Columnist, Food

Super Tuesday, the moment of truth for several among our wacky band of presidential candidates, has come and gone. Who’s still standing? Who will soon retreat home to nurse wounds — and possibly a large drink?

To help passionately committed voters mourn or celebrate right now, I thought it would be fun to have cocktails keyed to particular candidates. I reached out to mixologists with geographic connections to the runners and asked for recipes. They could be funny, cheeky or respectful, but there were rules: The ingredients had to be relatively easy to source or substitute for, and the drinks had to taste good — partisan if they chose, but the cocktails had to stay palatable.

Some of them are way better than they have any right to be.

Of course, many candidates might rather be caught taking a bribe than drinking a fancy cocktail. Craft cocktails, after all, probably seem an effete quaff of the elites, one that would immediately lose the candidates a vast number of the kind of voters who were really annoyed back in 2003 when poor John Kerry ordered a Philly cheesesteak with Swiss cheese.

But we, the people, can enjoy them without fear of media reprisals. In fact, depending on who wins this thing, I may try to down enough of them to sleep through the next administration.


I Could’ve Stayed Home and Made Cocktails. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

I Could’ve Stayed Home and Made Cocktails (Hillary Clinton)

Source: Gina Chersevani, Buffalo & Bergen, Washington

I was glad Chersevani, Beltway insider and Washington cocktail queen, included a little bitter amaro and grapefruit peel in her drink for Clinton. If I were the former secretary of state, I’d be just a little sour and bitter by now; Not only has she had years of questions about her hair and her emails and her husband’s dalliances, but this is the second time she has gone from being the clear, anointed choice of her party to ending up with a real fight on her hands, and this time a fight with an older white guy who — despite those qualities — came to be viewed as the hip, youth-inspiring alternative to Scoldy Establishment Mom.

Not fair! If I were Clinton, I might just have shaved that mature hairdo by now and tried going with an Imperator Furiosa look, just to remind people how long I had been out there gladiating.

Chersevani has taken some of those sour feelings and whipped them into a perfect Clintonian quaff: smart, peppery and sophisticated, shaken with egg white to produce a smooth, unruffled surface. It might even look good in a pantsuit.

Optional garnish: A rolled-up dollar bill from her much-maligned speaker’s fees.


The Bernie Bee’s Knees. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

The Bernie Bee’s Knees (Bernie Sanders)

Source: Justin Gellert, Caledonia Spirits, Hardwick, Vt.

It’s probably particularly off-base to make a fancy cocktail to represent Sanders, who in his amiable rumpledness seems like a guy who’d just order whatever beer’s on tap, and probably buy one for the guy next to him, too.

But to go local — as I felt Sanders would — I tapped Gellert, who came back with a habanero-heated riff on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail, made more honeyed with his company’s Barr Hill Gin, a cocktailers’ favorite that has raw honey added before bottling. To many Vermonters, Gellert says, Sanders is already the bee’s knees. And even if the results weren’t so good for Sanders on Tuesday, with that habanero shrub, you’ll still be feeling the burn/Bern.

Optional garnishes: Powdered unicorn; a tantalizing whiff of something that could be authenticity or just higher taxes.


The RMS Kasich. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

The RMS Kasich (John Kasich)

Source: Lara Mielcarek, Velvet Tango Room, Cleveland

Kasich has spent so much of his time in the Republican debates seeming like the nice guy, the good guy, the tempered guy who, in an indy comedy, would get the girl and open a Frogurt. Unfortunately, this Republican primary hasn’t been a sensitive indy comedy. It’s been more like “Animal House” meets “Rambo: First Blood.”

And in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, Kasich opened his nice-guy mouth wide enough to jam his foot into it, not least when he referred to an early campaign when women “came out of their kitchens” to support him. That remark, in combination with his action to defund Planned Parenthood, had bartender Lara Mielcarek thinking “throwback.” She turned to a classic Punch Romaine — not coincidentally, the drink that was served to passengers at the last dinner aboard the Titanic — for inspiration for her brandy, champagne and citrus beauty. The drink, she notes, “is sure to get you as sedated and doe-eyed as a housewife grown thick-tongued at midday.”

Optional garnish: The New York Times’s editorial board’s endorsement of Kasich, flamed gently and uselessly over the surface of the drink .


