It’s the post you’ve all been waiting for! Perhaps the most important of all Music Festival Essentials – Drinks and Coolers! (Don’t forget to check out my other posts in this series. Part 1 – Music Festival Food Planning. Part 2 – Music Festival Organization. Now, I haven’t exactly taken an official poll, but I’m guessing that if I did, I know what the most popular answer would be to what is the first thing you do when you arrive at your music festival: Crack open a beverage of choice! And for most, that means an ice cold beer! This begs the question… What drinks should you bring in your coolers, and how to pack them to ensure your last ice cold beer (and everything else you bring) tastes as good as your first??
Music Festival Essentials: Alcohol Drinks
- Beer – We’ll start with the obvious. Beer! Of course you’ve got your basics – Bud Light, Coors Light, and (no I’m not kidding about this), Costco’s Kirkland Brand version of these. (They’re actually not bad! We decided that should be their slogan…). But don’t forget other options – Corona (comes in cans now) and Corona light. And then, of course, you can get fancy – New Castle, Boddingtons, and a whole host of craft beers. We’ve brought them all, but to be honest, the basics seem to go first, so plan accordingly.
- Wine – Don’t laugh. I love drinking wine at Music Festivals. And there’s no question that boxed wine is the way to go. (Don’t laugh at that either – boxed wine has come a long way!) I love my Sauvignon Blanc, but keep in mind that it needs refrigeration, and a cardboard box doesn’t do well in a cooler full of ice, so either take it out of the box and just use the plastic bladder, or stick it in the fridge if you have an RV. Any kind of red works well – no refrigeration necessary!
- Alcohol Coolers – I’m not very well versed in the wine-cooler area, but I know Seagram’s, B&Js, and Mike’s Hard Lemonade have some great fruity and refreshing options. These are often a great alternative to beer on a hot day!
- Hard Liquor – I could write a novel on this section since there are so many choices, but I’ll stick with the most popular (at least for us!). Starting the day with a Bloody Mary has become a tradition, so Vodka is a must (and, yes, the vodka can be used in a whole variety of other drinks!) Rum – another must have (mix it with fruit juice, piña colada mix, Coke, Sprite… pretty much anything goes with rum!) Seagram’s Seven Whiskey offers a light and refreshing drink when mixed with 7Up – it’s a big favorite for us. And the biggest favorite in our crowd is… Jack Daniels! (It works out well that JD sponsors our favorite music festival!) Basics covered. Time to move on to non-alcohol drinks (booo….!)
Music Festival Essentials: Non-alcohol Drinks – Yes, you need these too!
- Water – duh! The very best way to avoid a hangover is to stay well-hydrated. If you alternate water and your alcohol drink, you should be fine. (You’ll just have to visit the port-o-potty frequently, but that’s really ok!) Either bring cases of water bottles, or those gallons sized jugs and some plastic cups. Keep pounding the water! (Here’s a post on how to stay hydrated. Yes, you should read it!)
- Vitamin Water – I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve heard it does a great job with hydration. Plus it comes in a variety of flavors so it’s much more appealing than plain old water. I’m definitely adding it to the list this year!
- Soda (Pop?) – Whatever you call it, you’ll want to make sure to have some Coke (for the Jack Daniels and rum), 7Up (for the Seagram’s), and diet versions of both for those who would rather eat a big, juicy hamburger than consume their daily allotment of calories with soda.
- Juice – We love orange juice with our camp breakfasts! (After our Bloody Mary, of course!) It’s tasty and feels like you’re doing something healthy.
- Milk? – Nah.
Music Festival Essentials: Mixers and Everything Else
- Bloody Mary Mix – Must have! We like the spicy kind. It will wake you up in a big hurry!
- Piña Colada Mix – This is great if you have access to a blender (don’t forget your generator if you plan on using a blender)!
- Fruity Juices – Pick your favorites. It’s awesome to grab a cup of cranberry, or guava, or pineapple, or banana, or cherry, or strawberry spritzer (you get the point) and toss in some rum, then mix it up with ice. Easy and refreshing!
- Soda – Mentioned above!
- Capri Sun – I’m not sure what it is about that collapsible foil packet, but people love to grab one out of an ice cold cooler, pop in the straw, and slurp away. They pack well, so I recommend them.
- Ice – Lots of it! And I’m not kidding about that. I am shocked every single year how much ice we go through. Bring about twice as much as you think you’ll need, especially if you’re making blended drinks. It’s tough to bring too much! You’ll need extra coolers for ice alone, but it’s worth it. They charge an arm and a leg for bags of ice at music festivals. Be prepared! (Update: I have learned a great trick regarding ice. Check it out here!)
Music Festival Essentials: Coolers – How to Pack them
- You’ll Need Two (at least) – One for food, and one for drinks. You really don’t want to mix the two; trust me! And I highly recommend you bring a third for extra bags of ice. If you keep the ice in its own cooler, you will be able to avoid the constant opening and closing of the lid that happens with drink coolers. This strategy will keep your ice much longer.
- Food Coolers – Read Part 1 of this series to determine what food you’re bringing. Freeze your pre-made meals and pack any frozen casseroles on the bottom (if you’re making any). This solid frozen block will last for days and keep everything else colder. Put anything else frozen stored in zip top bags on top of the casseroles. Add a bag or two of ice, then put anything fresh (carrots, celery, etc.) on top. This will keep them cold, but not frozen.
- Drink Coolers – We always have a large group, so we typically bring two drink coolers – one for alcohol and one for non- alcohol drinks. Pre-cool everything! (Pre-cool everything! I had to say it twice because it is VERY important. You will burn through a ton of ice if you skip this step.) Plastic bottles of juice should be frozen before you leave, then place them around the perimeter of the cooler. You can also freeze some of the one gallon sized water jugs (drain a bit of the water first so it doesn’t explode – water expands when it becomes ice). They will act as ice blocks and keep everything colder. Then as they thaw, they will make for an ice cold beverage! Take cans out of boxes and organize them in a single layer standing up on the bottom of the ice chest. Pour in a bag of ice, then add more drinks on top of that. Top off with more ice. If you’re using one cooler for all of your drinks, put alcohol on one side and non-alcohol on the other so people will easily know where to grab and won’t be fishing around much. The less you keep the lid open, the better.
- High End Coolers – After years of watching our coveted ice melt away before our eyes, we finally invested in a high end Orion Cooler (cause it’s cool (and cold!) ). These coolers are designed for hunters and fishermen who are out in the wild for days and need to bring back whatever they catch without it spoiling (that’s a pretty tough task!), so I’m thinking it should be a piece of cake to keep our beer cold for a 4 day music festival. Also new to our line up is a Yeti Colster to keep our individual drinks cold for hours. It’s like a koozie on steroids! I’ve been using mine for a few months and I 100% attest to how great it works! Not cheap, but well worth it!
The countdown has begun. As I write this, I’ve got 48 hours before I get to check in at this year’s Country Thunder! SO EXCITED! I’ve got the food made and frozen, I’m organizing the drinks, and getting ready to pre-cool all of them! Things are getting loaded into the Jeep and the camper, and I’m freezing my gallon sized water jugs. My coolers will be stocked and ready to go the evening before (with a top off of fresh ice the morning we head out). And there’s no question that the first thing we’ll do when we pull in to our 19’x40′ spot is pop a top off an ice cold beer, break out the camp chair, and sit back and enjoy all of the fun and festivities that make up the whole music festival experience! Follow me on Twitter (@TheSpicyApron) for some awesome live tweets from Country Thunder 2016! It’s a great line up this year!