January 20: Inauguration Day

InaugurationHad there been a presidential election last year, then today would be Inauguration Day! However, Inauguration Day wasn’t always on January 20th.

George Washington first inauguration was on April 30, 1789. However, his second inauguration was March 4, 1793; and it became traditional for Inauguration Day to be held on March 4. This meant that there were four months between the election of a president and his inauguration. Back in the late 18th century, this four month gap was actually fairly practical, as the newly elected president and members of Congress, newly appointed cabinet members and all associated families and staff would have to get their affairs in order before making the often long and difficult journey to Washington D. C.

However, as time went on and transportation technology improved, this four month gap became superfluous. Some thought that four months was far too long for a lame duck president and Congress to remain in power. More importantly, this long gap in time didn’t allow the new president to address the issues he was elected to deal with, and some of these issues were extremely time sensitive.: Take for instance, Abraham Lincoln having to wait four months to deal with the problem of Southern secession.

By the twentieth century, it became more apparent that this four month delay needed to be amended. In March of 1932, at the height of the Great Depression (when a quick and smooth transition from one president to the next was especially needed), a constitutional amendment was proposed that would move the start of a president’s term to January 20. Unfortunately, this amendment was not ratified until January 23, 1933 and so that year Franklin Roosevelt became the last president to be inaugurated on March 4 and then when he was reelected in 1936, he became the first president to start a term on January 20.

While there won’t be another inauguration for two years, you can still celebrate what would Inauguration Day with an El Presidente. This classic cocktail was invented by Eddie Woelke, an American bartender at Havana, Cuba’s Jockey Club. The cocktail was created as a tribute to Cuban President Gerardo Machado, and Machado was apparently quite keen on the drink as he once offered an El Presidente to Calvin Coolidge when Coolidge made a diplomatic visit to Cuba. Coolidge politely declined Machado’s offer, as the U. S. was in the middle of Prohibition at the time.

El Presidente

  • 2 ounces Rum
  • 1 ounce Curacao
  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1 dash grenadine

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tomorrow: “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

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