Donald Trump Doesn’t Drink Alcohol — But These Former Presidents Were Basically Alcoholics

Being the most powerful person in the country doesn’t make you immune to misfortune, hardship, or bad decisions.

Plenty of former U.S. presidents have lived with mental illnesses, cheated on their wives, and did a questionable job of raising their kids. In comparison, their drinking habits probably don’t seem so terrible.

Many presidents, like Donald Trump, have said no to alcohol while working in the White House. Many others might have served while intoxicated. Let’s take a quick look at presidents who drank a lot. Most people don’t know that No. 11 had issues with drunk dialing.

1. Grover Cleveland

Cleveland was a regular at his local bar before entering politics. | National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Before entering the White House, everyone knew where to find Grover Cleveland: At the bar. He reportedly “cut back” on his drinking when he entered politics, but not by much. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71 after suffering heart trouble, which might have resulted from his years of alcohol overuse.

Next: He was known for his drinking — and his questionable sexuality.

2. James Buchanan

James Buchanan

Buchanan could polish off multiple bottles of wine in a sitting. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

Besides possibly being America’s first gay president, James Buchanan was also known for his intimate relationship with booze. He could, and would, drink multiple bottles of wine in a single sitting, and then some, and never seemed bothered by it.

Next: He loved alcohol enough to let Americans have it back.

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

| Keystone Features/Stringer/Getty Images

The president known for repealing Prohibition didn’t do so just to please his country’s people or boost America’s crumbling economy. He apparently loved alcohol, both making and drinking it. He still somehow managed to serve as president for over a decade.

Next: He drank a lot, but still couldn’t compete with his colleagues.

4. James Madison

James Madison

Madison drank a pint of whiskey a day. | GeorgiosArt/iStock/Getty Images

Believe it or not, drinking a pint of whiskey a day wasn’t considered “excessive” when Madison and company were busy forming a country. By today’s standards, that’s a lot. He probably could have benefited from cutting back.

Next: The Secret Service probably shouldn’t have let him do this.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson


LBJ often drank and drove. | Gene Forte/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Apparently, Johnson preferred to drink while driving. He kept off public roads while doing it, but was rarely seen circling his ranch without Scotch.

Next: He cared more about policy than bourbon.

6. Harry Truman

Harry Truman buck Stops here

Truman was a fan of bourbon. | Truman Library

Truman wouldn’t be the first — or last — president to treat the White House like an open bar. Unlike other presidents with questionable drink preferences, he didn’t let his love of bourbon affect his decision-making. He shut down distilleries nationwide in 1947 to help feed Europe.

Next: His whiskey habit could be the reason he didn’t serve a full term.

7. Warren Harding

Warren Harding posing with his dog, Laddie

Harding’s White House never ran out of whiskey. | Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

As a senator, Warren Harding helped vote Prohibition into law. He didn’t exactly play by the rules, though, even as president. The White House apparently never ran out of whiskey while he served his term, which could be why he didn’t quite make it three years as president before suffering a fatal heart attack.

Next: He drank so often he got a special nickname.

8. Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren

Van Buren was a famous drinker. | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

They called Martin Van Buren “Blue Whiskey Van.” The fact that he could drink a lot of whiskey without getting “drunk” long enough to earn that nickname probably means he drank it a lot, often, for a very long time.

Next: He used a lot of “substances.”

9. John F. Kennedy

JFK John F Kennedy golfing

JFK wasn’t known as much of a drinker. | U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons

He’s known for a lot of things — mostly his love of women other than Jackie and a long history of drug use (officially for back pain, unofficially for everything else). He isn’t necessarily known for drinking a lot, but his alcohol use likely doesn’t seem like such a big deal considering everything mentioned above.

Next: Did this president celebrate too hard?

10. John Adams

President John Adams

Adams spent a ton of money on alcohol. | Wikimedia Commons

How does one celebrate national independence? Alcohol, obviously. Like many of his fellow Founding Fathers, John Adams liked to drink. He also liked to party, and had a habit of spending more money than he could afford on booze he probably didn’t need.

Next: This is no way for a president to behave.

11. Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon during Watergate

Nixon’s drinking got worse during the Watergate scandal. | Wikimedia Commons

Being president is enough to drive anyone to drink excessively. The added stress of the infamous Watergate scandal apparently upscaled Richard Nixon’s drinking, escalating the habit enough that historians have noted multiple “drunk-dialing incidents.”

Next: He continued drinking even as he lay dying.

12. Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant portrait

Ulysses S. Grant | The White House Historical Association

The Civil War general became known for depending on alcohol to get through the worst of his days (wouldn’t you?). He even self-medicated with wine, and other substances, while dying of cancer so he could write his memoirs pain-free.

Next: He quit drinking before people started calling him “Mr. President.”

13. George W. Bush

President George W. Bush poses for photographers

Bush was a heavy drinker until 40. | Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images

The second Bush to serve in office has been very open about his past alcohol addiction. It wasn’t a problem while he actively served as president, though. He quit drinking on his own after turning 40, because it “competed” with his relationships with his wife and daughters.

Next: You’d drink, too, if what happened to this president happened to you.

14. Franklin Pierce

President Franklin Pierce

Pierce turned to alcohol after his son’s death. | National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images

Just before his inauguration, Franklin Pierce and his wife watched their 11-year-old son die in a tragic train accident. He apparently turned to alcohol as his only support system, since his wife was inconsolable after losing a third child.

Next: Alcohol completely changed this president’s appearance.

15. Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur

Arthur gained over 40 pounds while in office. | National Archives / Handout/ Getty Images

Think drinking isn’t the reason you’re gaining weight? Chester Arthur apparently drank so much in the White House that he gained over 40 pounds during his presidency. The overall stress of the job probably didn’t help, either.

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