely cleared out the White House. And I think Jackson even escaped through a window, too.

GREENE: One question not answered for me in this book is which president you'd want to have a beer with.

ABRAMS: I think I'm going to have to go with Gerald Ford.

GREENE: Really?

ABRAMS: I think so because at least we could talk about movies and music. If I said Chester A. Arthur, I don't know exactly what the conversation would sound like.

GREENE: (Laughter).

ABRAMS: But in the case of Ford, his first Air Force One flight, he is about to get his photograph taken. He had a martini in front of him because Ford generally drank two gin martinis on every Air Force One flight. And the photographer steps in and grabs the stem of the martini glass and says, oh, excuse me, Mr. President. Let me just get this out of the way first. I mean, they must have loved him.

GREENE: You mean it's kind of charming that he hadn't even thought of that. He was just being a regular guy holding a martini and is like, you know, whatever. Take my picture.

ABRAMS: Yeah. He's unassuming. I mean, there was also - his first month or two in office, there was a dinner at the White House for the king of Jordan, and he was caught on the dance floor dancing to Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

(SOUNDBITE OF JIM CROCE SONG, "BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN")

GREENE: Good song to dance to. Brian Abrams, the book is called "Party Like A President: True Tales Of Inebriation, Lechery And Mischief From The Oval Office." It was great talking to you. Thanks for taking the time.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN")

JIM CROCE: (Singing) Little south side of Chicago...

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