"Sip, Cheer, Repeat: Unveiling the Top 5 Cocktails of the 2023 College Football Tailgate Season


Tailgating Never Tasted So Good

Top 5 CocktailsPhoto byJC

There is nothing like college football season and the camaraderie and celebrations that ensue during a typical tailgate. This past season, I was lucky enough to be a bartender for an exclusive group of college football fans, and these were the top-selling five cocktails served through every 2023 college football home game.

The MulePhoto byJC

The "Mule"- This one I am going to cheat on. Notice how I called it the Mule? I found everyone loved a rendition of the Mule, whether it was the typical Moscow Mule (using Vodka), Kentucky Mule (using Bourbon), Tennessee Mule (using your favorite Whiskey), or the London Mule (Use gin). We were lucky to have all of these spirits available to us.

  • Fill the cup with ice (We had solo cups and always filled the cup)
  • 1 ½ fluid ounces Vodka -----Whiskey -----Bourbon -----or gin ( a six-count quick pour, although some of our patrons preferred two fluid ounces or an eight-count)
  • ½ fluid ounce lime juice (Generally half a lime squeeze pressed)
  • ½ cup ginger beer (Basically fill up the solo cup with whatever ginger beer will fit)
  • One lime wedge for garnish (At least one lime wedge). A quick stir and your Mule is ready

Throw this wonderful concoction together, and you have a refreshing cocktail, whether warm, cold, or anything in between. I live in the Midwest, and we get it all.

Old FashionedPhoto byJC

The Old Fashioned This simple drink amazes me, and we serve hundreds of these throughout the season. For the most part, we used either rye Whiskey or Bourbon (Most of our patrons prefer Bourbon). We use the smaller plastic cocktail cups, not the large Solo cups, for these strong drinks.

  • Add in your sugar. Our patrons preferred a muddled sugar cube, but simple sugar can be used in a pinch.
  • 3 Dashes of either Angostura bitters or orange bitters.
  • Follow this with a splash of club soda
  • We fill the cup with light ice to chill it down
  • 2 ounces of your Whiskey or Bourbon ( no less than an eight-count)
  • Express the oil of an orange twist over the glass, then drop into the glass to garnish.
  • Our patrons loved the cherry on top.

Espresso MartiniPhoto byJC

The Espresso Martini- Honestly, this one didn't hit our menu until the last three home games of the season, but it left an impression. It didn't matter if it was a noon, late afternoon, or evening game; this cocktail hit all of the right notes with our customers. Also, this is one of those contagious drinks...... One person orders it, which seems to strike the right cord with everyone in line. Pretty soon, you will be doubling and tripling up on the portions. The following items are added to a cocktail shaker loaded with large ice.

  • 2 ounces vodka (or a quick eight count)
  • 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur (usually Kahlúa or some other fantastic product- This is generally a generous two to three count)
  • 1-ounce espresso, freshly brewed (or cold brew concentrate (We had gallons of cold brew)
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup (this is optional as our patrons found the liqueur to be enough sweetness)
  • Close and give it a quick shake to combine the ingredients, then pour it into a smaller plastic cocktail cup.
  • Garnish: coffee beans (If available)

Spicy Bloody MaryPhoto byJC

The Bloody Mary- We never seemed to have enough of the Bloody Mary mix, especially for the morning games. This is one of those drinks you can prepare in a pitcher (We had several) and pour throughout the duration. Our clientele preferred their Bloody Mary's spicy. Here is our recipe.

  • One pitcher filled 1/3 of the way with Vodka.
  • Follow this with your favorite Bloody Mary Mixer for the remaining 2/3, and leave some room to bring on the hot.
  • Freshly ground black pepper (Add as much or as little as you like)
  • Worcestershire sauce (I hit this with about five dashes)
  • Tobasco Sauce (Frank's Red Hot)- Add in a good portion
  • Spicy (Zesty pickle juice) We use the pickles as garnishes and the juice for Bloody Mary Zest (An ounce or two for good measure)
  • Fill a large Solo cup full of this tasty beverage. Garnish as requested. Our patrons like a zesty pickle spear and blue cheese olives on a sword.
Michigan "Blackberry" BramblePhoto byJC

The Michigan Bramble is not so obvious, but it was a hit with our crowd. Remember, each is made in a tent, and we are limited on resources. In this case, one would typically muddle a few blackberries and garnish with basil. For the sake of a tailgate, we are a little more simplistic.

  • Add ice to a small plastic cocktail glass
  • 1.5 ounces to 2 Ounces of Bourbon or your choice of Whiskey (6 to 8 counts of a quick pour)
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (Half a lemon should do)
  • 1/2 ounce to 3/4ounce of blackberry liqueur (2 to 3 count quick pour)
  • A quick stir while adding a lemon slice as a garnish

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Canton, MI

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