Simply put, bourbon belongs in barbecue sauce.
Bourbon, by definition (at least in the U.S.), is distilled from a grain mixture that must be at least 51 percent corn. And corn is naturally sweet. So of course bourbon makes a wonderful base for a sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce. It lends deep richness and combines wonderfully with so many of the sweet and bold flavors we associate with a great barbecue sauce.
So that was my inspiration for this recipe — to create an amazing bourbon-based barbecue sauce. But as I researched recipes, I was disappointed to find that so few bourbon barbecue sauces play up the bourbon. Most add just 1/4 cup, or perhaps 1/2 cup at most. I wanted more bourbon flavor, so I went with 1 cup.
For sweetness, I used equal parts maple syrup and brown sugar, both of which have the same rich caramel notes for which bourbon is known. Add some soy sauce for saltiness, some cider vinegar for acid and a bit of Frank’s Red Hot sauce for bite, and we’re off to a great sauce.
This sauce would be delicious on any grilled meat, particularly chicken or ribs. But I decided to slather it on shrimp. The briny notes of the shrimp just bring out the delicious sweetness of the sauce.