How to Tailgate with Non-Beer Drinks

September 25, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Why should beer have all the fun? Mix up your tailgating routine with these alternatives.

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‘Tis the season to tailgate. You know the routine -- you'll fill coolers with game day provisions, load up the car, stake your claim in the parking lot, and get comfortable, sipping and snacking, while you wait for kickoff. There'll be burgers, wings, chips, dips, and most definitely beer -- lots of beer. Throwing back a few cold ones while digging into greasy game food is one of the best parts of tailgating, but some drinkers want a little variety. 

More: All the goods you need for your next tailgate, from koozies to snacks to accessories.

Who says beer has to run the show? There are a handful of other drinks, alcoholic or not, that are just as enjoyable sipped outside in the crisp fall air of a parking lot with your friends.

Here’s how to shake up your tailgate drinks:

Freeze your wine.
We don’t care what anyone says -- rosé season does not stop at Labor Day. We’re still sipping this cold, crisp, pink gem of a wine through the fall and won’t let anyone tell us otherwise. To make sure you're drinking your rosé at its coldest, freeze your favorite bottle in ice cube trays and stack them in your cooler to keep them cold. Bring a second bottle to pour over them.


Stash your flask.
A flask is a perfect vehicle for a cocktail, especially a traveling one. Pre-mix your favorite stirred cocktail into your flask, tote it to the parking lot, pour over ice, and enjoy. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

We’re particulary found of a flasked Negroni, but we also suggest its close relative, the Boulevardier. Or a Martini, a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, or whatever stirred cocktail strikes your fancy.


Say "Olé."
A pitcher drink is a great idea because it’s made in batches and travels well. Sangria is the perfect pitcher drink for tailgating, since it’s best when made ahead of time, when you're prepping all of your other game day food. Make a big batch -- you don't even need a recipe -- then chill it, and pack it along with wine ice cubes to keep it cold without watering it down. 

More: Good drinks call for good snacks, like this endlessly adaptable snack mix. 

Jello shots.
Maybe (hopefully?) you haven’t taken one since college, but why not throw caution to the wind and mix up a batch? We won’t hold it against you if you go the classic boxed-gelatin route, but this is the perfect opportunity to up your jello shot game. Use unflavored gelatin to allow for full flavor control -- think fresh juices, fruit purées, iced tea, and lemonade. Then set and serve them in style in ice cube trays


Play bartender.
Mix up your own sour mix and become the bartender of your tailgate. Prepare the mix with sugar, water, and citrus juice the night before (Serious Eats has a great recipe), then bottle it and tote it along to your party along with a few accompaniments to get you shaking and stirring. A bottle of gin, club soda, and some mint are all you need to turn the sour mix into a handful of cocktails and mocktails. Just add gin and you’ve got yourself a Gimlet. Top that with club soda and call it a Tom Collins. Or throw in some mint to make a Southside. Ditch the gin and you’ve got a refreshing alcohol-free drink that's much better than the fountain sodas you'll see inside the stadium. 

What's your favorite drink to tailgate with? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sarah D
    Sarah D
  • Jessica
Sheela Prakash is a food and wine writer, recipe developer, and the author of Salad Seasons: Vegetable-Forward Dishes All Year and Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food. Her writing and recipes can be found in numerous online and print publications, including Kitchn, Epicurious, Food52, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, The Splendid Table, Simply Recipes, Culture Cheese Magazine, Clean Plates, and Slow Food USA. She received her master's degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, holds Level 2 and Level 3 Awards in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), graduated from New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, and is also a Registered Dietitian.


Sarah D. September 29, 2014
I agree with Jessica down there with the non-alcoholic options. This article's title sort of let me to believe that, "Oh my goodness! It's an article about something fun to drink that's not alcoholic." Sadly, there wasn't one non-alcoholic idea here. I think it's pretty sad that we (as a people) can't do anything without alcohol. Sheesh.
Jessica September 25, 2014
If people are driving to a tailgate, there are a lot of places where all of these tips (except the sour mix) would violate open container laws - I would like to see more tips on prepping to mix on site. Or, some more non-alcoholic options.