How to Create the Most Epic Backyard Tailgate

Don't count on a Hail Mary to bring together your backyard tailgate. Here's the game plan for a safe gathering that still includes your favorite bites and booze.

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Happy people having camping and having bbq party outdoor
Photo: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

Just because the novel coronavirus has us watching football at home this year instead of at the stadium doesn't mean we have to skip the tailgate — or at least we don't have to skip all the tailgate traditions. Some might say the pre-game festivities are just as important as the game itself, but 2020's homegating requires a bit more planning.

This year, it's important to make sure health and safety are at the top of the list for any backyard tailgating.

Create a starting lineup. Keeping the guest list for your homegate to those already in your home or your close quarantine pod of fellow alumni and football fans can help everyone feel safe and protected.

Spot the ball. If possible, enjoy the game outdoors where it's easier for air to circulate, and have sanitizer on the sidelines for guests to use as frequently as possible.

Avoid flags on the play. With all these precautions, you should take your planning one step further and make sure the menu, drinks, and bar are set up to prevent congestion and shared touchpoints. That doesn't mean you have to skip your favorite foods. You just have to be more creative in how you serve them.

Here are our suggestions for making this year's backyard tailgate menu, complete with an epic bar station, delicious and safe.

Homegating Menu

Even though everyone in your house is sharing a space, it's best not to share food. These tailgate food ideas offer the same great football food flavors everyone craves without multiple hands in the chip bowl.

  • Buffalo Chicken Dip — A little prep work goes a long way. Create the recipe as normal and pre-portion it before baking into individual ramekins ($8/set of 6; so everyone can have their own. Pair with snack-sized bags of tortilla chips. Score!
  • Vegetable Cups — Take one disposable cup and pour dip in the bottom of it. Fill with sliced vegetables and serve, eliminating sharing dip or reaching across a vegetable tray.
  • Single-serve Mains — For the half-time meal, consider mini pizzas where everyone gets their own crust, or walking tacos which require minimal clean-up. Just be sure to pre-portion ingredients for both menu options ahead of time to eliminate the need for tongs.

Set Up a Beverage Cart

What's a tailgate without something to cheers? This year there are several key components of a successful backyard bar:

1. Have all ingredients prepped ahead of time; you don't want to miss a second of the game. Plus, staying out from behind the bar will prevent the temptation for guests to crowd around the communal spot.

2. Combine the bases, and measure one portion into single-serve, reusable bottles ($23 for 24 pack; Do the same with the spirits for the cocktails.

3. Place recipe cards with the drinks so guests know which bottles to grab for their preferred drinks.

4. Have individual picks ($8.50/pack of 300; for ingredients. No one needs to directly touch the accoutrements, and tongs present an unnecessary touchpoint.

Drinks Menu

For A Breakfast or Brunch Tailgate:

  • DIY Loaded Bloody Marys — You can't go wrong with a classic Blood Mary made of vodka and tomato juice. Up the ante by making it a full breakfast on top with celery, lemon wedges, olives, bacon, shrimp, and cheese cubes.
  • Screwdriver — Made by mixing vodka and orange juice
  • White Russian — A rich blend of vodka, fresh cream, and coffee liqueur
  • Touchdown Mule — A refreshing mix of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer, topped with champagne

For An Afternoon or Evening Tailgate:

  • Moscow Mules - Made by mixing vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer
  • Vodka Tonic - A day-to-night classic made with vodka, tonic water, and citrus
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