Illustration by Dave van Patten

Teetotalers in Chief

If elected, Donald J. Trump would join an intimate clique of non-boozing American presidents

Donald J. Trump may be a lot of things, but boozehound isn’t one of them. In fact, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her love for a good cocktail, Trump allegedly has never had a drop to drink and doesn’t do drugs (unless you count Kentucky Fried Chicken). While the majority of former presidents have ranged from social drinkers to raging alcoholics, if Trump were elected he would join a small club of teetotalers who occupied a very dry Oval Office.

Here’s a look back at commanders-in-chief who somehow weren’t driven to drink at all by the world’s most stressful job.

Millard Fillmore (13th president, 1850–1853)

A known health nut, Fillmore took a temperance pledge in his 20s, when he was already serving in the New York State Assembly. He once told college students in Buffalo, “I have seldom tasted wine and seldom offered it to a guest.” This last bit wasn’t entirely true: While he didn’t imbibe himself, Fillmore was known to offer guests an elaborate selection of spirits — including more than 100 gallons of whiskey as a gift to the emperor of Japan in hopes of solidifying a new naval alliance.

Abraham Lincoln (16th president, 1861–1865)

Alcohol was both a blessing and a curse for Honest Abe. Lincoln was born to a bourbon factory worker and later in his life he ran a “grocery store” that was essentially a bar. His opponent Stephen Douglas tried to use that fact against him in their infamous debates, but Lincoln managed to deflect the attack (while Lincoln did in fact sell liquor, Douglas was a known alcoholic).

Lincoln was able to walk an important line between appealing to the growing temperance movement and not being so moralistic as to shame drinking voters. In a speech to the Washington Temperance Union, Lincoln said, “victims of [alcoholism] were to be pitied and compassioned, just as are the heirs of consumption and other hereditary diseases. Their failing was treated as a misfortune and not as a crime, or even as a disgrace.”

Lincoln’s own distaste for booze had more to do with the fact that it left him feeling “flabby and undone” than a strong moral compass. Lincoln allegedly didn’t drink, smoke or chew tobacco, though White House historians believe he sometimes indulged in a sip of champagne at official functions in order to seem fun.

Rutherford B. Hayes (19th president, 1877–1881)

Hayes’ wife, known as “Lemonade Lucy,” was a strong advocate of temperance who deemed the White House smoke- and drink-free. Hayes wasn’t a teetotaller his whole life, but he kept with his wife’s wishes in the White House. Fortunately Hayes — considered by historians to be one of America’s worst presidents for allowing the South to go full Jim Crow — didn’t run for re-election.

Theodore Roosevelt (26th president, 1901–1909)

If there is one president who embodied the masculine ideals of his time, it was Teddy Roosevelt. He overcame childhood illness to scale the Swiss Alps on his honeymoon, wrote 38 books and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in mediating the treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War. It seems only natural that the man who said things like “walk softly and carry a big stick” would be swigging whiskey on the regular, but Roosevelt was in fact actually a light drinker at most. He was known to occasionally enjoy a mint julep, but was far from a boozehound. After his presidency he successfully sued a newspaper for claiming he had been a heavy drinker in the White House.

William Taft (27th president, 1909–1913)

William H. Taft, who weighed around 354 pounds at his inauguration, was known more for his love of food than drink. His presidential aide once wrote, “The President never takes anything to drink at all, but is most profligate in making others imbibe.” Though Taft wasn’t much of a drinker, he also wasn’t leading the charge for the temperance movement. Following the advice of predecessor Teddy Roosevelt, Taft did his best to stay clear of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and any other anti-alcohol political groups. While Taft is a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, it’s only because of the 1909 “Taft Decision” that codified the market classifications for whiskey still used today.

Jimmy Carter (39th president, 1977–1981)

Carter was one of the few modern presidents to openly declare a dry White House, allowing only wine at formal events. Carter was stringently against smoking, as both his parents died of cancer, but he did partake in the occasional drink. He was a great proponent of treating alcoholism as an illness; as governor of Georgia, he implemented drug recovery programs.

George W. Bush (43rd president, 2001–2009)

A known alcoholic in his younger years, Bush never hid the fact that he was a reformed drinker after having gotten a DUI in 1976 and briefly losing his license. When the DUI was trotted out by opponents in the 2000 election as an “October Surprise,” it didn’t make a dent in support from Bush’s Evangelical base, who found his religion-fueled recovery a perfect redemption narrative. “My problem was not only drinking; it was selfishness,” Bush wrote in his 2010 memoir Decision Points. “Faith showed me a way out.”

Though it was often reported that Laura Bush gave W. the ultimatum, “It’s either Jim Beam or me,” that’s not quite how it happened. The former first lady told Oprah in 2010 that Bush came to the decision after a 40th-birthday bender and quit cold turkey.

And what about Trump?

Trump’s abstinence from alcohol might actually be one of the sincerest parts of his campaign. In 2015 Trump told people that the death of his older brother Freddy, who died of alcoholism at age 42 in 1981, had a “profound impact” on his relationship with alcohol and other substances. The Donald has reportedly never drunk nor smoked; he doesn’t even have coffee. “I just stay away from those things because [Freddy] had such a tremendous problem,” Trump told Esquire. “Fred did me a great favor. It’s one of the greatest favors anyone’s ever done for me.”