Flavors for the Final Four

Published Apr 4, 2014 at 12:11AM

Drink: SCREWDRIVER/GREYHOUND

Mix your vodka with orange juice and enjoy a screwdriver. Or mix your vodka with grapefruit juice for a greyhound. Whatever. Just mix some booze with something citrus-y and close your eyes real tight and — BOOM! — you’re in Florida. If that doesn’t work, put a little umbrella in something fruity and then nail plywood over your windows.

Eat: Key Lime PIE

South Florida has lots of yummy regional delicacies worth exploring: Cuban sandwiches, Floribbean slaw, fried gator. But Gainesville is a long way from South Florida, both geographically and culinarily. So if you can’t find some alligator tail to fry up to honor the Gators’ 30 wins in a row, just go with Key lime pie. Because it’s your party. And your party needs pie.

Two months ago, you likely threw a Super Bowl party. You might’ve even offered some food and beverages themed around the participating teams and/or their home cities.

So why not do the same Saturday for men’s college basketball’s Final Four? The games begin at 3 p.m., they’ll last well past dinner time, and they offer twice as many culinary (and booze-inary) regions to draw from.

Below are ideas for drinks and eats from the homes of the last four hoops squads standing.

— Ben Salmon

Drink: PAINKILLER

Identifying an iconic drink for Connecticut is tricky, but we settled on a Painkiller, a cocktail that blends Pusser’s Rum with pineapple juice, cream of coconut and orange juice, with lots of fresh nutmeg on top. Because Connecticut is the Nutmeg State, of course! You could also make this drink “ladies’ choice” since the Connecticut women’s team is usually better than the men.

Eat: FLUFFERNUTTER

White bread. Peanut butter. Marshmallow creme. That’s it. That’s a fluffernutter. This sweet sandwich, which dates back to World War I, is strongly associated with Massachusetts, but it’s popular all over New England. Why? Because: White bread. Peanut butter. Marshmallow creme. That’s why.

Drink: MINT JULEP

Pay respect to college basketball’s greatest program by drinking bourbon in the classic way: neat. We suggest Woodford Reserve, a premium bourbon made 20 miles from Kentucky’s campus. Want to sweeten things up? Make a mint julep and pretend you’re at the Derby!

Eat: HOT BROWN

One of the most decadent foods you’ll ever see, the hot brown was actually invented in Louisville, home of the Wildcats’ archrival. No matter, this open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich — covered in Mornay sauce, baked and then covered with tomato — is so good, it’ll make friends out of enemies. Eat this last so you can see all of the second game before your arteries harden.

Drink: MILLER BEER

I know what you’re thinking: Miller? Is that a new craft brewery in town? Not quite. It’s America’s second-largest beer-maker, headquartered in Milwaukee. But it dominates drinking in Wisconsin, where they know how to drink. So take off your fancy pants and down some, dudes.

Eat: FRIED CHEESE CURDS

If you’ve ever lived near a cheese factory, you might know what cheese curds are: Rubbery, salty chunks of cheese. Yum. Guess what? Brilliant Wisconsinites deep-fry ’em and serve ’em with ranch. Oh my. The tricky part here is you can’t buy cheese curds in stores; they lose freshness quickly. Don’t worry, the Tillamook Cheese Factory’s only 200 miles away. Start driving!