Falcons versus Pats. Dainty individually topped nachos versus sloppy, gloppy, pile-'em-high loaded nachos. Beef-only, Texas-forever chili versus an inclusive version made with beans or pork or even sweet potatoes. Is this Mountain Dew commercial simply too creepy for words, or a stroke of buzz-generating marketing genius? There's plenty to argue about on Super Bowl Sunday, even for those of us who really couldn't care less about football, at least most years (ahem, #riseup). The drinks served at your typical game-day party tend to be less controversial: beer, beer, and, oh look, someone just walked in the door with beer!
While a cooler full of beer is a dandy way to keep most of your guests happily drinking, you may want to take a different route—if you're expecting nondrinkers at your house, say, or if you just enjoy mixing up your own cocktails. Whatever your plans, here are our suggestions for what to drink during this weekend's hotly anticipated game.
Okay, most of you are probably going to be having beer in some form, so you may as well choose it wisely. A crisp pilsner, relatively gentle on the palate and moderate in alcohol, is a great option to serve for drinking all evening, and we've tried out several shining examples of craft pilsners in the past year. Hoppy pale ales and citrusy IPAs will be appreciated by your beer-enthusiast friends, and they'll make a nice complement to spicy or tangy foods, like wings, chili, and guacamole spiked with lime. If you want to both impress the beer snobs among you and ensure no one exceeds their limit before halftime, you might even offer up an ESB. The most important thing to remember when stocking up for a party is the crowd you're stocking up for: Buy beer in a variety of styles and strengths, and don't force a double IPA on your Amstel Light–loving friends.
Margaritas and Other Frozen Drinks
The tanginess of the lime in a good margarita—we're not talking about bottled mixers here—is a welcome counterpoint to the smoky and spicy flavors of wings and nachos. On the rocks is my personal preference, but our frozen margarita recipe is particularly handy for entertaining, since you can make the mix in advance, freeze it overnight, then blend up a batch of frosty drinks as needed. Other refreshing frozen cocktails that are easily made ahead for parties? Try bright and tart Frozen Mezcal Palomas; tropical Frozen Jungle Birds; or slushy, bittersweet Frozen Gin and Tonics.
According to the unassailable logic of tailgating, you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning, and a Bloody Mary is the kind of satisfying, savory breakfast-in-a-glass that makes this proposition almost socially acceptable. If your Super Bowl celebration is starting early this year, consider serving Kenji's take on a classic Bloody Mary, complete with soy sauce, horseradish, and a celery salt rim. Or try one of our many variations on the theme, like a bacon-garnished Mezcal Mary that adds a pleasant smokiness to the tomato; a Thai-inspired version with fish sauce, sambal oelek, cilantro, and crispy fried shallots; and an unusual gazpacho/Bloody Mary hybrid, dosed with gin and ringed with pickled shrimp.
Got guests who abstain? Give them a treat with a lovingly homemade nonalcoholic beverage, like a lemonade or limeade with freshly squeezed juice and an intensely flavored syrup made from the rinds. Or, since it's probably gonna be chilly out, have a pot of Spiced Mulled Cider waiting on the stovetop—those not avoiding alcohol will be happy to add a nip of brandy.