Food & Drink

Smoke Wrangler’s Bacon Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Excerpted from Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades.

Bacon and bourbon—two flavorings with deep roots in American barbecue. They come together in this smoky, tangy barbecue sauce created by Project Smoke smoke wrangler and frequent Barbecue Board contributor, Rob Baas. Rob is the guy who assembles and res up all the grills and smokers on our TV show, and his Kentucky roots come through in this sweet-tart red sauce made fiery by sufficient red pepper flakes to let you know it means business.

Makes 1 quart


  • 2 strips bacon, finely diced
  • 1½ cups cider vinegar
  • 2½ cups ketchup
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher), to taste


1. Place the bacon in a heavy nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is browned, 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

2. Stir in the vinegar and bring to a boil. Then stir in the ketchup, sugars, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and bourbon and gradually bring to a boil.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, uncovered, until thick and richly flavored, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the salt—you’ll need quite a lot to offset the acidity of the vinegar. Use right away or transfer to clean jars, cover, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for several weeks.

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