Tailgating season is upon is -- the second-best reason to start drinking in the morning. (Current market conditions are the first.) At most games, beverage choices run from dark to light beer. But football games start earlier than other sports, and early drinking gives you two choices: mimosas and Bloody Mary's. The men who choose Champagne typically do so after a win, without O.J. or a glass. That leaves us with the Bloody: that winning combination of tomato juice (or V-8), vodka, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, Tabasco, a lemon wedge and a celery stick. Tailgaters' culinary standards can be as fanatical as their team loyalty. Michael Capasso has been tailgating for 13 years and is responsible for all the sausages, steaks, burgers, marinates and rubs at his tailgates. As well as the cooking. "The real reason I started was because, at the beginning, other people would get food, and it would be crap," says Capasso. "I didn't want to spend a couple hours standing around a parking lot eating Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa or sausage stuffed with cheddar cheese." Capasso may control the food, but he outsources his Bloodies to a friend who sometimes makes a mix from scratch, but usually brings Mr and Mrs T's Bold and Spicy, the market leader. Today, you can find a variety of small-batch, regional or organic Bloody Mary mixes online. Buy a case of whatever strikes you, and sample throughout the season before settling on a favorite. Popular brands include Demitri's, Zing Zang , The World's Best , Bloody Bold and Longbranch Bloody Mary Zinger .
Ryan Davis, a Rochester, N.Y.-based 49ers fan has been tailgating for almost 20 years. His beverage of choice? "Anything. But Bloody Mary's are fun if they're premixed." Whether you make your own or purchase, it's important to have it done before the tailgate. Something else tailgaters agree on: no garnish. There's enough food to juggle at a tailgate, what with the beer, the sausages and the burgers. Do you really expect tailgaters to fool around with celery? Probably not, but for their friends who weren't able to come up with $4,000 a seat for season tickets, they can console themselves by garnishing at home. Try classics like pickled caperberries or olives, or be adventurous with Smokra or Mean Bean pickles from Ricks Picks. For a savory swizzle, slip a Slim Jim or crispy slice of bacon into the Bloody. Ravens fans grab the nearest box of Old Bay to coat the rim; Cowboy fans do the same with crushed beef bouillon cubes. The most important garnish for Bloody Mary fans? A bottle of Maalox, a roll of Tums or an Alka Seltzer. As Capasso points out, "After three
Bloody Mary's , you'll get terrible heartburn. That's usually when I switch to beer."