For about as long as baseball has been one of America’s favorite pastimes, beer has been the drink of choice for ballgame refreshment. Stadiums traditionally have not been places where you’d expect to find barrel-aged Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, but that’s beginning to change, with a new trend of quality cocktails emerging at concessions stands across the country.
In Minneapolis, Twins fans can enjoy a drink made with local spirits from nearby Du Nord at Target Field, and in Kansas City, Royals faithful can sip barrel-aged Old Fashioneds at the aptly named Barrel Bar at Kauffman Park. And if you are lucky enough to be a member of the Gotham Club, a bar behind the scoreboard at AT&T Park in San Francisco, you can sip a classic cocktail or two while taking in a Giants game.
Meanwhile, Safeco Field in Seattle is well on its way to becoming a model stadium for cocktails, sporting an impressive array of mixed drinks concocted by local bar owner Anu Elford (you can find her at Rob Roy). And at Edgar’s, a field-side cantina named after Mariners great Edgar Martinez, fans can sip on a variety of agave-based cocktails made with fresh juices and housemade syrups, like Margaritas, Palomas and Micheladas. The .312—a reference to Martinez’s impressive batting average while a player—blends mezcal, Campari, lime and soda. “Nothing will outsell beer at a ballgame, especially because you can take beer to your seat,” says Elford. But the demand for cocktails is growing. “Cocktails are such a big part of Pacific Northwest culture that bringing them to Safeco makes sense.”
Larger companies are following suit, echoing America’s ever-growing demand for a good cocktail, regardless of the venue. Chicago-based Levy Restaurants has brought cocktails to a slew of big-league baseball stadiums like Wrigley Field, Marlins Park in Miami and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. For many parks, the cocktails are premade and run through draft lines for efficiency. After all, when you’re operating at a place like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which holds 56,000 fans, there isn’t much room for long waits. “The fan doesn’t want to miss any part of the game for fear of missing the experience of a three-run homer to win the game,” says Ty Bittner, director of operations at Dodger Stadium. At Chase Field in Phoenix, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, draft cocktails are supplemented by other fast-pouring options like the ever-popular Margarita—featuring a local tequila imported by Roger Clyne, who wrote the D-Backs fight song—Moscow Mules and Mai Tais. Kelly Dugan, Levy’s Restaurants Director of Operations, says the growth of the cocktail program there has been tremendous.
At Nationals Park in Washington, DC, the drinks are also served quickly, but fans are increasingly armed with more discerning palates. “With DC having such an up-and-coming craft cocktail and gourmet food scene, it has been easier than one might think to experiment and allow guests to step out of their comfort zone,” says Joshua Hart, Levy’s senior clubs manager at the park. A similar mentality is reflected in the suite levels of Safeco in Seattle, thanks to Elford’s Blue Barker Rickey with vodka, St. Germain, blueberry, fresh lime juice, turmeric syrup, and soda or the Corvus and Crater with whiskey, barrel-aged cachaca, falernum, demerara and fresh lemon juice.