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5 ways to throw a fancier game day party with food and drinks

Maura Friedman

Srirancha dipping sauce is a great addition to your game day app spread


5 ways to throw a fancier game day party with food and drinks

Football season is in full swing, y'all. And while everyone loves a good, classic game day party spread with chips and queso, sometimes it's good to kick things up a notch when hosting a football party at home.

Much like the nature of football itself, with a little pre-game work you might inspire a little end zone kitchen dance from your guests. Let our game-winning guide lead your gridiron viewing party to victory — here are our top tips for making your next football party something special.

1. Skip the basic brew and have a beer tasting
While watching your favorite team battle it out with rivals, why not sip local beers from both teams’ home towns? Grab three or four beers from each city and call it a "beer tasting." Make sure to rinse each glass with each new beer. You can be even more, ahem... official, by organizing drinks on special pour planks from Boothill Blades. Create a tally sheet to help guests keep track of their favorites and crown a beer winner at the end of the game. You could even draw up a beer bracket for the whole season and see which town’s brewery is supreme.

2. Do something crazy with a cocktail
If you want to elevate your party even further, serve cocktails before (or instead of) beer. While you can certainly satisfy a crowd by pouring classic gin and tonics, consider going crazy with your spirits. Whip up a big batch of our grapefruit margaritas, which are jazzed up with homemade sour mix and New Mexico chile powder, or go big with a bowl of our fruity bourbon-laced punch. If you really want to make something special, smoke a cocktail (or three) to go along with a stack of baby back ribs. We’ve got the equipment to help you make it happen.

Get the recipe for grapefruit margaritas
Get the recipe for Southern Kitchen’s punch
Get the Crafthouse by Fortessa glass smoke box

3. Up your app game
Aside from a good view of the TV, the most important consideration for every game day party is the appetizer table. Yes, you may be serving a larger entree at halftime, but we know that those who don’t come for the game come for the snacks. One of the simplest ways to dial up these dishes is to make dips and salsas from scratch. Not sure where to start? We’ve got some suggestions: from-scratch Vidalia onion dip, avocado aioli dip, "Srirancha" sauce and peach salsa. All are winners in our book.

Get the recipe for Vidalia onion dip
Get the recipe for avocado aioli
Get the recipe for Srirancha
Get the recipe for peach salsa

If you’re more of a cheese lover, invest in a beautiful (and functional) cheese board. You can arrange store-bought cheese, homemade cheese straws and/or a large log of goat cheese, rolled in your favorite herbs and spices, on top of the board. While you’re at it, make your own crackers. It’s far easier than you think and your guests will be truly impressed.
Get the recipe for cheese straws
Get the recipe for sesame crackers

If your guests are looking for more substantial appetizers, look towards our always-classy deviled green eggs and ham. Or smoke a few pounds of chicken wings ahead of time and serve them alongside one of the above dips.

Get the recipe for green deviled eggs and ham

4. Give your entrées a facelift
You don't have to spend gametime working in the kitchen to bring a little extra class to your main course. Consider swapping out everyday hamburgers for pan-seared rib-eye steaks (they only take 15 minutes to cook), or substituting speedy rosemary- and thyme-rubbed lamb chops for pork. Another quick-but-admittedly-messier option is to make a big batch of jumbo barbecue shrimp. They’re fun, done in a flash and easy to pass around as you debate this season’s MVPs.

Get the recipe for rib-eye steaks
Get the recipe for lamb chops
Get the recipe for barbecue shrimp

5. Serve a stylish dessert
You can and should end your party on a sweet note, but consider keeping things on the lighter side. After all, you and your guests have likely been eating for the last four hours. For an ultra-easy option that's delicious and easy on the eyes, macerate a big bowl of seasonal fruit in a little bit of sugar — we like stone fruits right now, but pears and apples will be great later in the fall — and serve topped with a boozy, bourbon-filled sabayon sauce. Or consider making a tangy buttermilk panna cotta, topped with more seasonal fruit. If your guests are on their way out the door, hand them a treat they can take with them: homemade marshmallows stamped out using a football- or team-shaped cookie cutter. Each of these dessert ideas can be made well in advance of the game, so you’ll have nothing to worry about come fourth quarter.

Get the recipe for macerated fruit
Get the recipe for buttermilk panna cotta
Get the recipe for homemade marshmallows

Once everyone’s out of the house, take a deep breath, give yourself a high-five and get ready for next weekend.

Photo Credit (Margarita): Ranji McMillan
Photo Credit (Avocado Aioli): Maura Friedman
Photo Credit (Macerated Fruit): Maura Friedman

Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.