Teddy Roosevelt Built A Mint Garden To Enjoy His Favorite Cocktail On Demand

Black and white photo of Theodore Roosevelt with a background of Mint Juleps and mint leaves
Black and white photo of Theodore Roosevelt with a background of Mint Juleps and mint leaves - Static Media/Shutterstock/Getty

Almost every U.S. President has had a drink of choice. George Washington's favorite cocktail was a Cherry Bounce and he also had a whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson was partial toward wine, and Harry Truman drank a shot of bourbon with his OJ. While Theodore Roosevelt was only the occasional drinker (and wasn't afraid to take legal action and sue anyone who wrote otherwise), when he did drink, he liked to sip on a classic Mint Julep and used mint grown in the White House garden to make them.

It's rumored that the 26th president would use this drink as more of a carrot to get his cabinet members to come visit the White House and play tennis. The courts just happened to be right next to the garden where the mint was grown. As "Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking" author Mark Will-Weber explained at a discussion recorded for the U.S. National Archives, TR wasn't a casual tennis player, either. It could be a downpour and he would still want to carry on. Mint Juleps were a reward to those cabinet members who were brave enough to accept the invite, hence, why his cabinet became known as the "Tennis Cabinet."

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Teddy Roosevelt Loved Mint Juleps First

Three Mint Juleps on a tray
Three Mint Juleps on a tray - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

But what about the Mint Julep was so enticing for those living during Teddy Roosevelt's presidency? The sweet minty drink that was imbibed on the White House lawn used sugar cubes, rye whiskey, a splash of brandy, and of course, muddled mint leaves. However, Roosevelt's recipe for this drink might cause a food fight among those from Kentucky, who prefer this cocktail to be made with only sweet bourbon in place of spicy rye whiskey and brandy. In any case, the Mint Julep is definitely a cocktail with a rich history.

Today, the refreshing drink is traditionally served over crushed ice in a little metal glass. But Roosevelt was certainly a trendsetter when it came to this boozy concoction. In 1938, well after his presidential term ended in 1909, the Mint Julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Though, sadly, some resident White House chickens gobbled up his famous mint garden during Calvin Coolidge's term in the 1920s. If you like Mint Juleps, you may also want to try a perfectly-muddled Whiskey Smash, which is very similar to this Southern favorite, but adds some orange bitters and is served over cubed ice.

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