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

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

I Could’ve Stayed Home and Made Cocktails (Hillary Clinton)
Source: Gina Chersevani, Buffalo & Bergen, Washington, D.C

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.


1 serving

Tart, peppery and complex, this drink mixes rye, citrus and amaro and then froths it all into a smooth, sophisticated sip. If you double the recipe, you can still use just 1 egg white.

If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella, use a white from a pasteurized egg, such as Davidson’s brand.

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey, such as Wild Turkey 101
1/2 ounce Amaro Montenegro (see headnote)
1 ounce fresh pink grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce cinnamon-pink peppercorn syrup (see NOTE)
1 large egg white (see headnote)
3 pink peppercorns, for garnish
Dash Angostura bitters, for garnish

Combine the rye whiskey, amaro, the grapefruit and lemon juices, the cinnamon-pink peppercorn syrup and the egg white in a cocktail shaker. Seal and shake vigorously until frothy, then add ice, seal and shake until well chilled.

Double-strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. Drop in the peppercorns, then dash the bitters across the top of the drink.

NOTE: To make the cinnamon-pink peppercorn syrup, combine the peel of 1 pink grapefruit, one 3-inch cinnamon stick, 2 tablespoons of pink peppercorns, 2 cups of sugar and 13/4 cups of water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Strain through a few layers of cheesecloth into a heatproof container; cool, then refrigerate. (Discard the solids.) The yield is 2 cups (enough for 32 servings).

The Bernie Bees Knees

The Bernie Bees Knees Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post

The Bernie Bee’s Knees (Bernie Sanders)
Source: Justin Gellert, Caledonia Spirits, Hardwick, Vermont

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.


1 serving

This is a modified Bee’s Knees, made with the honey-touched Barr Hill Gin from Vermont and a hint of heat. The habanero shrub can be purchased at Vena’s Fizz House in Portland.

2 ounces Barr Hill gin (may substitute another citrusy gin)
3/4 ounce honey syrup (see NOTE)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
10 drops of Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub (see headnote)
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin, honey syrup, lemon juice and habanero shrub; seal and shake until well chilled.

Double-strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon peel.

NOTE: To make the honey syrup, combine 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the honey dissolves. Remove from the heat; cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until well chilled (and up to 2 weeks). The yield is a scant 1 cup.

The RMS Kasich

The RMS Kasich Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post

The RMS Kasich (John Kasich)
Source: Lara Mielcarek, Velvet Tango Room, Cleveland, Ohio

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.


1 or 2 servings

This is a frothy, fizzy, luxurious riff on the classic Punch Romaine, the drin reportedly served at the last dinner on the Titanic.

If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella, use the white from a pasteurized egg, such as Davidson’s brand.

2 ounces brandy, such as E&J brand
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see NOTE)
Up to 10 drops orange blossom water (optional)
1 large egg white (see headnote)
Chilled champagne or other brut-style sparkling white wine
2 twists of lemon peel, for garnish

Combine the brandy, fruit juices, simple syrup, the orange blossom water, if using (to taste), and the egg white in a cocktail shaker; seal and shake vigorously until frothy.

Add ice to the shaker; seal and shake gently until the mixture is well chilled and the egg has emulsified. Double-strain into chilled cocktail (martini) glass(es), top with the chilled champagne or sparkling white wine and garnish each drink with a twist of lemon peel.

NOTE: To make the simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate until chilled through; store indefinitely.

That Boy Ain't Right

That Boy Ain’t Right Dixie D. Vereen/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.


1 serving

This is a delicious combination of mezcal and apple brandy, enlivened by agave nectar for sweetness and the barest hint of salt.

1 ounce good-quality mezcal, such as Fidencio
1 ounce apple brandy, such as Laird’s
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 bar spoon (1 teaspoon) agave nectar
2 dashes Abbott’s Bitters (may substitute Angostura bitters)
Pinch salt
Twist of lemon peel, for garnish

Combine the mezcal, apple brandy, sweet vermouth, agave nectar, bitters and salt in a mixing glass; stir just long enough for the agave nectar and salt to dissolve, then add ice to fill. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.

Garnish with the lemon peel.

El Candidato

El Candidato Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post

El Candidato (Marco Rubio)
Source: Brendan McMahon, Beuchert’s Saloon, Washington, D.C.

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.


1 serving

This riff on the classic El Presidente combines flavors of Florida and Cuba – though if you can’t get 7-year-old Havana Club, you can use a good, similarly aged rum.

1 large piece orange peel (little or no pith)
4 whole cloves
2 ounces aged rum, such as Havana Club Añejos 7 Años (see headnote)
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Dolin brand
3 dashes Creole Bitters (can substitute Angostura bitters)

Pierce the piece of orange peel with the cloves, then hold it over a mixing glass while you pour the rum so that it first hits the orange peel and then falls into the glass. Reserve the clove-studded orange peel (for garnish).

Add the sweet vermouth, Creole bitters and enough ice to almost fill the glass; stir for 30 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.

Light the studded orange peel on fire over the drink, then quickly drop it in.

The Towering Inferno

The Towering Inferno Dixie D. Vereen/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.


1 serving

This is a mix of belligerent cinnamon whiskey and bitter amaro, topped with milk that makes it undeservedly palatable.

1 1/2 ounces cinnamon whiskey
3/4 ounce Cynar
3 ounces whole milk
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Long twist of orange peel, for garnish (may substitute tuft of yellow cotton candy)

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour the whiskey carefully down the inside wall of the glass, then the Cynar; then do the same with the milk, pouring slowly. (This way, the milk and the liquors will stay layered in the glass.)

Top with the bitters, then garnish with the twist of orange peel.