The Gameday Beverage Gameplan – Best Drinks For The Tailgate Party

Beer – The Staple Tailgate Party Drink

EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator & Draft Beer Dispenser

EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator & Draft Beer Dispenser

What was it that Homer said again? Oh, that’s it: “Beer. Beer. Beer. Bed. Bed. Bed.” Truly wise words indeed! But he also forgot to mention the tailgate party! Because, when you start talking tailgating party beer is the first beverage thing that comes to mind.

There are over 20,000 official major brands of beer in the world.  Add to that all the brew pubs and boutique beers and you have world domination right there!

But the most important beer question for the tailgate party is: Keg, cans or bottles?

For a big crowd the keg reigns supreme. A keg will save you money and will add to the fun: you can’t do a keg stand with bottles or cans.

First, choose a size (I know what you’re thinking: ‘the biggest one!’)

You need to figure out how many people are attending the tailgating party in order to choose a size.  An average beer is 12 oz. so here is how many servings you get in the three sizes available.

Local U.S. Keg-Beer Calculation
Keg size x 12-Ounce Servings x 8-Ounce Servings
Sixth barrel “mini” keg (5.16 gal) 55 82
Quarter barrel/Pony keg (7.75 gal) 82 124
Half barrel (15.5 gallons) 165 248


In the USA, imported beer usually comes in 50-liter (13.2-gallon) and 30-liter (7.9-gallon) kegs which often have different names. The best guide is to check the liquid volume figure of these, convert to imperial and apply the rules above.

If you don’t know how to do a Keg Stand, then check out this video over on our Tailgate Party Videos collection. This will clear things up for you. Some say it’s the best way to tell if someone has been to college or not: anyone who doesn’t know what a keg stand is hasn’t been to college.

So where do you get a keg?

The cheapest kegs can be found at your big-box beer and spirits store or your non-club warehouse store.

You will pay a deposit of anywhere between $20 and $90 and this is refundable when you return the keg after your tailgating party or can just transfer over to the new keg for the next game.  Directions on how to use and all the pieces required for operation are included.  The store staff are usually very helpful and will also give you advice on which size is most suitable for your tailgating party.

How do you store and transport the keg to your tailgate party site?

The keg needs to be kept cold (ie. refrigerated) so you need to be sure that your fridge has adequate space.  Many people have a dedicated beer fridge out in the garage and even that may require you to remove some shelves to make the room for a large keg.  Don’t allow it to be shaken around.  Allowing it to warm up will give you a foamy mess of a brew so it is in your interests to keep it cold throughout the tailgating party.  Transport it and stand it in a box of ice for best results and on the day, if it is hot, keep that ice a-coming.  On cold days, you can do without the ice.

Is it worth it?

1/6th keg is around $60 (plus keg deposit). 1/6th s hold about 55 12oz beers, which is a little more expensive than the equivalent in bottles.  You will save on space as bottles use a lot more room in your cooler.  The savings start to stack up after this. Bear in mind that some people prefer light beers, others stouts and different flavors so maybe a keg may not be for those guests.  However, if you are expecting a crowded tailgating party, if you are meeting a number of other friends at the car-park and lining up to dominate the space, then a keg is great.  Remember that the focus is on the game, the activities, the smoked BBQ and the fun, and really, a car-park is probably no place for beer snobbery.  In any case, you can buy all the most popular beers by the keg, so who can argue with that?  Ultimately, there is nothing like a freshly tapped beer rather than a bottle or can, and most people say ‘kegs rule!’.

A keg table?

The beer keg can go on the ground but put a plastic sheet or tray of ice under it to keep it clean.  I don’t bother with a special table when tailgating.  But at home, a kegerator is a terrific investment, especially if you entertain a lot.  Check out our comparisons on the different styles and price points.

Themed Cocktails

There’s so much to do at a tailgating party that realistically, to be making cocktails to order is a stretch unless you have a dedicated bar-server.

Save time by making a jug of one team-themed drink especially for your own tailgating party.  Make it up at home, serve it from its own pitcher (or bottle with a spigot tap) and you can even leave it to your guests to help themselves. For tailgating parties on the go, choose a lightweight bottle, sealed for travel and on a stand to make serving a snap.

