Maple Bourbon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks
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Maple Bourbon Glaze with Chicken Drumsticks

Happy hour meets breakfast with this smoky, sweet Maple Bourbon Glaze. Whether you slather it, douse it, or dip it on your next batch of grilled chicken, don’t forget the bacon.

Maple Bourbon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Raise your snifter and tongs. Let’s fire up the grill and toast to barbecue’s favorite beverage and chicken’s new best friend. This easy-to-make sauce combines ingredients you probably already have with a simple, and quick process. This recipe uses butterflied chicken drumsticks, but you can use any type of chicken you’d prefer.

I’m a huge fan of bourbon, one of the best spirits to pair with grilling and barbecue. There are other fun bourbon recipes lurking around, such as the Spiked Arnold Palmer Chicken. It’s a difficult decision to pour some out of the bottle and into a saucepan, but the flavors are incredible when it’s paired well with the right ingredients. This maple bourbon glaze is complex, with layers of smoke and sweet heat.

Why You’ll Love Maple Bourbon Glaze

If you’ve ever made a barbecue sauce, the concept and process are similar to this Maple Bourbon Glaze. It’s all about the individual ingredients coming together into a harmony of flavors.

  • Sweet, tangy, smoky, spicy, and savory notes meld together.
  • Simple, a grill-safe pan is all that is needed.
  • The smoky flavor is reinforced and fortified with bacon. So, BACON!
  • Open up your refrigerator and you probably have most of the components.
  • Bourbon! Just like bacon, bourbon really does make everything better.
  • This glaze is versatile and works well with any cut of chicken.
Saucing the chicken with maple bourbon glaze and bacon

Ingredients You’ll Need for Maple Bourbon Glaze

This sticky, luscious, complex sauce pairs perfectly with butterflied chicken drumsticks. The splayed meat with its crisp skin and charred nooks and crannies is an ideal canvas for this sauce to cling to. The simple rub for the chicken drumsticks echoes the smokiness in the glaze while enhancing the savory flavors without competing.

Maple Bourbon Glaze Ingredients

  • Ketchup – slightly sweet and thick base for the sauce
  • Maple syrup – Make sure you are using pure maple syrup
  • Bourbon – Pick a bourbon that you enjoy drinking as the flavors will concentrate
  • Chipotles in adobo – These smoky chiles pair perfectly with the maple and bourbon
  • Soy sauce – You can also use Worchestershire sauce, or you can make this recipe Gluten-Free by using a gluten-free soy sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar – Slight tang to balance out flavors
  • Brown sugar – Just a little rounds out the sweetness and thickens the sauce
  • Corn starch – Only a little bit to bring the sauce to a nice glaze
  • Bacon – Smoked is even better
  • Garlic cloves – Obviously
  • Soft herbs such as cilantro or mint, chopped (This is optional but adds a bright, fresh note)

Steps to Butterfly Chicken Drumsticks

STEP 1: Slice the correct side. Flip the chicken drumstick to the side with the meat exposed at the top (see images below). This is the side to cut, which has less skin. It’s not a game-breaker if you slice the wrong side, but I’ve found the skin crisps up nicer if you do it this way.

STEP 2: Slice along with the bones. Using a sharp knife, make 1 slice into the meat along the side of the bone. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Make a second cut along the other side of the bone, separating the meat so that it opens up flat. The bone should be completely exposed. Make sure to keep the meat attached to the bone, do not slice off the top, or the meat from the back of the bone.

Open it up and it’s ready to be seasoned for the grill!

Grilling the Drumsticks

If you are grilling the butterflied chicken drumsticks immediately, lightly coat them in oil and season them.

If you are grilling your chicken drumsticks later, place them on a wire rack. Season them generously and allow them to refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours up to overnight. Lightly oil just before grilling.

Prepping the butterflied chicken drumsticks

How to Grill and Glaze the Chicken

You’ll need to multitask a little, as there will be chicken searing and sauce brewing. Thankfully this all comes together pretty quickly, but not so fast that you’ll be juggling. Prior prep with the sauce and bacon allows for a stress-free cooking experience. Here are the general steps for success:

