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Bourbon & BBQ Pairings

Bourbon & BBQ Pairings

Summer has begun and it’s National Bourbon Day!

Both Bourbon and BBQ share so many similarities. They’re strong. Have origins in charred wood. (And they’re about as American as a bald eagle soaring over a baseball stadium that’s blaring ‘God Bless The USA’.)

But as much as they have in common— pairing them can be tricky.

Because bourbon is naturally high in proof, not every dish will hold up to its boldness. (Light cuisine need not apply.) So we’ve compiled this handy guide of Bourbon and BBQ pairings.

Look it over. And if you aren’t already a grill-master, you’ll certainly be well on your way.

Hot and Spicy Dry Rubs
BBQ that is cooked more on the dry and spicy side can go one of two ways when pairing. If you want something that contrasts, and compliments the dry, spicy flavor go with a Rye whisky. Neat. (JP Wiser’s or Tap 357 Maple Rye Whisky) If you want something to cool to temper the taste— then mix up a refreshing Mint Julep.

Sweet Mustard BBQ Sauces
Sweet mustard BBQ sauces pair deliciously with the sweetness of Maker’s Mark. The tangy mustard, dances with the light honey oak of Maker’s and leaves a light sweet candy finish. If you really lean more on the sweeter side— then mix up an Old Fashioned.

White BBQ Sauces (Alabama white sauce)
Pair the creamier, mellow sauces with with a higher proof bourbon. We suggest Booker’s or Knob Creek 120 proof version. This allows the alcohol to be slightly tempered, and the taste of the bourbon can be brought out. For a cocktail, go with a boulevardier, as the creaminess plays off well with the boulevardier’s tartness.

Lightly Charred BBQ
For slightly charred style BBQ dishes, pair with a Rowan’s Creek bourbon. But be careful not to go too smoky or charred while grilling, as the flavor may overshadow the bourbon.
‘Texas Style’ BBQ Sauces

Texas makes many kinds of BBQ sauce. But the nation knows Texas style as having a tomato and molasses base. Nothing too spicy. An example is Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce, with a more mesquite flavor. Pair it with a smooth, and light caramel-sweet bourbon like Mitcher’s Bourbon.

Sweet and Peppery BBQ Sauces (Memphis Style)
A sauce with this much complexity, needs an equally complex partner. Wild Turkey 101 is the winner here. The bourbon is complex enough, but still well-balanced. Wild Turkey brings out the light fruit notes and soft smokiness of the Memphis Style BBQ.

That’s all for now! Remember, your barbecue essentials (at super-low prices) can be found at your nearest Spec’s wines, spirits, and finer foods.

Have a delicious summer. And happy grilling!


Owned and operated by the same Houston family since 1962, Spec’s is a true destination shopping experience. We now operate over 150 stores all over the great state of Texas and offer a large selection of wines, spirits and finer foods.

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