Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

For smoke flavoring, I like to go to the source. No liquid smoke here. A great way to make this sauce is, if you have room, to put the ketchup in the smoker along with your ribs or pork shoulder (or whatever you happen to be cooking) for the first two hours of a long smoke. Put a drip pan under the meat and substitute a tablespoon of the drippings for the bacon fat below, as this adds a nice little extra something.–Mitchell Rosenthal

LC Yes, Smoked Ketchup Note

Yes, smoked ketchup. This recipe actually has you smoke ketchup. Believe it. Better yet, taste it, whether by the spoonful or slathered all over some ribs that are cooked low and slow, just as they ought to be.

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

Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 2 H, 40 M
  • Makes 1 1/2 quarts


  • 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


  • 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 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.


  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?

    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.

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