Head of State

Our 16th president had an interesting relationship with America’s native spirit. It’s partially thanks to whiskey that we call him “Honest Abe.” While it’s not known if Lincoln particularly enjoyed whiskey, once remarking that spirits made him feel “flabby and undone,” he certainly approved of them. When he found out that his often-successful General Grant was an enthusiastic whiskey drinker, Lincoln was famously quoted as saying, “But can you tell me where he gets his whiskey? Because, if I can only find out, I will send a barrel of this wonderful whiskey to every general in the army.”

While this is undoubtedly a fun anecdote, what does whiskey have to do with “Honest Abe?” Before pursuing a career in law, Lincoln was a young man who was uncertain what he wanted to do with his life. He and another friend purchased an old stock of goods on credit and used them to open a store. While they offered basic food and sundry items, they also sold whiskey, which quickly became one of their more popular goods. Eventually, they acquired a license that allowed them to sell individual drinks, and that’s how one of our most illustrious presidents spent his youth tending bar.

Unfortunately, the business never really prospered, and Lincoln’s partner dipped a little to heavily into the store’s whiskey. He passed away at a young age, leaving Lincoln to settle his debts, which totaled about $1,100. At that period in time, that was an almost insurmountable sum for a small business owner, but through hard work and perseverance, Lincoln actually managed to pay it all back. This’s how he gained the moniker “Honest Abe.”

Givens, Ron. Bourbon at Its Best: The Lore & Allure of America’s Finest Spirits. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy, 2008. Print.