I remember the first time my uncle taught me the art of fall tailgating. It was at the old Foxborough Stadium and I had no idea what was going on. But we had food, and there were drinks… I was 8, and had only just learned how to make a gin and tonic. The food was great and it was the focus of the event: pulled pork, smoked ribs, raw oysters. The drinks were much simpler: a cooler of beers and maybe a little wine, as it was the early ’90s and beverages lacked inventiveness.
Fast forward two decades and the beverage component of tailgating has finally caught up to the food program—sort of like the food and drink scene as a whole. Some strong examples are Bloody Marys, Shandies and punches. As the season moves along you might even include hot chocolate or mulled cider (just bring a pot to keep on one side of the grill).
Though I view prep as the key to a successful tailgate, you must still consider the styles of drinks that your guests will most enjoy and attempt to offer a range. If the tailgate is to start in the morning, I often consider having both a Bloody Mary and a sparkling drink. Additionally, I try to keep the alcohol content lower, as everyone wants to enjoy the rest of the day! Bloody Marys can mask the alcohol content as the mix tends to be quite heavy, so instead of putting in two ounces of alcohol per glass, use just one.
As fall approaches, I find myself going to the farm stand and farmers' market less than I did in June or July when I was craving New England bounty. However, fall is actually one of the most abundant and diverse times at the farm stand. Instead of buying tomato juice for your Bloody Marys, go to the farm stand and ask if they have any “seconds” tomatoes. These are usually bruised or not super pretty, but they work perfectly puréed. Grab a jug of cider and some pears, the remains of the celery harvest and a pumpkin, and we’ve got your fall cocktails covered!
Last but not least, do not forget ice! This is one of the most important ingredients for great cocktail construction. I prefer to use Kold Draft cubes in a restaurant setting, but the large 1-inch OXO tray cubes work great at home—prep a bunch of them in advance and keep them in your freezer for ample ice supply!
This story appeared in the Fall 2016 issue.