Hot Dram! How to Behave in Washington a la Whiskey Punch Lessons

If you’ve been enduring the range of cold and bitter weather that’s been our most unwanted holiday ‘gift’ this season, your thoughts may be straying to what’s warm and comforting.

Nothing fills that bill as well as a cup of hot whiskey punch.  Easy to make in a mug or in a larger party punch bowl, it’s one of the best cocktails for these chilly winter days.  Indeed, its Irish heritage is highlighted in the January 2011 issue of Esquire Magazine.

Yet missing from David Wondrich’s delightful story is the often overlooked lesson about how American politicians should and shouldn't behave. 

Well, back in 1829 Andrew Jackson was getting ready to celebrate his inauguration as America’s newest president.  Old Hickory, as the president was called by both friend and foe, was cut from a very different cloth than his more elegant predecessors.

He was not a gentleman farmer nor was he a Harvard educated New England lawyer.  Unlike Thomas Jefferson, he did not care a fig about fine French wines or gourmet cuisine. Instead he liked a shot of good ol' American corn whiskey in a rustic rural tavern with local farmers and veteran soliders.  This was not an Englishman who became an American by revolution. 

He was, instead, a different kind of American, born and breed on native soil – strong, raw, ready to create an new nation from an unknown future.

Well, after Jackson was inaugurated, he opened the White House to everyone and anybody who wanted to come to the in-house reception. It seemed at the time a fair and very republican idea.

Thousands of undisciplined and unprincipled citizens poured in and, fueled by the warmed whiskey punch served, nearly destroyed the White House.  Rugs, curtains and irreplaceable fine china were all broken and destroyed as every ‘guest’ fought to get something just for him self.  

These days, as the composition of the U.S. government shifts, one can only hope that some of the lessons learned then will be remembered now by the many new and untried senators and representatives coming to Washington. 

Disorder and self-serving choices are not activities that serve democracy well any more then they are welcome at any banquet reception.  Manners and civility matter.

Hopefully, a hundred and eighty plus years later we’ve all learned to get along well enough with each other to be able to embrace Jefferson's hope that we'll “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor".

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010

Posted on January 3, 2011 and filed under Spirits.