Running the world is hard work. And after a long day negotiating treaties, posturing over trade, and hobnobbing with political elites, sometimes a world leader just needs a drink to relax. But how a president, prime minister or monarch chooses to sate those needs says a lot. Here, the preferred drink of some of the modern world’s most powerful leaders, from bygone boozers to sitting drinkers.
How to Drink Like a World Leader
Queen Elizabeth Pregames Lunch
The fortified wine called Dubonnet was around long before Queen Elizabeth II, but she made it (and her go-to Dubonnet Cocktail) trendy. The Queen picked up the habit from her own mother and mixes two parts Dubonnet to one part gin, with a slice of lemon for garnish. Elizabeth is so committed to the beverage, she drinks one as an aperitif before lunch every single day. It’s good to be the queen.
Shinzo Abe Drinks All Kinds of Sake
When Prime Minister Abe hosted President Obama in Tokyo, the Japanese leader showed his American colleague the best sushi the town had to offer: Sukiyabashi Jiro, the sushi master made famous by Jiro Dreams of Sushi. And what elegant, expensive sake did Abe choose to pair with their sushi? Kamotsuru Daiginjo Tokusei Gold, which retails for about $12. Abe’s got that high-low play down pat.
Vladimir Putin Spills the Goods
You can’t work your way to the top of Russian politics without attending more than a few vodka-soaked power lunches. Either due to personal distaste or to keep his wits about him, Putin was known to avoid slamming back vodka shots by ditching his drinks in flower pots. No matter what you think of his geopolitical tactics, no one can condone the number of plants Putin probably killed with alcohol.
Angela Merkel Does Her Homeland Proud
No German leader would be able to gain the trust of the people without a beer stein in hand. The country’s brewing tradition is integral to its international reputation, so it’s natural for Merkel to grab a pint between meetings or even host intercontinental summits over a few Hefeweizens.
François Hollande Doesn’t Compromise on French Wine
If you’ve ever mistakenly referred to American sparkling wine as Champagne in front of a Frenchman, then you understand just how serious the country is about its wine. A good Frenchman himself, President Hollande drinks his fair share of the 14,000 bottles stored in the cellar beneath his residence at the Elysee Palace. He even once cancelled a meal with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani because the Islamic leader refused to allow wine on the menu.
Kim Jong Un Imports Crazy Amounts of Booze
For someone who so often proclaims North Korea’s dominance over all other nations, Kim Jong Un sure loves foreign booze. While his people barely survive on harsh rations, the dictator imported over $600,000 worth of booze last year. Russian vodka, whiskey, wine, Champagne and rum from Northern Europe are some of Kim’s favorite vices. Here’s a new nuclear negotiating strategy: Cut off the booze supply.
Teetotaler Donald Trump Trumps up Trump Vodka
According to The Donald himself, Trump has never tasted Trump Vodka, or any other liquor for that matter, as he claims to have never had a drink in his life. Though the spirit was discontinued in the U.S. in 2011, it is still available in Israel where it’s particularly popular during Passover—it’s one of the few kosher vodkas on the market.
Barack Obama Brews His Own Beer
Joining the elite ranks of booze-producing American presidents, which even includes George Washington, Obama became the first president to brew beer in the White House, forever cementing himself as a true drinker’s president. To his credit, Obama also enjoys beverages beyond his own ale and porter, like a Martini that outdoes James Bond’s.
Bill Clinton Goes to the Dark Side of British Booze
Clinton got bit by his favorite drink, the Snakebite, during his time studying at Oxford. The mix of half lager and half cider is so notorious that many bartenders in the U.K. refuse to make it, even for a former president. Given Clinton’s reputation as a freewheeling president, we’d love to have shared a dubious pint with him back in his college days.
David Cameron Takes a Load off With Guinness
The simple joys are the best, and no one knows that better than former Prime Minister David Cameron. He told Shortlist magazine that drinking Guinness and watching darts is his favorite activity. Sounds like a pleasant way to pass a day at Number 10.
