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.

An empty pot and spoon with just a little spicy bourbon barbecue sauce at the bottom on wood

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 hour? 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.] Originally published June 25, 2012.Renee Schettler Rossi

Special Equipment: 2 to 3 handfuls hickory chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 2 H, 40 M
  • Makes 1 1/2 quarts
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Ingredients

  • Two (24-ounce) bottles ketchup
  • 2/3 cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/3 cup store-bought or homemade hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon rendered bacon drippings
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Directions

  • 1. Prepare a barrel smoker. You want the temperature to be between 225°F and 250°F (107°C and 121°C).
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. Transfer the smoked ketchup to 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.


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Recipe Testers Reviews

This recipe makes a ridiculous amount of barbecue sauce, so if you’re just cooking up a couple racks of ribs, I would recommend not just halving but quartering the recipe. Either that or plan to freeze the leftovers. That said, it’s a delicious, very robust sauce, and definitely worth doing if you’ve got the smoker going anyway. Smoking the ketchup is an interesting touch. The ketchup can smoke right alongside your meat, and once that’s done, the sauce comes together quite easily. The resulting sauce is not overwhelmingly smoky, but simply tastes more like barbecue. Using liquid smoke instead of actually smoking the ketchup would not give the same result, so don’t even think about it. This is a very intense sauce, so use it sparingly. You want the meat to be the star.

Comments

  1. This has become our favorite barbecue sauce. I can’t believe how much flavor the smoking of the catsup adds to the sauce. Since we are blessed with plenty of freezer space we always make a full batch and freeze the extra.

  2. Dear Friends I don’t know what a barrel smoker is. I’m sure I don’t have it. Is there a way to make one out of typical kitchenware?
    thanks
    Sharon

    1. Sharon, I love your spirit of inventiveness! When I lived in an apartment and didn’t have access to a backyard grill, I MacGyvered a stovetop smoker out of a wok and aluminum foil and, because I loved the results, I invested in a Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker which is infinitely easier than the wok and boasts a larger capacity. I’ve smoked chicken, fish, pork butt, even bacon in my Cameron’s. I love it. You could easily smoke the ketchup in this although you’d need to use a shallow dish to contain the ketchup and you need to halve the recipe. Let me know if this helps or if you’d prefer the wok instructions, Sharon.

      1. I would love to hear about the wok technique, please. I have a propane grill but think the “propane” may collide with the smoke.

        1. Ruby, sure, it’s so simple. You take a wok—preferably a cheaper or older wok that you’re not attached to, since it may get marred slightly on the surface—and you wrap a few pieces of aromatic wood or wood chips in foil and puncture the foil in several places with the tip of a knife. Then you toss that in the bottom of the wok. If you have a small half rack that came with the work, you nestle that in the wok. Otherwise you can simply put a small plate or an upside-down bowl in the wok and on top of that you put the food to be smoked. Then rip several large pieces of aluminum foil long enough to extend well beyond the edge of the wok and completely cover the wok with a couple layers, generously overlapping the foil and crimping it close against the upper edge of the wok so it is very well covered. And then you simply turn the burner beneath the wok on low. It will take a little time but the wood should start to smoke from the heat. And then you smoke the food until it’s done. The timing is a little trickier with this homemade smoker setup. If you have a digital thermometer, you could use it here. Beware, if doing this on an indoor burner and not on the grill, that since smoking typically takes a while to cook the food since it happens at a relatively low temperature, that the smoke will permeate the house and infuse everything—çlothes, couch, etc. A word to the wise. My then-boyfriend loved the resulting taste of the food but was not pleased with the lingering, ah, aroma of smoke inside his apartment. Kindly let us know how it goes!

    1. Bonnie, we don’t recommend it for this recipe. Also we didn’t test it with liquid smoke, so we don’t want to hazard a guess. If you chose to do it, I suggest going drop by drop.

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