Essentials for a Perfect Tailgate

What you need — and need to know — to step up your pre-game


For as long as live music and sporting events have attracted spectators, there has existed an elite faction known as tailgaters. These are the standard-bearers, the tip of the spear, the ones responsible for hauling the heavy equipment and securing the parking perimeter so the rest can arrive safely and swill beer until called inside by the sound an opening set or kickoff.

Tailgating has evolved over time from a clever ploy to avoid the concession stand into a tribal subculture, complete with its own customs, etiquette, and regional cuisine. Nowadays the pageantry of the tailgate party often takes primacy over the event itself, opening doors to a new breed of spectators who catch the shuttle just for the party and never set foot inside the venue. But whether you’re a season ticket holder or look like you just woke up from Mardi Gras, here are some tips to step up your pre-game as we wrap up our summer concert calendar and cross our fingers for a timely start to the NFL season.



You’ve got the grill, EZ-Up tent, and separate coolers for food and beer strapped to the tow hitch; corn-hole and a jar of your homemade dry rub in the back seat. What else? If you’re hosting, you’re going to want a regulation-size folding table, and a surplus of cups. Friends are prone to wander off whenever ladder ball is being played nearby, so make the investment beforehand if you don’t want to lose them. Better yet, follow these simple steps to make your own.



Keep things simple with canned beer and two-ingredient cocktails like screwdrivers and dark and stormys. Those giant ice cubes they serve at your favorite cocktail lounge — the ones you said you had to have and then totally forgot about — are perfect for this occasion, as they’re likely to impress your friends and keep them from depleting the ice chest too quickly. If you’re apprehensive about the limited capacity and silicone smell, make them in something like this, a large jewelry box made out of unbreakable plastic. And if size is really what matters to you, try empty yogurt containers. Your bourbon-drinking friends will commend you.



Not everyone feels compelled to get up at 7 a.m. and marinate steaks for a 7 p.m. kick off. That’s OK. Pick up this instant marinator and you can still pretend you did. If you’re grilling kebabs, these flexible cable skewers from Fire Wire can be loaded up with twice as much food and still leave you with more open grill space — then be sure to read our advice on making kebabs for a crowd. Some other grilling accessories worth checking out are this space-saving rib rack and ceramic pizza stone from FireCraft. Whatever you do, just don’t forget to thaw the turkey before it goes in the deep fryer or you’ll have nothing to eat after the rocket launch.