For many Americans, cookouts and the 4th of July are linked in a totally unshakeable way. These outdoor events offer amateur pitmasters and pro barbecue chefs alike a prime opportunity to show off their grilling skills by serving up celebratory platters of burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and more to their hungry guests. That’s a big job with a lot of responsibility, so it seems logical that barbecuers will need a cold and refreshing beverage to keep them going throughout the festivities.
That’s why we asked 10 competitive pitmasters and professional grill chefs to tell us what they’ll be sipping this Independence Day. Here’s what they recommend.
What to drink while grilling this weekend, according to pitmasters:
- Jello Shots with Dripping Springs Vodka
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- Lone Star American-Style Lager Beer
- Epic Western Ranch Water
- Lone Pint Brewery Yellow Rose IPA
- Topo Chico Strawberry Guava Hard Seltzer
- Elvio Tintero Rosato
- Caymus Zinfandel
- Kings Family Distillery American Blend Whiskey
“Every 4th of July, we celebrate with an amazing BBQ and patriotic red, white and blue Jell-O shots. They’re festive, a crowd favorite, and a great ice breaker to get the party started and talk to new people. We find that vodka Jell-O shots complement BBQ because [the food] is savory and typically salt-heavy, so the sweet and fruity flavor of the Jell-O is extremely refreshing. We also find that the disposable single-shot cups are amazing for when you have fingers covered in BBQ sauce. Our vodka of choice for Jell-O shots is always Dripping Springs Vodka because it’s a high-quality vodka that is smooth yet strong.” —Chris Olds, pitmaster and head cook, Tipsy Brisket competition BBQ team, Austin, Texas
“This 4th of July, my coolers will be stocked with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which I’ll serve over ice. The crisp white wine is perfect for hot days because it’s both refreshing and light. Plus, the bottle has a twist-off cap, so it’s easy to keep the party going without looking for the corkscrew.” —Christie Vanover, championship BBQ chef and founder, Girls Can Grill, Henderson, Nev.
“I’ll be drinking the national beer of Texas, Lone Star. Texas BBQ and Lone Star go hand in hand. It’s a nice light beer that you can crush in the Texas heat.” —Patrick Feges, co-owner and pitmaster, Feges BBQ, Houston
“I’ll probably be drinking an Epic Western Ranch Water. They’re made with real tequila, so it’s basically like the Ranch Water cocktail I would make for myself but with way less work, so I’m free to concentrate on the important stuff like making sure the American cheese is melting perfectly on my grilled burgers!” —Jess Pryles, pitmaster, competition BBQ judge, and cookbook author, Austin, Texas
“I will be drinking Cheerwine because it’s got that perfect balance of sweet and tart cherry flavor. It cuts through fatty foods like a backyard burger, and it keeps you refreshed in the hot Florida sun.” —Rick Mace, executive chef, Tropical Smokehouse, West Palm Beach, Fla.
“I find myself serving guests in our restaurants [on the 4th] to ensure a fantastic experience for everyone, so it’s all about water to stay hydrated until the day’s end. But once the restaurants are closed, I look forward to celebrating and unwinding with a Yellow Rose IPA from Lone Pint Brewery. With its perfect balance of hops and crispness, this brew beautifully contrasts the robust flavors of smoked and grilled meats while remaining refreshingly light on a hot summer day.” —Barrett Black, pitmaster, Black’s BBQ, Lockhart, Texas
“I love Topo Chico Strawberry Guava Hard Seltzer because it screams summer! The summery strawberry flavor adds a touch of sweetness that complements those sticky ribs, saucy chicken, and cheesy smashburgers. The guava gives you Mexican tropical vibes that pair perfectly with grilled shrimp or fish and, obviously, carne asada!” —Rick Martinez, chef, host, and cookbook author, Mazatlán, Mexico
“For drinks this year, I have been really into Elvio Tintero Rosato. It’s very light and refreshing, but not too dry. It’s sparkling but not filling like beer, so it’s perfect to sip while cooking.” —Haley Conlin, co-owner, Barbs B Q, Lockhart, Texas
“I like to drink non-alcoholic beverages while I smoke meats. My choice is San Pellegrino Blood Orange Sparkling water. But if we have guests over for entertaining while cooking — [including] for the 4th of July — I quickly go to a Caymus Zinfandel and pour that for the pre-meal. BBQ has so many layers of flavors that it needs a wine like a Zinfandel that is equally large and has the acidity to help cut through the fat and enhance the meat.” —Darryl Bell, co-founder and chef, Stateline Road Smokehouse, Napa, Calif.
“This July 4th, I’ll be drinking Kings Family Distillery American Blend Whiskey, which is made in Sevierville, Tenn. I spend a lot of time in Gatlinburg, which isn’t far from their distillery, and I buy it by the case when I’m there. I drink it on the rocks. It has a smooth finish with no bite. It doesn’t overpower the barbecue meal and it’s also great as an ingredient in a finishing sauce.” —Myron Mixon, pitmaster, cookbook author, and founder of Myron Mixon Pitmaster BBQ, Virginia