Matt Moore, Southern Eats & Drinks Expert
In the South, tailgating on Saturday is one of our most anticipated fall traditions. But like so many things here in the South, there’s no shortage of opinions on how to do it and who does it best.
Just like Dixie Vodka celebrates iconic regional flavors in their products, they also celebrate the art of tailgating — however and wherever it happens.
Just this past Saturday, I got to enjoy my first tailgate of the year in my town (Nashville) with my team (go Dawgs). The first game of the year always feels a bit like Christmas did for me when I was a kid.
Besides the competition and tradition on the gridiron itself, the pastime of tailgating is what I most look forward to each year. It’s a chance to catch up with friends, to travel, to eat, to drink, and to relish in the pride of one’s favorite team.
As I packed my car with all six varietals of Dixie Vodka, I was almost so excited to head to West End that I nearly forgot the food — kidding. A few slabs of ribs, brats, corn, and all the trimmings made their way into the car, too.
Being the Dawg fan that I am, I set off to watch my alma mater play in my town of Nashville. While Vanderbilt has grown its penchant for all things football (especially Vandyville’s tailgate), it’s still not considered an all-time great scene as some of the more famous places below. That’s okay, though — the cocktails and food made up for it, and not to mention, Dawg a win!
Of course, I am biased. I will claim UGA’s north campus as one of the best tailgate spots in the NCAA. It’s also hard to argue with the UGA/Florida cocktail party in Jacksonville. That said, I realize there are other fantastic places to pre-and-post game, which is one of the thrills of attending away games. This list is not all-inclusive by any means, but some of my favorites over the years include not only the well-known, but also the not-so-known.
The Grove in Oxford is perhaps most widely recognized. It’s the kind of Old South tradition where chandeliers are literally still hung from the sprawling trees that provide shade and beauty to this incredible setting. I might be a Dawg first, but an afternoon spent in the Grove is one that I’d never pass up.
Another hard-to-beat spot is Baton Rouge. While you might get harassed by LSU fans, it’s hard to argue with the food at their tailgates. Man-sized skillets of jambalaya, cauldrons of piping hot seafood gumbo, and crawfish boils that run the length of a first-down abound throughout the campus. I’ve learned to take the verbal harassment — and to carry a Dixie Daly (recipe below), offering it up as my ticket toward unity and gluttony. Seriously – Baton Rouge knows how to cook and drink.
While the team hasn’t seen much grandstanding since the mid-90s, the University of Tennessee still boasts one of the largest stadiums in the conference. While downtown Knoxville and its concrete jungle might not appeal to most, it’s the Tennessee River that sports a lesser known, albeit elite, tailgate scene — the Vol Navy. In my college years, with some liquid courage running through my veins, I mustered my way onto a 100+ foot vessel (yacht), where lobster tails and steak were consumed instead of hamburgers and hot dogs. I’ve heard similar references of luxury to South Carolina’s Cockaboose. Either way, luxury tailgates might not be my full-time reality, but the river tailgate scene had me humming Rocky Top and liking the color orange.
And finally, outside of the conference, one must recognize the current top team – the Clemson Tigers. The Tiger walk alone from the parking lot to the stadium (now emulated by most other teams) is one of the greatest payoffs to the afternoon.
Yes, I know I’ve left many of you out. Don’t worry – I know your scene is great. Like I said, anywhere there’s a game in the works, some Dixie Vodka being poured, and a nosh of classics or haute-cuisine, I’m a happy camper.
What are your favorite tailgate spots?
- 2 oz. Dixie Citrus Vodka
- 2 oz. sweet tea
- 2 oz. lemonade
- 2 oz. soda water
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- Angostura bitters
- 4 mint leaves
Fill shaker with ice, and add first 3 ingredients. Shake and strain into ice-filled glass. Top with soda, the juice of 1/4 lemon, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Garnish with mint.