That Boy Ain’t Right. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

That Boy Ain’t Right (Ted Cruz)

Source: Brad Hensarling and Jason Pollard, the Usual, Fort Worth, Texas

Given his tea party roots, I thought Cruz’s drink might end up with some actual tea in it, but instead, Hensarling and Pollard came up with a drink of ingredients representing qualities they would like to see more of in Cruz. The mezcal stands for “tolerance and appreciation of our Mexican brothers and sisters,” Hensarling says, and the bonded apple brandy is a nod to the Founding Fathers, who — unlike the notoriously combative senator — “were able to see past their differences and work together to create a Constitution that serves as a nonpartisan backbone for the legal and political system that governs our daily lives.”

Assembled, it’s a delicious and balanced drink. “When flavors in a cocktail just shout over one another rather than play off each other in a complementary fashion, it’s hard to get a good idea of what the drink is really supposed to be about,” says Hensarling, who clearly watched the debates. 

Hensarling even made a pitch for drinking it in moderation, with friends. “A few libations can certainly improve any conversation, but too many and you’ll start sounding like Ted Cruz, whose voice is really nothing more than the resonating echoes of the most ignorant banjos that have ever been picked in the heart of the South.”

Optional garnish: A tiny floating raft of Canadian poutine hidden under a Texas bluebonnet.


Ryesing Up, Reaching Out. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Ryesing Up, Reaching Out (Ben Carson)

Source: Aaron Joseph, formerly of Wit & Wisdom, Baltimore

Rather than incorporate some sleep-inducing herbal tea into his take on Carson as the Calmest Guy in the Padded Room, Joseph played off the retired neurosurgeon’s recent “fruit salad of their lives” comments. The name of the drink, he notes, “is inspired by the dedication Ben Carson has shown for improving himself from his underprivileged background and becoming what we now see today, an educated individual who has used his hands and mind to help improve those around him.”

Joseph brought in multiple citrus fruits — a nod to Carson’s current home state of Florida — to a cocktail with a base of rye whiskey from Maryland, where Carson spent much of his life. Joseph notes the drink’s smooth and clean taste reflects Carson’s demeanor. (As bad as Carson has often been as a candidate — surely Tuesday did him in? — that calm voice is one I’d want to hear if I was going under the knife. Unfortunately, it’s a voice we’ve barely been able to hear during the screech-fests of the debates, and when we did hear it, too often it was saying inscrutable things about the pyramids and how its owner stabbed someone.)

Optional garnish: A caffeine pill.


El Candidato. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

El Candidato (Marco Rubio)

Source: Brendan McMahon, Beuchert’s Saloon, Washington

McMahon, who owns a Capitol Hill bar but lives part-time in Rubio’s home state of Florida, drew on Rubio’s Cuban heritage for a riff on the classic El Presidente, using an aged Havana Club and citrus.

I would love to make a deeper Rubio connection here, positing that this cocktail stays robotically on message until the mid-palate, when it suddenly realizes this is its make-or-break moment, develops a personality and starts delivering powerful bursts of flavor, of the above- and below-the-belt variety. (“You know what they say about men with small hands,” Rubio said of Trump at a recent rally.)

But I can’t: This drink is good all the way through.

Optional garnish: Serve with repeated reminders that Barack Obama knows exactly what he is doing.


The Towering Inferno. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

The Towering Inferno (Donald Trump)

I opted to take Trump myself. There’s just so much to work with: the anger! The orangeness! The hair! But there were so many questions. Should I use only white spirits, to express Trump’s not-even-dog-whistle-anymore appeal to a disgruntled white demographic? Should it be carbonated, to suggest the Trump bubble everyone thought would have burst? Given his demagoguery, should his drink incorporate any non-native ingredients?

For a quick consult, I turned to Brooklyn-based drinks historian David Wondrich. “To be honest, his drink should probably be based on Polish vodka and Mexican agave nectar, while denying that those are the ingredients,” Wondrich said in an email. “And it should be very, very white, with a huge orange twist.”

I ended up going with Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, a troublingly popular spirit that appeals to the basest instincts of our palates with its powerful blast of cinnamon. Then, because Trump’s so oddly angry for a guy born into millions, I cut it with bitter Cynar and topped it with milk. Unstirred, there’s a Trumpish wall between the milk and the liquor. A few drops of Peychaud’s on top visually represent the GOP bloodbath that has resulted from Trump’s campaign. A dangling ringlet of orange peel or a yellow floof of cotton candy finishes the towering inferno.

Optional garnish: A smear of New Jersey bridge tar, left behind when Chris Christie tried to glom onto it.

Allan is a Hyattsville, Md., writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter: @Carrie_the_Red.