Living the good life at any age

Team-colored cocktails for your tailgating pleasure

Team-colored cocktails for your tailgating pleasure

by Linda Stewart

I am sure many football fans echo my son Ian’s sentiment that September “is the happiest time of the year.”  And along with football, comes that fabulous social phenomenon known as tailgating.  Whether you are actually tailgating from your car, partying on a college campus or near a stadium, or  “homegating” with friends in front of your television, cocktails add spirit to the game day experience.

The operative word at our tailgates (USC Trojan fans all the way) is “fun.” As the designated tailgate mixologist, I like to develop drinks that are connected to our team.  For NCAA teams, the cocktails can be based on the school’s history, specialty, or mascot.  For NFL teams, along with the mascot, cocktails can be based on the city or state’s history.

Another inspiration for designing cocktails is to base them on the team colors.  Southern California’s colors are Cardinal and Gold, so my first game day cocktail of this year was a Tequila Sunrise, served in a clear plastic cup.  Consisting of orange juice, pineapple juice, and tequila, the fun part of this drink is adding grenadine to create a pretty crimson color drifting through the sunny yellow/gold to the bottom of the glass.  Grenadine is usually poured carefully over the back of an inverted spoon to ebb the flow and prevent it from mixing into the juice.  At tailgates, it’s easier and more convenient to put the grenadine or liqueur in a plastic squeeze bottle and pour the liquid carefully down the side of the glass.  The resulting drink looks like a sunset.

Tequila Sunrises work for several other teams:  Arizona State, University of Louisville, Florida State, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Because of the higher amounts of sugar in a syrup or liqueur, the density is usually heavier than juice mixed with a spirit/liquor, resulting in a colorful display of two-tiered colors. UCLA, Michigan, and San Diego Charger fans can use Blue Curacao in lieu of grenadine to create a blue and gold team colored drink. Oregon and Green Bay Packer fans can substitute Midori liqueur or Crème de Menthe, and Louisiana State and Minnesota Vikings can replace grenadine with Crème de Cassis or Crème de Violette.

The juice base in the Tequila Sunrise, without the syrup or liqueur, can be changed to accommodate other team colors.  Blueberry juice, cranberry juice, or even white grape juice with food coloring, can be substituted for the orange and pineapple juices.  If you’re a Cleveland Brown fan, exchange the juices for a lemon-flavored iced tea, and either keep the proportion of tequila in the drink or change it to vodka.

Garnishes can play a fun role in game day cocktails. For orange and black colored teams such as Oregon State and Cincinnati Bengals, leave out the grenadine in the Tequila Sunrise, mix in some Disaronno Amaretto liqueur or Orange Curacao, and garnish with a black licorice Twizzler.  University of Texas fans will appreciate the addition of a “burnt” orange slice: place orange slices on an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle oranges with sugar, salt, and a touch of cayenne pepper.  Drizzle each slice with honey and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. A garnish of blueberries will accommodate the orange and navy blue teams of Auburn and the Chicago Bears. For tricky teams with silver or gray as one of their colors, make a cocktail in the other team color and then serve it in a silver or gray paper cup.

For convenience, I make the cocktails ahead of time and pour them into three-quart containers, which will serve six people two cocktails.  The garnishes are also prepared ahead of time and placed in a hard plastic container that keeps them fresh and intact.  The drinks are packed in a sturdy cooler surrounded by fresh ice cubes in plastic bags. This ice will help to keep everything at a cool temperature and will also be used in the cocktails.  Clear, plastic glasses are a must to view and showoff the Tequila Sunrises.  I pour the grenadine from a plastic squeeze bottle right before serving the drink.  Ice cubes are added last.

Tequila Sunrise (Makes 3 quarts)

6 cups orange juice

3 cups pineapple juice

3 cups tequila

grenadine (recipe below)

orange slices

maraschino cherries

Place both juices and tequila into a three-quart container.  Shake well.  Pour grenadine into a plastic squeeze bottle.  Make garnishes:  place a cherry on a cocktail skewer (I use football skewers), followed by half of an orange slice.  Refrigerate until ready to place in cooler.  At tailgate, pour cocktail into a clear plastic cup and carefully squeeze about a couple of teaspoons of grenadine down the side of the glass.

The name “grenadine” comes from the French word grenade, which means pomegranate.  I prefer to make my own grenadine.  Commercial brands are usually made with high fructose corn syrup and it’s easy to make your own. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three weeks.  The pomegranate juice could be substituted with another juice in your team color.


3 cups POM 100% pomegranate juice

2 cups sugar

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. orange blossom water, optional

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add lemon juice.  For a touch of flavor complexity, stir in orange blossom water.  Bring to room temperature, and then pour into a container with a lid.  Refrigerate for maximum of 3 weeks.

Left to right, back row:  David Kujawa, Jeff Bulgin, Tom DeClerk, Daniel Kujawa, Jennifer DeClerk  Front row:  Linda Stewart, Nancy Bulgin


Posted by Susan Montgomery on Sep 25, 2014