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The Art of Tailgate Cocktails

When it wins, it pours. And when it loses. It just pours a lot.

Zach Rau

And so let it be written, friends, that man (or women, no discrimination here) does not tailgate with beer alone.

While it is important to moderate, we’re all prone to craving something beyond hops, barley and water. And with our help, you can even take yourself beyond splashing some whiskey in your Coke or Sprite.

Here’s a list of some easily prepped cocktails that can upgrade your tailgate in new flavor-packed ways:

The Chinese Bandit

Do I really need anything beyond the name here? Really simple — just shake some bourbon with this simple syrup spiced with star anise and Chinese five spice. You can make the syrup in advance, even freeze it in advance. Simple syrup can keep, but the spices will give it a shelf life.

An Authentic Daiquiri

This doesn’t have to come in a styrofoam cup. Syrup, fresh lime juice, rum. Shaken. Worth the time and tremendously refreshing.

The Mimosa

Sure, you may THINK this is just champagne and orange juice, but our own Christina Stephens is here to explain how wrong that is:

When it comes to tailgating, mimosas are great — the sparkling wine is fancy as hell, they have a lot of Vitamin C and some fruit so they’re basically health food, and after enough of them it doesn’t matter that you didn’t bother to use fine champagne.

But you know what is better? A JUG of Mimosas (with extra alcohol) that you don’t have to mix one by one for people. Let’s re-purpose (read: booze up) a bridal shower punch to make mimosas for your tailgating crowd.


Two quarts of your favorite OJ

1-2 chilled bottles of sparkling wine, depending on how fun you want your tailgate to be (go with something that’s dry and not too sweet, if you can)

1/2 cup of orange liqueur per bottle of champagne (cheap triple sec is fine, Grand Marnier or Cointreau works if you’re fancy)

2 liter bottle of ginger ale

Fresh orange slices or blueberries as an optional garnish

How to make:

Literally pour everything into a big beverage cooler (that can hold at least 2 gallons) or one of those bougie glass drink dispensers. (The one with the weird stand that you use twice a year.) Drop in a few ice cubes and stir to mix. Serve over ice with garnishes – fresh blueberries will give the drink a subtle purple and gold vibe.

To make this less dignified (or adjustable for different palates), put out a chilled bottle of champagne for folks to top off their drinks with. Also: please invite me.

The Sazerac

A New Orleans staple, and one that shouldn’t be hard to make in batches if you just prep the simple syrup ahead of time.

The has a strong recipe here:

Approximately 1 teaspoon absinthe (I used Pernod absinthe, but regular Pernod liqueur, Herbsaint, Ricard, or any other pastis will work as well)

2 ounces rye whiskey (I used Old Overholt)

1/2 ounce simple syrup (for a super-fast, super-easy recipe, see our previous post)

1 to 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon peel

The lemon is optional if we’re keeping this simple. Coat your glass with the absinthe/Pernod/Herbsaint, then combine the whiskey, simple syrup and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into the coated cup.

The Bloody Mary

Okay, so here’s the deal: in my experience, everybody likes their bloody a little different. Probably because most hangovers are different. I’ve heard them all from beef broth, to pickle juice to barbecue sauce. We all like our different seasoning levels and flavors — personally I like to go a bit heavy on the lime and worcestshire. So here’s a couple of tips I’ve picked up for however you like to mix your own hair of the dog:

  • Make your mix the night before: this goes double if you’re heavy on the horseradish. You want to give your flavors some time to come together, and horseradish especially will make the mixture hotter over time. Keep it in a sealable pitcher, and then you can just have it ready to pour when you hit the tailgate.
  • Infuse your vodka: the best bloody I’ve ever had used Absolut Peppar vodka, but infusing your own, whether it’s with jalapenos, peppercorns, or even bacon (just make sure you strain out any of the grease particulates), all you need is a large mason jar and about a week or so to let the flavor come together.
  • Cheap liquor is a false economy: look, Grey Goose is $10 hooch in a $30 bottle, and you can save your money. But even when you’re covering the “flavor” of vodka with all of that tomato juice and spice, there’s a point of diminishing returns if you go with the cheapest of rotgut. Find something comfortably in the teens in terms of price, and you’ll be solid.