"Am I allowed to buy the president a drink?"
It’s satisfying in a “Celebrities! They’re Just Like Us!” kind of way to think about presidents bellying up to the bar, shooting the bull, and knocking back a cold one. From the moderate drinkers to the booze hounds, from dives to five-star hotel bars, Leaders of The Free World have graced watering holes throughout the United States and beyond. For President’s Day, here are 10 former haunts of our booze-swilling POTUSes (POTUSi?).
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Condado Vanderbilt Hotel Bar
WHERE: San Juan, Puerto Rico
This opulent hotel opened in 1919 and quickly became a gathering spot for celebrities and dignitaries, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, who liked his martinis, much to Eleanor’s dismay. He drank in the bar with the picture windows and stunning ocean view. Today, that bar remains among the swankiest on the island.
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson once lived at the Driskill Hotel, and even when they weren’t living there, they hung out there quite a bit. The Driskill is the site of their first date (she wasn’t into him), the place they waited to learn that LBJ had won the Texas governorship, and the place they waited to find out who had won the 1964 presidency (LBJ won in a popular-vote landslide). The elegant (and haunted) hotel is famous for both its ties to LBJ and its ghosts. The hotel has an LBJ suite and a cool bar where the 36th president sipped his scotch.
WHERE: Amherst, Ohio
Imagine you’re drinking a beer after work at your local dive bar in Northeast Ohio and the door opens and Barack Obama just…walks in for a beer, some wings, and a pizza. When this happened in 2012, a patron asked the Secret Service, “Am I allowed to buy the president a drink?” and then got him a Bud Light. At the end of the evening, Obama paid the $64 tab himself and left with a Ziggy t-shirt.
WHERE: Boston, Massachusetts
While on the stump in Boston back in ’92, Bill Clinton jumped behind the bar at Eire Pub to serve drinks. He wasn’t the first presidential hopeful to make an appearance there: In ’83, Reagan visited while campaigning in Bean Town. Disappointingly, both men held their drinks up for the photo opp and then left them on the bar.
University Club Bar
WHERE: College Station, Texas
After George HW Bush died, his former bartender from the Texas A&M University Club Bar gave an interview about the 41st president to KBTX. Then-undergrad Mark Faries, now an A&M Associate Professor, said the elder Bush liked Dewar’s and water. He remembers Bush holding his empty glass behind his back and slowly walking back toward the bar, so he could get a refill without interrupting his conversation.
WHERE: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Back in 1986, still in his hard-partying days, George W. Bush celebrated his 40th birthday at this upscale resort. The next day, he went for a run and was so hungover from all the Silver Oak Cabernet (the addition of high altitude probably didn’t help), he quit drinking cold turkey. Laura Bush had been trying to get him on the wagon for a long time and has gone on the record saying he “couldn’t hold his liquor.”
Air Force One
WHERE: In the Clouds
Ok, it’s not a bar or restaurant, but this story is too good to omit. One of the Manson girls, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, tried to assassinate Gerald Ford in 1975. Her gun clicked but didn’t fire. “It wouldn’t go off!” Fromme cried before Secret Service grabbed the pistol from her. Afterward, on Air Force One, Ford settled his nerves with a martini. He was, after all, the president who once famously said, “The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful, and a snootful at the same time?”
WHERE: Savannah, Georgia
On Saint Patrick’s Day 1978, a little over a year into his presidency, Jimmy Carter stood on this horseshoe-shaped bar and made a speech. He was acknowledging Saint Patrick’s Day in a city that goes crazy for Saint Patrick’s Day, but he was also visiting his favorite watering hole and paying his respect to Pinkie Master, neé Luis Christopher Masterpolis, who opened the bar in 1951, helped Carter become the governor of Georgia in 1970, and died in 1977. The speech-on-the-bar thing was somewhat out of character for the president who made it illegal to have hard liquor in the White House.
Ronald Reagan Pub
WHERE: Simi Valley, California
In 1984, Ronald Reagan visited O’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen, Ireland, where his ancestors came from. The pub had a backroom called “The Ronald Reagan,” and Reagan hung out there and drank a Guinness, then later mused, “John Kennedy got an airport, Lyndon Johnson got a space center, but I got a pub named after me.” When O’Farrell’s closed 20 years later, the contents were shipped to the Reagan Library. Today they’re inside the Air Force One Pavilion, serving as the Reagan Library’s snack shop.
“Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer.” This is how I’ll remember Tony. He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him. pic.twitter.com/orEXIaEMZM— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 8, 2018
Bún Chả Hương Liên Noodle Shop
WHERE: Hanoi, Vietnam
You know that thought experiment that goes, “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you pick?” You may as well just point to the iconic photos of Obama and Anthony Bourdain drinking Hanoi beers together on blue plastic stools in a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in Vietnam. It was May 2016 and Obama was traveling through Asia gathering support for his Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Two years later, Bourdain would be gone.