As Prince William Grows Up, So Do His Beverages
Like any great leader, Prince William has evolved after receiving a royal education in drinking and public figure-hood. As a youth, he enjoyed shots of sambuca and Stella Artois. Then, he graduated to high end cocktails like the $170 treasure chest cocktail at the Mahiki nightclub. After settling down, he’s eased into married life with Guinness. Should he become king someday, we assume he would take up Dubonnet, just like gran.
Kate Middleton Imports Jack
The Duchess of Cambridge injects some down to earth multiculturalism into the royal family with her choice of spirits, Jack Daniels. While Kate apparently enjoys sipping Tennessee royalty, she also has a penchant for a cocktail called the Crack Baby—passion fruit juice, vodka, Chambord and Champagne—which she picked up from her brother-in-law, Prince Harry. The Duchess even had the Crack Baby served at the reception of the royal wedding.
Prince Harry Parties Hard
The list of royal family members we’d like to party with goes: QEII, then Prince Harry. The prince’s poison of choice is Cîroc, and he’s even been known to partake in a Vodka Redbull, for those late, late nights when you just have to get royally blasted.
FDR Shook the First Dirty Martini
Yeah, yeah, he helped win WWII. He led America for an unprecedented four terms. He revived the American worker after the Depression with the New Deal. But in our books, Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishment was inventing the Dirty Martini. He mixed up a batch of the briny Martinis at the Yalta Conference, a meeting with Churchill and Stalin (hearty drinkers in their own right), using a coffee pot.
JFK Drank Frozen Daiquiris
Kennedy may have had a mixed relationship with Cuba, but he was clear about his feelings for the country’s signature drink, the Daiquiri. Going against Camelot’s classy reputation, the Daiquiri served in the White House in 1960 was not the most refined variation. Jackie Kennedy’s own recipe called for a slushie blender-full of rum, lime, frozen limeade and falernum.
LBJ Liked Scotch on the Go
Even the leader of the free world can enjoy a simple drink like a Scotch and Soda. Johnson prefered Cutty Sark, which he would drink out of a foam cup as he cruised around his Texas ranch in a convertible, stopping only for refills from Secret Service agents.
Richard Nixon Snuck Away for Navy Grog
Tiki bars are all about escapism, so it makes sense that Nixon would sneak off to Trader Vic’s in Washington to get away from the politics for a while. As a Navy man himself, Nixon most enjoyed the chain’s Navy Grog, a heady mix of rums, grapefruit juice, honey syrup and seltzer. The drink is powerful enough to make a Commander-in-Chief forget even the most pressing of international crises, at least for a little while.
Winston Churchill Watered Down His Whisky
In the face of immeasurable military odds and international chaos, Churchill maintained his stiff upper lip by remembering the good things in life. The essentials of life, according to the PM, are “Hot baths, cold Champagne, new peas and old brandy.” While he gained a reputation for high liquor tolerance, his daily booze of choice was actually pretty watered down. His children noted that Churchill’s daily Papa Cocktail consisted of Johnnie Walker Red topped with ice and water, which he would sample throughout the day.
Boris Yeltsin Drank a Bit Too Much
The drinking habits of the first president of the Russian Federation are a bit of a sore subject in the country. Yeltsin had a knack for drunkenly acting out while on the international stage, from taking control of an orchestra, to dancing his heart out, to requiring help standing. There was even that time he got so drunk at the White House that the Secret Service found him outside in his underwear trying to hail a cab to get some pizza.
Fidel Castro Preferred Chivas to Rum
Cuba may be known for its rum, but Castro preferred his spirits from abroad. Away from the pressures of the Communist people, he would sip his favorite drink, Chivas Regal, on the rocks. At least he could be sure the lowball wouldn’t explode like a cigar.
Margaret Thatcher Kicked Back with Scotch
While she may have been known as the Iron Lady for her steely, business-first attitude, Thatcher still liked to unwind with a glass of the hard stuff. At public events, the former PM enjoyed Cointreau, but after a hard day’s work, she liked to kick off her shoes with a good Scotch and Soda.