Final Four Cocktails


Image from:

This year’s NCAA Final Four has been surprising to say the least.. epitomizing the phrase from ABC’s Wide World of Sports years ago (I date myself!) — “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  Both reasons for a cocktail — to either celebrate or swallow the loss. Here are themed cocktail ideas for each team in the 2018 championship event.

Loyola-Chicago: The Nun’s Martini (a nod to Sister Jean) with vodka, hazelnut, and coffee flavors
Recipe at:

Michigan: The Wolvertini is a bold blue drink with a pineapple slice M for garnish.  Recipe at:

Villanova: The Villanova is intriguing with some harder to find ingredients.
Recipe at:

Kansas: The Jayhawk is resplendent with the blue and red team colors.  Recipe at:

More ideas: Plus click this link for 4 more ideas from bartenders in the 4 college towns:

Enjoy the hoops action!

USC vs W. Michigan Tailgate Food Ideas

wmich helmet usc

USC plays Western Michigan on Sept 2, 2017, at the LA Coliseum.

An internet search of state foods of Michigan revealed some fun and options for a tailgate menu with a Michigan theme.  Read more on Michigan state food at

Entree ideas:

  • Coney Island Dog (basically chili dogs with mustard and onions a top)
  • Pasty Meat Pies


  • Apples (everything)
  • Cherries
  • Potato chips (Better Made is a brand from Detroit)


  • Blue Moon Ice Cream


  • Vernor’s Ginger Ale (and add vodka for a cocktail, preferably vanilla vodka)
  • Faygo soda pop

After mulling over the ideas, plus the weather forecast of 95 degrees and a 2:15 pm kickoff, we decided on the Coney Dogs for the entree — see recipe at

Potato chips, a green salad with apples, plus cherry cobbler squares for dessert round out the Michigan components for a pre-game lunch.

Due to the projected heat, the Blue Moon ice cream won’t be possible for us, but maybe those of you enjoying the game at home can add that to your table.

We will also imbibe the Vernor’s ginger ale with and without spirits. Vernor’s is one of the nation’s oldest soda brands  (read more), and easily available in Smart and Final stores in our area.

Have a great game day!




USC vs Syracuse Football? What to eat?

usc and syracuse helmets

This week USC is playing the Syracuse Orange… our tailgate theme is two-fold:

1) New York City deli fare (e.g., pastrami sandwiches, dill pickles, potato salad, etc.).

2) Orange food/drink: Cheetos (then even our fingers will be orange); orange jello with mandarin oranges, orange juice, orange muffins, oranges, potato-cheese soup (orange after the cheddar cheese is added); orange slices candy, cantaloupe, etc.

We thought about doing Chinese take-out, but logistically and cost-wise abandoned the idea.

As an aside, here are some Syracuse notes:

From Wikipedia: The Syracuse Orange is the nickname used by the athletic teams of Syracuse University. The school is a member of NCAA Division I and the Big East Conference. The school’s mascot is Otto the Orange. Teams were previously known (until 2004) as the “Orangemen” and “Orangewomen”. The men’s basketball, football, men’s lacrosse, and women’s basketball teams play in the Carrier Dome.

Otto the Orange is the mascot for the Syracuse Orange. Otto is an anthropomorphic orange, wearing a large blue hat and blue pants. Traditionally regarded as gender-neutral, though “Otto” is typically a male name. A team of 4-6 students serve as Otto, each one passing tryouts and a training program. The Syracuse Mascot was originally a Native American character named “The Saltine Warrior” (Syracuse’s unofficial nickname is the Salt City) and “Big Chief Bill Orange”. The character was born out of a hoax in which it was claimed that a 16th century Onondogan Indian chief was unearthed while digging the foundation for the women’s gymnasium in 1928.

In 1978, Native American students successfully petitioned the University to discontinue the Saltine Warrior, citing the mascot’s supposed stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans. During the 1978 season, the University introduced a Roman Gladiator dressed in orange armor, but the idea proved largely unpopular among fans, who regularly booed the mascot.

For 17 years the university was unable to settle on a mascot until the chancellor appointed a group of students and faculty to create a mascot and logo. The cheerleaders and mascots were at a UCA Cheerleading Camp in Tennessee that summer, and narrowed the field down to two potential names – “Opie” and “Otto”. It was concluded that the name “Opie” would lead to the inevitable rhyme with ‘dopey’, and settled on “Otto”. Later that fall, word got out that the cheerleaders were calling the latest mascot costume Otto, and the name stuck.

University administration considered introducing a new mascot (a wolf or lion were likely candidates), but the student body supported Otto. He was recognized as the official mascot of Syracuse University by 1995.

Photo below from:

Otto the Orange

From the Syracuse website (


Syracuse most recent national championships teams are:

2004                        Men’s Lacrosse
2008                        Men’s Lacrosse
2009                        Men’s Lacrosse

SU alumni of note:

Sarah Loguen (1876) fourth African American woman physician in U.S.
Stephen Crane (1891) author of The Red Badge of Courage
Sol LeWitt ’49 renowned visual artist
Dick Clark ’51 best known as  host of American Bandstand
Jim Brown ’57 football star, actor, and social activist
F. Story Musgrave ’58 pioneering physician-astronaut
Ruth Johnson Colvin ’59 founder of Literacy Volunteers of America
Frank Langella ’59 award-winning stage and film actor (Frost/Nixon)
Joyce Carol Oates ’60, H’00 award-winning novelist
Ted Koppel ’60 award-winning broadcast journalist
Ernie Davis ’62 first African American to win the Heisman Trophy
Betsey Johnson ’64 fashion designer known for whimsical designs
Lou Reed ’64 rock singer-songwriter for The Velvet Underground
Floyd Little ’67 Pro Football Hall of Famer
Joseph Biden L’68 vice president of the United States
Donna Shalala G’70 president of the University of Miami
Steve Kroft ’71 award-winning correspondent for 60 Minutes
Bob Costas ’74 host of NBC’s “Football Night in America”
Eileen Collins ’78 first woman astronaut to command a NASA space mission
Aaron Sorkin ’83 screenwriter and producer of The West Wing
Vanessa Williams ’85 first African American crowned Miss America
Arielle Tepper Madover ’94 award-winning Broadway producer
Stephanie Welsh ’95 award-winning feature photographer
Dennis Crowley ’98 founder of the social networking site Foursquare
Pamela Chen’05 award-winning documentary photographer