  • STEP 1: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat for direct grilling. Use a grill that has enough room for a grill pan.
  • STEP 2: Prep the glaze. Add your bourbon glaze ingredients, minus the garlic and bacon, to a small bowl and whisk together.
  • STEP 3: Start to grill. Place the butterflied drumsticks on the grill grates with the skin side up. Don’t touch them for about 7-8 minutes or until they develop a nice char and release easily from the grill. Flip once, skin-side down, and continue to cook until desired.
  • STEP 4: Crisp up the bacon. While your chicken is grilling, make the bourbon glaze: Warm up the pan on the grill next to the chicken. Cook the bacon until it’s crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside.
  • STEP 5: Pour in the sauce. Drain off the excess bacon fat from your pan. Sautee the garlic for a few minutes before adding the bourbon glaze sauce into the pan. Cook for just a couple of minutes until it thickens up a little.
  • STEP 6: Glaze the chicken. Add your cooked chicken drums to the sauce and toss to combine. Sprinkle on that crispy bacon and it’s time to plate!
  • STEP 7: Pour yourself a bourbon. Toast to the sauce you’ll be making all summer long!
Grilling the seasoned butterflied chicken drumsticks

Tips for Making Maple Bourbon Glaze

  • This is a great recipe to make ahead of time. Both the Maple Bourbon Glaze and the butterflied chicken drumsticks can be prepared the night before. However, don’t add the bacon to the sauce. Add it at the end when serving so you get that crispy, crunchy bite. 
  • Because of the higher sugar content in this sauce, don’t sauce your chicken until the very end. This will prevent your chicken and sauce from burning.
  • Always pick a bourbon to cook with that you enjoy drinking. This also holds true with any alcohol called for in a recipe. Feel free to have fun experimenting with flavors. You could add diced fresh jalapenos to this sauce at the same time you sauté your garlic.
Saucing the chicken drumsticks into the maple bourbon glaze

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this sauce ahead of time?

Yes. However, store the sauce and the bacon separately. Warm the sauce up before tossing your chicken. Crisp your bacon back up for topping.

Can I use other cuts of chicken for this recipe?

This recipe works on any cut of chicken where you might use barbecue sauce. Have fun experimenting. In addition, it would be delicious on pork chops or pork tenderloin.

What kind of bourbon should I use for Maple Bourbon Glaze?

You can (and should) use any type of bourbon you enjoy drinking.

Do I have to make the Maple Bourbon Glaze on the grill?

No. This glaze can also be prepared on the stove.

What temperature do I cook butterflied chicken drumsticks too?

Chicken drumsticks are a forgiving cut of chicken and can cook for a long time and remain juicy. 170-175°F will give you succulent meat and crispy skin.

Butterflied chicken drumsticks with maple bourbon glaze

Butterflied Chicken Drumstick Flavor Ideas!?

The drumsticks are just a vehicle for the flavor transportation to your mouth. Don’t limit yourself, try anything! Here are some delicious recipes you can easily transfer to these butterflied chicken drumsticks:

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Maple Bourbon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Maple Bourbon Glaze with Chicken Drumsticks

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Happy hour meets breakfast with this smoky, sweet Maple Bourbon Glaze. Whether you slather it, douse it, or dip it on your next batch of grilled chicken, don’t forget the bacon.

  • Total Time: 45
  • Yield: Serves about 4-5 1x


  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Maple Bourbon Glaze

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotles in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 6 slices bacon, diced fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • (optional) ½ cup chopped herbs, cilantro or mint


  1. Pat the chicken drumsticks dry. Take a drumstick and place it on your cutting board, with the side up facing you that has the most meat showing. Using a sharp knife, cut the meat along one side of the bone, careful not to slice all the way through. Make a second cut, separating the meat from the other side of the bone.  Fold open the meat and lay the drumstick face-down. Repeat for each one.
  2. Season the drumsticks. If grilling immediately, brush a light coat of oil on the wings before seasoning. If grilling later, skip the oil, season generously and then place them uncovered in the fridge on a wire rack for 2 hours, up to overnight. Lightly oil when ready to grill.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high, 400°F for direct cooking.
  4. Mix the ketchup, syrup, bourbon, chipotles, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Set aside for now.
  5. Remove the chicken from the fridge at least 20 minutes before adding to the grill, allowing them to come to room temp.
  6. Place the drumsticks on the grill grates with the skin-side up. Allow them to cook for about 7-8 minutes, until they develop grill marks and are easily able to be flipped.
  7. Flip the drumsticks, and repeat the process. This should take about 20-25 minutes depending on your grill.
  8. Set the grill-safe pan on the grill next to the chicken at a medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook it for a few minutes until it renders down and becomes crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan.
  9. Pour of some of the bacon fat if there’s excess. Add in the minced garlic and sautee for about 2 minutes until soft. Pour in the sauce mixture from the bowl, and allow it to thicken for a few minutes.
  10. Once the chicken is about 170-175°F, add it to the sauce and toss to combine. Sprinkle in the crispy bacon and serve.
  11. Plate the chicken and sauce for serving, and garnish with chopped herbs such as cilantro or mint.


Use any type of chicken you’d like, just follow the same guidelines for cooking chicken to a safe temperature. Time will vary if you’re using a different cut.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Appetizer
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