Thursday, July 30, 2009

Distilled Spirits Council Lobbies for Own High Profile Happy Hour

After seeing the boost to beer brought on by President Obama's meeting with a renowned scholar and a Cambridge, Mass., police sergeant over various American beers, the Distilled Spirits Council has begun a furious, behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to get the commander-in-chief to publicly partake of hard liquor.

Obama met on Thursday with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Sgt. James Crowley. The president drank Bud Light, an unsurprising choice given that it is the best selling American beer. Gates, apparently also watching his calories, went with Sam Adams Light, a Massachusetts-based brew, while Crowley indulged in a more exotic Blue Moon, a Belgian-style beer produced by Coors. Vice President Joe Biden, a last-minute addition, was forced to partake the non-alcoholic Buckler as a public service nod intended to avert criticism that the event was a pro-alcohol public relations coup.

A White House source said that Obama's favorite brew is actually Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, a German wheat beer. But that particular libation was ruled out because "the name was unpronounceable and because of the pretentious way you're supposed to swirl the bottle when you pour it into a glass. It would have been a bigger public relations disaster than him waxing on about arugula."

In addition to drinking, Obama also sought to deflate the biggest race-based controversy of his presidency. But the biggest winners were the beer companies, particularly Bud Light producer Anheuser-Busch, which was acquired by the Belgian-Brazillian beer company InBev last year. His consumption of that one beer is the equivalent of five Super Bowl commercials, said one euphoric Anheuser-Busch marketing executive.

Mindful of that free publicity, the Distilled Spirits Council has been intensely lobbying for Obama to partake of a mixed drink, such as a martini, in a similarly high-profile setting.

One possibility is for Obama to have a martini with England's prime minister, Gordon Brown, according to a source at the council. An even better public relatious coup would be if he could drink a "Vesper" martini with James Bond actor Daniel Craig. That drink includes gin, vodka and vermouth. Even though James Bond has a decidedly British origin, the United States's close relations with England would make such an indulgence forgiveable.

"The White House has made clear that pina coladas, margaritas and mai tais are out. No umbrella drinks or anything that's too girly or has a funny sounding name like screwdriver," said the Distilled Spirits Council source. "A gin and tonic is a possibility."

Hard liquor isn't the only alcoholic beverage seeking favorable publicity. The Wine Institute, a California-based wine advocacy group, is trying to persuade Obama to imbibe some locally grown wines when he meets with lawmakers to discuss the health care reform package. They are leaning heavily on two key Democratic Golden State lawmakers -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, whose committee oversees the health bill -- to persuade the president to partake.

In addition to being a boost to the domestic economy, the wine advocates are stressing that drinking red wine in moderate quantities can help prevent heart disease, and thus is an appropriate drink over which to discuss health care.

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