Epilogue: USC vs Utah Football Tailgate 2011

Last weekend’s Utah vs USC tailgate embodied the Utah theme, including several Jello items (a cranberry juice and jello combo overflowing with multiple types of berries,  red and yellow jello shots, and a US flag (to honor 9/11) jello dish), as well as a take on Mormon funeral potaotes (potatoes with lots of cheese and crunch on top).  Along with the bbq tri-tip, chicken, green salad, 3 bean salad, assorted fruits and cheese, etc., the pre-game meal was a hit.  Post-game we enjoyed corn chowder (Native American reference to the Utes), spinach salad, popcorn, french bread, and several desserts (oatmeal bars were spectacular)!

So far this season, not sure which is better…the food or the football! As always, the jet flyover at pre-game was a treat! Kudos to the Utah Marching Band for making the trip and providing more sights and sounds. The USC TMB performed a very well-received halftime show of 2010 and 2011 songs, including a quick-step dance routine (shuffle)  to Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO — so much fun and lots of applause — see video on Youtube

This week, we play Syracuse!

USC vs Utah Football: What to Eat? (3) Jello shots

USC Utah helmetsJello is an unofficial state food of Utah. Mormons (many of whom live in Utah) do not drink alcohol per their religious beliefs.  What better way to combine Utah with the Utah/Mormon-opposite than Jello shots? So this weekend, I made these for the tailgate… however, I toned down the alcohol after I read how people tend to not be cognizant of the amount of alcohol they are consuming with jello shots and get themselves in trouble.

My friend, Donna, from Northern California, shared a very easy recipe (we had Blue Jello with Rum jello shots this summer while on vacation with Donna and family in Lake Tahoe)…


  • 3 oz box Jell-O (any flavor)
  • l cup boiling water
  • l cup liquor of choice

Dissolve the Jello in boiling water.  Add liquor in
place of cold water.  Pour into small plastic cups.  Place in
refrigerator until set.

Some flavor combos:

  • Cherry Jello and vodka
  • Lime jello and tequila
  • Strawberry jello and tequila (add strawberry slice)
  • Orange jello and vodka
  • Peach jello and Peach schnapps
  • Watermelon jello and Vodka
  • Grape Jello and Rum

I decided to make Lemon/Citrus Vodka and Cherry/Rum jello shots (red and gold!)… Basically you need two cups of liquid…so I decreased the alcohol to 3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup cold water…. for the 1 cup cold liquid. See my photo below.

cardinal and gold jello shots

Another item on this vein is mixing jello with coffee (no caffeine for Mormons either)…. click here for a coffee jello dessert that my friend Steve found on the internet (photo is from this site too)– a dessert to be served with whipped cream — including Kahlua is optional.  I wish I had time to make this as well!

coffee jelloFight On!

Beat the Utes!

USC vs Utah Football: What to Eat? (2) Funeral Potatoes

This post focuses on a Mormon dish known as “funeral potatoes.”

Good ole Wikipedia defines funeral potatoes as “a traditional Latter-day Saint (Mormon) casserole dish that originated in Utah. Funeral potatoes get their name from commonly being served as a side dish during traditional after-funeral dinners. Funeral potatoes are often served at social gatherings, such as potlucks, in Utah and other areas with a large Latter-day Saint population. The dish usually consists of hash browns or cubed potatoes, cheese (cheddar or parmesan), onions, cream soup (chicken, mushroom, or celery) or a cream sauce, sour cream, and is topped with butter and corn flakes or crushed potato chips.  During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, one of the souvenirs included a pin featuring an image of funeral potatoes.”

I was lucky enough to attend these games but I didn’t see this pin. Here is an image of the pin from a Utah State History website.2002 Olympic Pin Funeral Potatoes

My friend and neighbor is Mormon, graduated from BYU, and has 4 sons also at BYU (well, one is there currently, the other 3 have graduated — one is in grad school at the Univ of Utah).  She corroborated Jello as a Utah food but doesn’t like what they put in it… carrots, etc.  She suggested “funeral potatoes” because “any one from Utah would certainly know what they are.” Thanks for the suggestion!  They look quite tasty.  So, we are incorporating these into our tailgate lunch on Saturday.. with a similar tried and true, scalloped potato casserole that one of the group members will bring.  I don’t have the recipe she will use, but below is a photo of these potatoes from a recipe post I found online at:

Mormon potato casserole

Another recipe at another site… indicates that these potatoes are basically comfort food.  “The funeral potatoes are generally served with ham, rolls, salad, cake, and of course, Jell-O!  And they eat them at events other than funerals — parties, Christmas Eve.”

And I guess… the losing team for this game will need some comfort food…right?  (However, we will be eating these pre-game!) Fight On!

USC vs Utah Football Tailgate: What to Eat? (1) JELL-O

USC vs Utah helmet face-off

This weekend, USC plays Utah.  Researching Utah foods for our tailgate, I see JELL-O always comes up in the search results. The recipe below for Utah’s famous green jello comes from the Mormon Chic website.Utah Green Jell-O