Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce

This barbecue sauce gets a boozy kick from bourbon and a sweetness from brown sugar, making it the perfect sauce to pair with beef, chicken, and pork. 

Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce | Taste As You Go
Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce

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I'm having a really hard time writing this blog post tonight. After staring at my screen for the past hour, I'm still writing and rewriting my words only to erase everything to start over again. I can't seem to focus or put a coherent thought together, and my inability to get into a writing rhythm just illustrates how shell-shocked I am after hearing the crushing news about the sudden passing of a dear friend and fellow food blogger.

Elle, from Elle's New England Kitchen, was one of the first food bloggers I interacted with on a regular basis when I first launched Taste As You Go in 2008, and I'm so grateful to have known her. I will miss her friendship, her stories, and her amazing sense of humor.

Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey | Taste As You Go
Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey

I almost skipped tonight's blog post altogether, but the act of writing (or, even, struggling to write) is soothing to me right now. Writing is helping me sort through my thoughts and my emotions, and, deep down, I'm sure this recipe for Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce is something that Elle would have liked.

Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey | Taste As You Go
Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey

Now, I want to go on record right now -- I am not an expert when it comes to choosing bourbon. So my decision to use Ezra Brooks in this recipe has nothing to do with my supreme knowledge about bourbon whiskey and everything to do with the recommendation I received from the folks at my local liquor store.

Butter and Onions | Taste As You Go
Butter and Onions

The recipe for this Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce is super simple and doesn't require any obscure ingredients. In fact, aside from the bourbon, you might already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen.

Softened Onions | Taste As You Go
Softened Onions

For 4 cups of barbecue sauce, start by cooking 2 cups of onions in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter. I used a mixture of yellow and white onions since that's what I had on hand.

Ketchup and Brown Sugar | Taste As You Go
Ketchup and Brown Sugar

Once the onions have softened, add 4 cups of ketchup and 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)...

Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey | Taste As You Go
Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey

... plus 1 whole cup of bourbon...

Ground Mustard and Ground Cinnamon | Taste As You Go
Ground Mustard and Ground Cinnamon

... and some ground mustard and ground cinnamon. Stir all of the ingredients until well combined and then bring the mixture to a simmer before reducing the heat and cooking over low heat for 20-30 minutes or so until the mixture has thickened.

Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce | Taste As You Go
Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce

What you'll be left with is a flavorful barbecue sauce that's perfect for brushing onto a pork loin before roasting, slathering on a rack of ribs before grilling, or using as a dipping sauce for homemade fries. As I said above, this recipe yields about 4 cups of sauce, so feel free to do what I did and freeze some of it for later.

Bourbon-Spiked Barbecue Sauce
Prep time: 5-10 minutes | Cook time: 25-35 minutes | Total time: 30-45 minutes | Yield: about 4 cups | Printable Recipe

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups onions, minced
  • 4 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the minced onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, bourbon, ground mustard, and ground cinnamon. Stir to combine thoroughly.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
  5. Once the mixture starts to bubble gently, lower the heat to low or medium-low.
  6. Cook the sauce, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thickened.
Recipe by Michelle Rittler | Taste As You Go // Adapted from Homemade Condiments: Artisan Recipes Using Fresh, Natural Ingredients

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