It makes perfect sense that bourbon and Texas ’cue is a killer pairing.

Cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar, tobacco, oak-char, chocolate, and honey are a few bourbon flavors that will taste great with a decadent slab of meat. While sipping nice whiskey and barbecue is a fine thing, cooking with bourbon is also a perfect match. Bourbon’s inherent sweetness balances savory barbecue by complimenting its brown sugar and molasses-heavy profile.

To try some dishes at home, we tapped our favorite Texas-based chefs for their favorite bourbon and barbecue recipes. Brown Sugar Bourbon Pork Skewers by Jess Pryles, Lockhart Smokehouse’s famous Rib Jam, and my crowd-pleasing cocktail meatballs are all kitchen-tested and on the menu.

Bonus! Check out the Capital BBQ cocktail from Chris Henley, AKA, Betty Cocktail. Barbecue sauce adds curious savory notes to this citrus and strawberry-laden bourbon sipper. Pair it up with the rib jam; it might just blow your mind.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Pork Skewers by Jess Pryles

Known as the “Hardcore Carnivore,” Jess Pryles is an Australian chef based in Austin, a “meat scientist,” and a social media rock star covering all things barbecue and meat.

“Grilling is all about layering flavor with charcoal and marinades,” says Pryles. “Bourbon adds richness and depth of flavor to the meat.”

What You’ll Need:

How To Make It:

Slice the pork into long thin strips, no thicker than ¼ inch.

In a bowl, combine BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, Worcestershire, bourbon, and two teaspoons of salt. Stir to combine.

Place the pork into a zip-top bag, pour the brown sugar marinade on top, and place it in the fridge. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours, but preferably overnight.

Light a chimney full of Kingsford Cherrywood hardwood briquettes. Once ashed over, dump the chimney contents on one side of your grill, creating a hot and cool zone.

While the grill is warming, thread the 2-3 pieces of pork onto the skewers.

Once your grill grate has heated, lay the skewers directly over the coals. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side.

The pork should start to brown and caramelize, but be sure to turn it over before it burns. Cook a further 2-3 minutes on the other side. If necessary, repeat until a deep caramel color has formed.

Once the skewers are at the desired color, move them to the grill’s indirect side to finish cooking for 5 minutes.

If you prefer a thermometer to test for doneness, the skewers are ready when they read 145f internal temperature.

Bourbon Rib Jam By Jill Bergus

Lockhart Smokehouse is a Dallas BBQ staple who have occupied a busy corner in the Bishop Arts District since December 2013. This spot is known for serving meat so good that you don’t need sauce and encouraging patrons not to use silverware.

“This rib jam combines the smoky and savory flavors of the ribs with the sweetness of the apples, and bourbon enhances all those flavors,” explains Bergus.”

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 -3 lb smoked ribs, chopped and removed from bone (~4 cups)
  • 1½ C brown sugar
  • ¼ C apple cider vinegar
  • ½ C bourbon (Try Ironroot Harbinger 115)
  • Sprinkle pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 t white pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 1-3 finely diced jalapenos
  • Water to cover; add as needed

How To Make It:

Render bacon in a pan over medium heat, add onion and cook until golden brown. Add garlic and stir. Add rib pieces, apple, brown sugar, vinegar, bourbon, and spices. Add water to cover and simmer on medium-low heat.

Keep an eye on it and add water as needed to keep moist until it’s a spreadable consistency. (At least six hours.)

Once you feel like the mixture has reached peak “jam” state, mash with a potato masher or immersion blender. Serve on a charcuterie board, as a pizza topping, or with crackers.

Bourbon & Barbecue Meatballs By Susie O.

As an Influencer, travel writer, and food and beverage marketing expert, Susi O. knows her way around a party, and these simple bourbon meatballs are always a hit.

“Bourbon’s vanilla-honey profile works beautifully in this simple recipe. The best part is, the bourbon doesn’t fully cook out, so the meatballs are laced with a boozy bite.”

What You’ll Need:

How To Make It:

Mix all ingredients except meatballs in a bowl. Pour over the meatballs in a crock pot.

If using frozen meatballs, heat on high for about an hour (then turn to warm) or low for at least three hours. If using freshly rolled meatballs, sear them before putting them in a slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours.

Capital BBQ By Chris Henley, AKA Betty Cocktail

Henley (aka Betty Cocktail) is one of the heavy hitters in the Dallas cocktail scene who consults with the Balcones Speakeasy at Globe Life Field and runs Betty Cocktail, a cocktail catering company.

“Kansas City is sometimes called the “Barbecue Capital,” so when the Rangers took on the Royals, we felt we needed to make a statement. So we played with local flavors typically associated with Texas-style steak and burgers. And to ensure a nice balance, we added strawberries. The sweetness rounds out the savory notes of the BBQ sauce.”

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 oz bourbon (Preferably Balcones Pot Still Bourbon, from Waco, Texas)

  • Heaping bar spoon BBQ sauce (Try Sweet Baby Rays)

  • 2-3 strawberries, hulled

  • .75 oz honey syrup (1:1)

  • .75 oz lemon juice

  • Strawberry slices

How To Make It:

In a shaker tin, muddle 2-3 strawberries. Add whiskey, BBQ sauce, honey syrup, lemon juice, and strawberry puree. Add ice and shake until very cold. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with BBQ-honey brûléed strawberry slice (optional).

Drink well. Travel often. Booze & travel writer, SM consultant, party lady.
AKA @susiedrinksdallas // @thejetsweater