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Sweet Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

by Brad Prose

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Dip into a boozy spoonful of Sweet Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce. This rich sauce is asking to coat your wings, glaze pork ribs, or be brushed onto grilled shrimp. Pair the meal with a glass of your favorite bourbon and sit back.

Spoonful of honey bourbon bbq sauce to go on chicken wings.

There are so many sweet barbecue sauces on the shelves, but none of them are like this one. If you’re going for a sweeter flavor, you might as well spike it with bourbon.

This honey bourbon bbq sauce is also smoky with a nice tang of acid to round out the flavors. Depending on your choice of bourbon, there’s a little back throat heat that kicks in as well.

If you want another BBQ sauce without alcohol, check out Maple Chipotle BBQ sauce, Spicy Buffalo BBQ Sauce, or even the Korean Honey Mustard Sauce.

Why You’ll Love Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

  • Sweet and smoky. It’s meant to be a sweeter profile, but there’s a lot of depth to it. The complexities of the bourbon shine through, pairing perfectly with the rich honey for a well-balanced profile.
  • Simple to make. If you’ve got a bottle of bourbon, it’s very likely you’ll have most of the other ingredients ready to go. Pour everything into a saucepot and simmer until it’s ready. No blender, no mess.
  • Boozy bites. Yes, there’s alcohol still in the sauce. This recipe uses a generous portion of bourbon to highlight the flavor profile, which leaves a nice warm burn to each bite.
Preparing this honey bourbon bbq sauce is a very simple process.

How to Make This Sauce

Preparing this honey bourbon BBQ sauce couldn’t be easier, aside from measuring out the ingredients there are basically 2 steps you need to do:

STEP 1: Add everything to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.

This will only take a few minutes. Make sure you whisk everything together so the sugars dissolve evenly.

STEP 2: Drop the heat down to a simmer.

Allow it to cook for at least 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick you’d like to have it. Make sure you keep whisking periodically to keep the sugar from pooling at the bottom. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon and will continue to thicken as it cools. I typically simmer for about 20 minutes.

The alcohol does not cook out of this bourbon bbq sauce.

Does Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce still have alcohol?

Yes, this BBQ sauce has alcohol, and it’s important to be aware of serving minors or those that would be sensitive to alcohol.

There is a way to determine how much is left, or minimize it as much as possible. Heating up bourbon does remove “some” of the alcohol, and there’s helpful research that narrows it down to just how much:

Time Cooked at Boiling point of alcoholApproximate Amount of Alcohol Remaining
15 minutes40 percent
30 minutes35 percent
One hour25 percent
Two hours10 percent
Two and one-half hours5 percent
Source: ISU.edu
This sauce has honey, bourbon, and many other ingredients to make a sweet sauce.

Can you Substitute the Bourbon?

There is no suitable non-alcoholic liquid that will be close to the overall flavor profile. If you completely remove the bourbon and add something like apple juice or ginger beer, the entire recipe will taste different. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t delicious substitutes:

Wheat Whiskey – This might seem obvious as bourbon is a specialized variety of whiskey. Wheat whiskey tends to pair well with sweeter recipes, much less bitter and sharp than rye whiskey.

Rum – It will not add a smoky flavor, but it will have many of the sweeter notes that bourbon carries. Rum varies greatly with flavors and spices, so be familiar with your choice if you swap.

Cognac – This French brandy is aged in oak barrels, adding similar flavor notes that you would find in bourbon. Cognac carries a bit of a caramel flavor as well, working nicely in this sauce.

Grilled wings with honey bourbon bbq sauce glaze, and pistachios

Which Bourbon Should I Choose for BBQ Sauce?

One that you love to drink!

Seriously though, pick a bourbon that isn’t too sharp or bitter. Typically wheated bourbons work best for sweet sauces such as this honey bourbon BBQ sauce. There are also many rye bourbons that have sweet notes though, so use what you enjoy most. Here are some of my top choices:

  • Woodford Reserve
  • Old Forester, 86 proof
  • Wild Turkey
  • Jim Beam
  • Maker’s Mark
  • Jack Daniels
  • Rabbit Hole Heigold

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Spoonful of honey bourbon bbq sauce to go on chicken wings.

Sweet Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Dip into a boozy spoonful of Sweet Honey Bourbon BBQ Sauce. This rich sauce is asking to coat your wings, glaze pork ribs, or be brushed onto grilled shrimp. Pair the meal with a glass of your favorite bourbon and sit back.

  • Total Time: 30
  • Yield: About 2 cups 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk to make sure the sugars dissolve and don’t settle on the bottom.
  2. Reduce to a low simmer for about 20-25 minutes until thickened. Continue to periodically whisk. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon and will continue to thicken as it cools.
  3. Store the sauce in an airtight jar once cooled. This sauce will stay fresh for about 7-10 days.

Notes

  • This BBQ sauce contains alcohol, so please be mindful of serving to those who cannot tolerate it.
  • Please read the notes in the article for advice on how to reduce the amount of trace alcohol in the sauce. You can simmer for longer periods of time to cook out more of the alcohol.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Sauces & Salsas
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: BBQ Sauce

Keywords: bbq sauce, bourbon, honey, wing sauce, bourbon bbq sauce, honey bourbon bbq sauce, sweet bbq sauce

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