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An election-sized pour of Town Branch bourbon in a Saban whiskey glass.

Win or lose, here's what to drink as election day drags on

Bartenders and wine experts on how they'll toast the end of a long campaign.
06/11/2020 - 05:50

OTHER than government officials, the people most in charge of how your election night - and the days after - goes are likely to be bartenders, sommeliers, and wine store employees. They've seen customers mark the best moments of their life and drown out the worst ones.

That range of emotion will be on full display after the votes are cast. Maureen Shannon, bar manager of Philadelphia's In the Valley, was working at a wine shop in Brooklyn, New York, on the night of the 2016 election. "In the beginning of the evening, many excited clients purchased Champagne, Pét-Nat (quaffable natural fizz), and mixers for their election cocktail parties at home."

Then, she says, the results started coming in.

"As the night progressed and the mood changed, I saw an uptick of people just buying bottles of whiskey. I was definitely left with a feeling of how celebrating turned to coping within the span of a few hours."

For this year's election season, most wine and spirits professionals won't be behind the bar, because of pandemic restrictions. Instead they'll be at home, watching the action like everyone else. So we asked 16 experts to tell us what they'd pour for themselves if their presidential choice were to prevail - and what they'd reach for if it flops.

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Lynnette Marrero, bar director at the Llama Inn in Brooklyn, says if her candidate loses, she'll sip a 20-year aged fino from El Maestro Sierra in Jerez, the famed sherry region in Spain. "It's female-owned, and I will probably be planning on how I move there," she says.

No matter who emerges victorious, Bobby Heugel, co-founder of Houston's Anvil Bar & Refuge, will still have the coronavirus pandemic on his mind. "I've drunk the wine cellar dry, coping with Covid-19's impact on the industry. There's nothing left," he says. "This is why we have martinis." He'll drink them "with reinvigorated hopes that we'll reopen one day."

As for Shannon, if her candidate comes up short, she has a different plan from most. "I don't think I'll be drinking," she says. "To just 'cope' in this situation isn't the way. I'd rather fight."

Karl Franz Williams, owner,
67 Orange Street, Manhattan

If we win: "I'm definitely going to be drinking my favourite cocktail, a Sazerac. I'll make it with a split base, with D'Ussé Cognac XO and Ardbeg Scotch in a glass rinsed with absinthe."

If we lose: "I'm downing that whole bottle of XO."

Braithe Tidwell, wine director,
Brennan's, New Orleans

If we win: "A French 75, a very popular New Orleans cocktail. It's a tongue-in-cheek choice, as it's in the middle of both candidates' ages."

If we lose: "It's time to break out the high-proof spirits, like absinthe. If you've purchased bubbles, thinking your candidate would win, combine them for a Death in the Afternoon."

Ruben Morancy, wine director,
Alta Adams and Adams Wine Shop, Los Angeles

If we win: "Bruno Paillard rosé premiere cuvée, a delightful bubbly made by Alice Paillard, as my goal is to support women winemakers."

If we lose: "I'll drown my sorrows in clairin, Haiti's national drink, mostly consumed by the poor as an alternative to rum - or a few shots of Barbancourt is typically what my family drinks when someone dies."

Todd Thrasher, owner, Tiki TNT and
Potomac Distilling Co, Washington

Whether we win or lose: "Nov. 3 is going to be a bumpy ride, so I have to make sure my drink will be something familiar. I will be having straight El Dorado 25, a vintage rum for the vintage candidates. The tasting notes describe who these characters are: rich, smooth, a little fruitcake, and a bit spicy."

Victoria James, sommelier,
Cote, Manhattan

If we win: "A magnum of Champagne will do the trick. Preferably from a grower like the three generations of women who run J. Lassalle."

If we lose: "A barolo from my family home of Piemonte, like Giulia Negri's Barolo Serradenari. A bottle that will transport me far, far away."

Bobby Stuckey, co-owner, Frasca
Food & Wine, Boulder, Colorado

If we win: "I've squirreled away an incredible bottle of Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos Domaine Raveneau, my wife Danette's favourite wine."