Here is my pick:

1.25 Gallon Slimline Beverage Container in Clear by Arrow Plastic Mfg. Co. MSRP  $18.99 but on for $12.10

You can fill, say, 4 of these with different beverages, label them and guests can select their favorite.

When you are creating the contents at home, use a funnel for filling it.  For storing it (full) in the fridge, place a container beneath the tap to avoid any drips.  Some people have experienced leaks from the spigot and an easy way to make sure this doesn’t become an issue, remove the spigot, surround it with plumbers’ Teflon tap and replace it in the bottle.  To increase the flow from the tap, loosen the cap at the top of the container.  That’s just science.  You always need to let some air in when you are tapping liquids or it will run slow.

Tailgate Party Themed Cocktails

Tailgate Party Themed Cocktails

Don’t freeze drinks in this container, but you can put small ice blocks in through the top to keep it cold all day during your tailgating party.  Each holds 1.25 gallons which is quite heavy so I never rely on the carrying handle for transporting them.

Again, label your drinks especially if some are non-alcoholic.

Of course, if you want to go top-shelf, invest in a Margaritaville DM900 Battery-Powered Frozen-Concoction Maker.

You can make a pitcher at a time and serve your guests frozen margaritas all day long on a single battery charge with this cordless drink maker.

The manufacturers claim it will mix up to 80 drinks and users say that it will easily do 7 or 8 pitchers full before needing a recharge. That’s enough for the biggest tailgating party!

It’s simple to set up on your drinks table.

Despite being battery operated, it has the grunt to shave ice and blend your favorite recipes for drinks.  It will even make non-alcoholic slushies for your kids when it’s not on tailgating party duty.

It is powered by an 18 volt NiCad battery pack – I would advise buying a second battery pack as a backup to get you through a long party.

The blending jar holds 36 ounces but don’t overfill it as the rules of blenders apply and an overfilled jar can make a huge mess.

It is pretty compact for its power – measuring around 15 x 10 x 21 inches.

Easy to clean.

Invest in a plastic tub to hold it and a few ingredients and accessories. This will protect it from dings.

Margaritaville DM900 Battery-Powered Frozen-Concoction Maker

Margaritaville DM900

Non Alcoholic Drinks

For some guests, the best accompaniments for that rack of ribs just might be a soda, a cola drink, root beer or a fruity drink.  Some sugar-free options for the diet conscious.

Just go for variety and keep it all nice and chilled.  Allow two drinks per person minimum and if canned or bottled, you can roll over the leftovers to the next weeks’ games. You can buy in bulk from the big box stores and what I usually do is keep an eye out for specials out of season and store them till its tailgating time.  You can save a lot of money.

A smart fruity punch can add real interest to your party and here’s where you can be creative, making something that somehow blends with your team colors.  You can make a non-alcoholic Sangria for the Trojans, for instance, a Blueberry colored concoction for the Bruins –the possibilities are endless.

Check our site regularly as we will be adding recipes for all kinds of drinks that you can serve at your tailgating party whether in the car-park or at home.


Don’t forget the obvious gear you need for running a bar-on-the-move at your tailgating party: A Can opener; A Sharp knife for cutting up limes (unless you pre-cut them at home); A Bottle opener; A Corkscrew for wine.

Or, even better – here’s a compact, all-in-one gadget that has all these things!

The Bar10DER All In One Home Bartending Tool.

Bar10DER All in One Home Bartending Tool


Don’t forget to grab some ice by the bag to keep the drinks (and food) cool! And, of course, some drinkware for serving (12 oz or 8 oz containers).  You can use disposable or make up a set of team-themed licensed beakers to use all season long. Don’t forget to wash them when you get home and dry before stashing for the next tailgating party!

The Red Cup - reusable wine glass

The Red Cup

Red Cup Living Reusable Beverage Cup

The Red Cup

Red Cup Living 18 Oz. Reusable Red Cup - The Icon (Set of 2)

Red Cup Living 18 Oz


If you are tailgating in a heat-wave, double your (non-alcoholic!!) drink quota.

Happy tailgating and enjoy the game as well as the party!