Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

The secret to this spicy bourbon barbecue sauce is smoked bottled ketchup. Bourbon and molasses are added for a kickin’ barbecue sauce that’s perfect on ribs, pulled pork, burgers, chicken.

A small pot with a small amount of spicy bourbon barbecue sauce left in it and a spoon resting inside.

No liquid smoke in this barbecue sauce recipe. Instead, this recipe makes smoked ketchup in order to impart a subtle smokiness to the resulting sauce. Yes, smoked ketchup. Believe it. Better yet, taste it. Whether by the spoonful or slathered all over ribs that are cooked low and slow. [Editor’s Note: Yes, we know, smoking ketchup may seem sorta fussy. But why not just toss it in the smoker along with your ribs or pork shoulder (or whatever you happen to be making and that you intend to slather this sauce all over) for the first couple hours? And if you do that, you may want to slip a drip pan under the meat and swap out the bacon fat in the recipe below for a tablespoon of the drippings.]–Renee Schettler


There’s a significant difference between most marinades and sauces. And that difference is usually sugar. A marinade infuses the meat, while a sauce goes on at the end so that it doesn’t burn up in the cooking process. In general, you can start brushing your barbecue sauce on the meat about 20-30 minutes before it’s ready to come off the grill, especially if you’re using indirect heat. If you’ve got a big old fire raging, you might want to wait until the last 10 minutes. With a sauce that’s as tasty as this, you’re likely going to want to slather it all over everything you’re cooking. But restraint is key—brush on just enough to get the flavor and pass more at the table. No burning, just lip-smacking taste.


Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

A small pot with a small amount of spicy bourbon barbecue sauce left in it and a spoon resting inside.

This sauce couldn’t be any easier to make. It makes a bold statement with a hint of spicy, Southern-style, while a lick of bourbon gives it an edge.

Mitchell Rosenthal

Prep 10 mins

Cook 2 hrs 30 mins

Total 2 hrs 40 mins

80 servings | 1 1/2 quarts

39 kcal

  • Prepare a barrel smoker. You want the temperature to be between 225°F and 250°F (107°C and 121°C).

  • Place the ketchup in a large metal bowl, place the bowl in the smoker, and add a handful of the soaked hickory chips to the coals. Smoke the ketchup for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Be mindful of maintaining a consistent temperature inside the smoker, adding charcoal as needed to keep it in the 225°F to 250°F range (107°C and 121°C). You may need to add more soaked hickory chips to keep the smoke flowing.

  • Dump the smoked ketchup into a large pot. Add the bourbon, mustard, molasses, water, hot red pepper sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, bacon drippings, and salt and stir well to combine. Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened and darkened slightly.
  • Immediately slather the sauce over some ribs or other meat of some sort. Any leftover sauce will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 39kcal (2%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 299mg (13%)Potassium: 107mg (3%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 91IU (2%)Vitamin C: 2mg (2%)Calcium: 12mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Originally published June 25, 2012

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