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The Boozy Ingredient That Takes BBQ Sauce Up A Notch

ribs with BBQ sauce in bowl
ribs with BBQ sauce in bowl - Luchezar/Getty Images

Chefs love to use alcohol when cooking since they know that it can punch up the flavor and bring unique qualities to a dish. This seems especially true when making sauces. Wine and spirits can play an important part in both sweet and savory applications. Just think what white wine does to a bernaise sauce and what whiskey does for a whiskey caramel sauce. Sometimes alcohol even earns a starring role in such popular recipes as penne alla vodka.

Bourbon, which is a type of whiskey, provides a special boost to barbeque sauce, lending a sweetness and smokiness that amplifies the condiment's common ingredients. Bourbon plays well with the acidic notes of vinegar as well as sweet notes from brown sugar, molasses, and ketchup. And this addition doesn't only work with traditional barbeque sauce; bourbon can also boost the flavor of other styles of the sauce, whether they are vinegar-based or mustard-based.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Many Types Of Bourbon

Bottle of whisky and barrel
Bottle of whisky and barrel - Karandaev/Getty Images

Bourbon is a distinctive alcohol that pairs perfectly with barbeque. For a whiskey to be considered a true bourbon, it must meet several standards. First, the primary grain used must be corn and aged in new oak barrels that have been charred. The bourbon also must be at least 80 proof when it is bottled. The corn brings a certain sweetness as well as spiciness to the alcohol and aging it in charred barrels helps it develop some of its flavor notes, such as caramel. Besides using corn, a mix of other grains, usually rye and barley, are incorporated as well, helping to shape the bourbon's flavor.

It's important to realize that bourbon comes in a range of styles. There's Kentucky or traditional bourbon, which has a higher percentage of corn than many other kinds -- more than 70%. There's also a wheated variety that uses wheat with corn instead of rye, and it's known for its earthy and honey notes. A high rye bourbon is, as its name implies, made with more rye than usual and is known for being spicier than traditional bourbon. You might also see single-barrel bourbon (it all comes from a single barrel rather than a blend) and cask-strength bourbon, which packs a much stronger punch because it's not watered down. These types have variations in taste so consider what kind of notes you want to highlight in your barbeque sauce when choosing a bourbon.

Picking The Right Bourbon For Your BBQ Sauce

Measuring cup with BBQ sauce
Measuring cup with BBQ sauce - New Africa/Shutterstock

To pick the best bourbon for your barbeque sauce, be sure to select a bourbon you would be happy to drink on its own. If you don't like the taste of the bourbon itself, you definitely won't like the flavor it adds to your sauce. Then think of what flavors you want to accent in your barbeque sauce. For a mustard-based barbeque sauce, you might want to go with a high rye bourbon to play up the spiciness of the sauce. You may want a smoother, sweetener bourbon, like a Kentucky bourbon, for a traditional tomato-based barbeque sauce.

When cooking with bourbon, make sure to give your sauce time to simmer. You want to allow the alcohol in the bourbon to cook down in the barbeque sauce. No one wants the taste of raw alcohol to overpower the other ingredients. Be aware that not all of the alcohol will be eliminated in the cooking process. Also, find the ratio of alcohol to other liquids you like best. Try starting with a ¼ cup of bourbon for every 2 cups of sauce and work your way up to ½ cup depending on your taste preferences.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.