The best part of any football game is the tailgating session that happens before kickoff. Sorry, sports fans, but you know it’s true! Perhaps you’d like to cheers to that sentiment? But with something other than beer? Here’s another controversial statement for you: We like serving cocktails at a tailgate—instead of beer. A pitcher of, say, sangria just makes the whole thing feel a little more special than a keg or cooler full of canned beer does.
We’re guessing you agree with us. And so we’ve rounded up five of our favorite cocktail recipes that are perfect for tailgating this time of year.
When we think of fall, we think of tailgating (in case you hadn’t noticed) and apple cider. So why not pair all three together? Of course, spiked apple cider makes more sense for a tailgate. This cocktail gets its cozy punch from Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy, France) and regular brandy. And the maple syrup adds one last fall-y touch. This recipe makes a chilled drink, but we also suggest letting it simmer in a slow cooker on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
- Ice cubes as needed
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) apple cider
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Calvados
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) brandy
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- 4 thin apple slices, cut sides rubbed with lemon juice
Fill a large cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add the apple cider, Calvados, brandy, lemon juice and maple syrup. Cover with the lid and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into 2 highball glasses filled with ice. Garnish each glass with 2 of the apple slices and serve immediately. Serves 2.
2. Bloody Bull
Nearly everyone’s heard of the Bloody Mary, but only some know about the Bullshot. (If you haven’t heard of it, that’s okay, we’ll fill you in: It’s basically the same recipe as a normal Bloody, only the tomato juice gets swapped out for briny beef stock.) Our point? This hybrid concoction—with tomato juice and beef bouillon—is sure to surprise even the most seasoned tailgaters. To make it, just combine eight ingredients over ice and shake. If you’d rather pack a little lighter, try Diane’s Bloody Mary Mix—you’ll just need to add vodka and you’ll be ready to go.
- 2 fl. oz. vodka
- 2 fl. oz. tomato juice
- 2 fl. oz. beef bouillon
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- Ice cubes
- Pinch of freshly ground pepper
- Pinch of celery salt
- 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 1 lemon wedge for garnish
Pour the vodka, tomato juice, beef bouillon and lemon juice into a shaker two-thirds full of ice cubes. Add the pepper, celery salt, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Add the lemon wedge.
The thing about sangria is that it can feel refreshing on a hot day or perfectly autumnal when the temps dip, depending on what you add to it. This recipe features optional pomegranate seeds, which we strongly advocate for during the fall. One batch serves six, so making enough for a crowd is super easy. Just make sure you get a big-enough bowl and don’t forget the ladle.
- 1 bottle (750ml) dry, fruity red wine
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) brandy
- 2 Tbs. sugar 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- 2 limes, thinly sliced
- 1 orange, thinly sliced
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) sparkling water
- chilled Ice cubes as needed
- Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
In a large pitcher, combine the wine, brandy, sugar, lemons, limes and orange and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sparkling water and stir gently to combine. Fill 6 glasses with ice and pour the sangria into the glasses. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately. Serves 6.
This recipe gives you some choices: You can use any type of mint (though, we vote for spearmint, which has a sharper, more intense flavor compared to other mints), you can pick between ginger ale or tonic water, and you can even leave out the booze. If you’re looking for a festive fall-themed drink, go with the ginger ale. Prep a bunch of the mint when you set up your tailgate and you can offer people refills all the way up until kickoff.
- 2 Tbs. packed fresh mint leaves, julienned
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Ice cubes as needed
- 2 bottles (each 1 quart) ginger ale or tonic water
- Bourbon, to taste (optional)
In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, crush the mint with the sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. In each individual glass, place a generous 1/2 tsp. of the crushed sugared mint. Add several ice cubes and pour in the ginger ale. Add a splash of bourbon to each glass. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.
Plenty of other tailgaters will be mixing up bellinis or mimosas, but we’d rather save the bubbles for a nicer affair and go with vodka instead. This easy-to-make drink can be turned into a pitcher cocktail and really is ideal for those early morning college football tailgates. You know, the ones you have to set an alarm for.
- 2 1/2 fl. oz. vodka
- 4 fl. oz. fresh grapefruit juice
Pour the vodka and grapefruit juice into an ice-filled highball glass. Stir briefly. Serves 1.