If we lose: "Chances are we'll still drink the Chablis to help empower us for the next four years. And in defeat, there will be a few extra Anchor Steams on the side."

Joaquin Simo, co-owner,
Pouring Ribbons, Manhattan

If we win: "This will call for the OG of cocktails - an Old-Fashioned. I may break out the good stuff - the original bottling of Parker's Heritage reserve bourbon, a 127.4 proof whiskey."

If we lose: "It may be high time to stop messing around with all those pesky mixers, ice cubes, and rocks glasses, and simply start drinking some Del Maguey Wild Jabali right from its green bottle. I may also be booking a one-way flight to Oaxaca to spend some time helping distiller Rogelio Martinez Cruz."

Cindy Liu, bartender,
Comstock Saloon, San Francisco

If we win: "I'll enjoy 2015 Clos du Val Hirondelle Estate Vineyard cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley and pair it with a juicy steak."

If we lose: "Something stronger that won't get me hungover so I feel even worse. A few Glen Grant 18-year-old Scotch highballs can cheer me up and keep me hydrated."

Donavan Mitchem,
beverage director, Moneygun
and Saint Lou's Assembly, Chicago

If we win: "My celebratory cocktail - or two - is a French 75. It's a party in a flute, and who doesn't love bubbles when they celebrate?"

If we lose: "I'll certainly be reaching for Jack Daniels No 7. Nothing drowns sorrow like Tennessee whiskey straight from the bottle. There are songs written about it, because people know that pain."

Tonya Pitts, sommelier,
One Market, San Francisco

If we win: "A dry aromatic white wine like the 2017 Dr Konstantin Frank Gruener Veltliner Finger Lakes is energetic and super expressive, with racy acidity. This will definitely keep you awake."

If we lose: "I'll need something to give me hope and still see the beauty in the world - 2002 Champagne Pommery Cuvée Louise. The wine is rich, supple, and pretty, with notes of plum and litchi and a long finish."

Anthony Baker,
cocktail professor, Momentum
Mixology, Queens, New York

If we win: "I'll be in the mood for something bubbly and refreshing, so I've created the Presidential 75. It's similar to the French 75, but instead of gin, I use Iichiko shochu, a light spirit made from barley - with botanicals but without that huge juniper flavor."

If we lose: "I'll be in the mood for something very strong. But I won't drink straight alcohol. I need something to keep me in good spirits. My Old-Fashioned Election is pretty much a typical Old-Fashioned with smooth, dark rum - because rum puts me in a good mood - instead of whiskey."

Orlando Franklin McCray,
bar director, Nightmoves, Manhattan

If we win: "I'll be making a batch of martinis at home. If I'm celebrating, I'll pour a half-portion of my batched martini over ice in a tall glass and add tonic. Great with lemon zest and an olive, either way."

If we lose: "Bubbles can be good for consolation, too, but if I need to go to bed quickly, I'll have a few of those martinis."

Lynnette Marrero, bar director,
Llama Inn, Manhattan

If we win: "I'll enjoy some Hibiki 17 that a regular left. There's 6 ounces left."

If we lose: "If there was more than 6 ounces of Hibiki 17, I'd say the same. But I'm going to drink a 20-year aged fino from Maestro Sierra bodega in Jerez."

Belinda Chang, sommelier
and host, Boozy Brunch, Chicago

If we win: "I will share Sucker Punch spicy bloody mary mix in the streets. Not only is it delicious on its own, I love supporting a small family business from my hometown, Chicago. And no matter what the outcome, we are all going to need the energy and our vegetables and vitamins to survive post-election. I'm also going to open the most precious bottles in my stash at the moment: a four vintage vertical [wines produced in successive years] of Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle. It will be a four-bottle celebration of the next four years!

If we lose: I am likely going to chug the bottle of Blue Nun that has been sitting on my pantry shelf. I will most certainly be feeling blue. And this particular bottle is a 1999 Qualitatswein, so who knows what state it is in. But it will be a moment for wine carpe diem, right?" BLOOMBERG