The President That Allegedly Helped Maxwell House Coffee Get Its Slogan

U.S. presidents live in infamy for many reasons, some of which they likely wished forgotten. But only one is forever tied to a commodity as famous as coffee. FAO, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States, calls coffee the most widely traded tropical product globally and among the most highly consumed drinks ever. Decades before Starbucks romped across America with its fresh-roasted java beans and trendsetting coffee houses, a sitting U.S. president in 1907 reportedly uttered five words that launched a coffee craze and far outlived most modern-day marketing campaigns. 

Those words, per Culinary Lore, were "good to the last drop," supposedly uttered inside Nashville's Maxwell House Hotel. Unless you're a political factoid, that president's name may be a surprise. Let's just say that he's also famous for being the youngest person elected to the presidency, the first to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and the only U.S. president to inspire the now-common and cuddly teddy bear, according to History. Yes, we're talking about Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.

Is the Maxwell House slogan story true?

Various iterations of the President Roosevelt coffee story exist, but history gets a little fuzzy after its original account. As the story goes, President Roosevelt visited the Maxwell House Hotel in 1907 and, after tasting the hotel's signature coffee brand, enthusiastically declared it "good to the last drop" (via Culinary Lore). The Tennessee State Museum states the story is likely a myth but was nonetheless used extensively in marketing campaigns by Maxwell House. However, the Kraft Heinz Company still perpetuates the story, relating it as part of the Kraft Foods Group history in a 2014 press release.

A deeper dive reveals President Roosevelt's personal connection to coffee. Smithsonian Magazine notes that Roosevelt was an avid coffee drinker from an early age, being fed strong coffee to help relieve a severe asthma condition. His grown children embraced his lifelong habit, together launching the Brazilian Coffee House on West 44th Street in the theater district of New York City, which became the "it" place for gatherings by journalists, artists, theatrical performers, and renowned musicians.

When the family's interest wandered to other ventures by the late 1920s, the Maxwell House company showed an interest in buying the Roosevelt clan's coffee venture. It wasn't to be, and the Maxwell House Hotel met its demise on Christmas night in 1961 when it went up in a fury of flames, per the Tennessean. But the famous coffee, the famous president, and the dubiously infamous phrase survive in American legend.