Game Day Tailgate Recipes – Cocktail, Tacos, Salsa, & Queso

Nothing feels quite like college game day. From walking through the quad, entering a packed stadium, or scream-singing your school’s fight song as loudly as possible. The sights, smells, and sounds are nostalgic, and they fuel our desire for camaraderie and (let’s face it) snacks. 

We have chosen three schools that have unique game-day drinks or snacks and put a Gardenuity spin on them. The three schools we chose are: The University of Alabama, University of Southern California, & Southern Methodist University. 

Yellow Hammer

Game Day Cocktail recipe

Now as an SEC girl, we had to give a special shout out to my Alma Mater, The University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa is teaming with traditions: witnessing the team strut into the stadium via the Walk of Champions, watching the Million Dollar Band play on the steps of Gorgas Library, and even moseying down the strip to Gallette’s and getting a Yellow Hammer. My favorite by far has to be carrying around one of those yellow plastic cups and yelling Roll Tide to every fan within a 3-foot radius. The origin of this drink is a bit murky, but it gained popularity in the 1970’s when Bear Bryant was leading the Tide to national fame. The rum cocktail is so popular that Gallette’s sells between 4,000-5,000 every Saturday. While the bartenders keep the recipe a secret, the basic list of ingredients are:


  • Vodka (3 ounces) 
  • Rum (2.5 ounces) 
  • Amaretto (.5 ounces) 
  • Orange Juice (3.5 ounces)
  • Pineapple Juice (10.5 ounces) 

You may be asking yourself, how do we improve one of the best game day drinks in college history? The heavy rum flavor of the cocktail can be brightened up by muddling a handful of pineapple mint in your glass before you add the other ingredients. I would usually never change a time-honored tradition, but on hot game days in the south, a little freshness makes all the difference in this classic cocktail. 

Tailgate Steak & Marinade Recipe

Sunny skies, the Hollywood sign, and Trojan football – sounds like the perfect excuse to fire up the grill and take on this campus’ game day tradition of carne asada tacos. The first thing that comes to mind when you think of USC is Mexican food. Nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, this campus is home to many international students, each bringing cultural favorites from their respective countries. One such group has gifted USC with their favorite tailgate food, tacos. Carne asada street tacos are hands down one of the best snacks in college football. They are flavorful, portable, and not too difficult to make (as long as you have an experienced grill master). Putting a Gardenuity spin on this recipe was incredibly easy since they offer a special Taco Toppings Garden!

Just follow the marinade recipe below, but replace the dried herbs with fresh, plus add chopped cilantro before eating. I would recommend letting this marinade with the steak overnight for optimal flavor. Once you are ready to grill, pass the tongs over to your grill master of choice and enjoy! 


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup malt vinegar (any vinegar is fine in a pinch!)
  • 1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons peeled fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper (black pepper will work, too)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 pounds lean skirt steak or lean flank steak 

*Heads up, this is a tailgate recipe so feel free to lessen the amount of steak you are prepping. 

Spicy Salsa & Queso Recipe

Being from Dallas, we had to pay homage to the school located smack in the middle of the bustling city (it also happens to be Donna’s Alma Mater). Southern Methodist University has the most Tex Mex restaurants per mile around their campus. That is why when you get your boots on and stroll the boulevard, you will see endless tents full of chips, homemade salsa, and queso. As someone who grew up going to SMU football games, I can honestly say that the smallest and often most unassuming tents had the spiciest salsa that could make any football player sweat. This quick and easy tailgate snack is a huge crowd-pleaser, and we have some recipes that will put Velveeta to shame. Fresh salsa is only elevated by the addition of your freshly harvested cilantro and tomatoes, and roasted jalapenos help cut through the richness of the queso. All the fresh herbs, tomatoes, and jalapenos can be found in the taco toppings garden or in a special tomato garden check out the Garden Kits to see what you can grow today!

Fresh Salsa Ingredients:

  • 23 oz of roasted tomatoes 
  • 5 oz of freshly harvested tomatoes 
  • 1 can of chipotles in adobo sauce 
  • ½ cup of chopped red onion 
  • 3 cloves of garlic 
  • ¼ cup of red wine vinegar 
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika 
  • ¼ cup of fresh jalapeno 
  • ¼ cup of fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp of salt 

Throw all these ingredients in a blender (or food processor) and pulse till your desired level of chunkiness is achieved. This recipe can be made the night before, so you don’t have to pack your food processor in a cooler.

Roasted Jalapeno Queso Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups of freshly grated cheddar cheese 
  • 1 Tbsp of cornstarch 
  • ½ Tbsp of butter 
  • 1 clove of garlic 
  • ¼ of a white onion (diced) 
  • 1 can of evaporated milk 
  • 1 freshly harvested tomato (diced) 
  • ¼ tsp of onion powder, garlic powder, & cumin 
  • 2 fire roasted jalapenos – the easiest way to do this is to place them on a gas burner, let them char, and then place in a zip top bag so the skin will slough off 
  • ¼ cup of fresh cilantro 
  • 2 Tbsp of milk 
  • Salt (to taste) 

This recipe is easiest in a slow cooker but can be achieved on a grill or stovetop! Start by adding the milk, butter, garlic, onion, evaporated milk, and cheese into a skillet. Once everything is all melted, add your other spices to taste, your tomatoes, and fire-roasted jalapenos. If you want to really jazz it up, try adding some ground beef in as well. The fresh herbs from the taco toppings garden will be a huge crowd-pleaser for even the pickiest of tailgate tasters. 

With the season officially underway, these tailgate snacks and cocktails will help you get in the game-day spirit. Each school’s unique traditions give us a glimpse into their history while allowing fans an opportunity to show off their skills on any given Saturday in the fall. The addition of Gardenuity’s fresh herbs elevate your tailgate experience and allow you to put your own twist on each recipe. Tradition must begin somewhere, so remember that you can adapt any of these recipes for your own school tailgate using more local ingredients. As always, if you try any of these recipes make sure to take a picture and tag us!

Roll Tide – and let’s get growing.