Step up your summer grilling game with this bourbon-coffee BBQ sauce! Spicy, smoky and complex with a boozy punch, this homemade BBQ sauce perfectly complements any grilled meat. After one taste, I have no doubt this will become your new favorite BBQ sauce.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Coffee and bourbon unite for the ultimate flavor depth: Coffee and bourbon add such a complexity to a good chili-based dish. The coffee's roasted notes and the bourbon's charred oak undertones
Way better than store-bought BBQ sauce: Sure, you can buy BBQ sauce in a jar, but why would you when homemade is much more flavorful, full of natural ingredients and super simple? The flavor boost alone is worth making your own coffee BBQ sauce, but when you throw in those additional perks, you can't justify buying it at the store.
Easily adjustable to suit your taste: Particular about your BBQ sauce? You can control the seasoning as you see fit. If you shy away from too much heat, cut back on the chili powder. Or maybe you want more heat — simply add more chili powder or some cayenne pepper. It's way more fun and satisfying to create your own sauce!
Simple as it gets: If you can simmer ingredients, you have all the skills necessary to make this recipe. See? You have no reason not to try your hand at this from-scratch BBQ sauce.
Let's first organize our bourbon BBQ sauce ingredients and chat through some tips.
Coffee: I prefer to use a medium or dark roast, but your favorite variety works just fine.
Bourbon: Use something that's good enough to drink on its own. Cheap bourbon is harsh and will come through in the sauce. I'm not saying to break the bank looking for a pricey bourbon. As long as it's tasty enough to drink, you'll be good to go.
Something mid-range, like Makers Mark, is perfect. I love that Makers Mark is a sweeter bourbon with vanilla and caramel notes, which is a nice contrast to the smoky spice. Alternatively, you're more than welcome to substitute whiskey or rye.
Molasses: We want to use unsulphured molasses rather than blackstrap. Thanks to its make up of ripe sugar cane, unsulphured molasses is sweeter with a richer flavor.
Spice mixture: Here, we use chili powder, espresso powder, mustard powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, onion powder and salt.
So let's go over just how easy it is to make this bourbon-coffee BBQ sauce recipe.
Step 1: We start by adding a can of tomato sauce and tomato paste, which is the base of our sauce, to a medium-size saucepan. Now we give it a stir to make one cohesive mixture (photo 1).
Step 2: With our base prepared, we add our spice mixture to give this homemade BBQ sauce the perfect kick (photo 2).
Step 3: Now we let our mixture simmer to allow the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken (photo 3). I find about 20 minutes does the trick.
Step 4: After the sauce cooks, we turn off the heat, add our bourbon (photo 4) and enjoy on every piece of meat in sight.
How to Use
Of course, you can slather this coffee-bourbon BBQ sauce all over grilled or smoked meats, like my favorite tri tip, brisket, smoked chicken and 3-2-1 ribs, but that's not its only use. Here are a few ideas.
- Use as a pizza base, like my shrimp and avocado grilled naan pizza or pulled pork BBQ pizza.
- Drizzle on some brisket mac and cheese.
- Brush onto a block of smoked cream cheese for an amazing dip.
- Combine with ranch dressing for salads.
- Dress up your classic baked potato.
- Serve with cocktail meatballs.
- Cooked with baked beans.
- Spoon onto tacos, quesadillas or tostadas.
- Smothered on a burger or sliders.
- Use as a dipping sauce for chicken strips.
With our sauce prepare, we want to keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. A mason jar or plastic storage container works great. Thanks to the sugars and vinegar, we get plenty of natural preservatives, so it should last several weeks.
This sauce certainly has a kick, thanks to the chili powder. That said, I've served this to friends who are sensitive to spice, and they had no problem enjoying it. Of course, spice tolerance is subjective, but just about anyone won't find this recipe too spicy.
You sure can, and it's a great option if you'd like to store it for even longer. Simply keep the sauce in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to three months. After that, the sauce is still safe to consume, but the quality starts to go down.
Serve at room temperature: I like to let the sauce come down to room temperature or spoon what I plan to use in a separate container and zap it in the microwave. The refrigeration chill naturally dilutes some flavors, so you'll miss out on the sauce's complexity if you serve while cold. This isn't much of a problem if you baste the sauce onto meat while grilling, but it is if you drizzle the sauce onto pulled pork or use as a dipper.
Use a separate container for basting: If you plan to brush this BBQ sauce onto meat, pour a small amount in a separate container and brush from there. You can always add more if need be. If you brush the meat and then put it back into the jar of BBQ sauce, you could contaminate the entire batch.
Adjust the seasoning to your preference: I like a spicy kick in my BBQ sauce, so I use a full tablespoon of chipotle chili powder. However, if you're sensitive to heat, add about a teaspoon at a time and season to your liking.
Considering that my flavor inspiration for this BBQ sauce came from Avery Brewing Tweak, a bourbon barrel-aged coffee imperial stout, it only makes sense to grab that same beer. If you can’t get your hands on Tweak, Oskar Blues Java Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ten FIDY is a good one or look for any similar offering from one of your local breweries.
If you’re in the mood for wine, I like a zinfandel for its fruity notes and peppery kick. Plus, it's bold enough to stand up to this complex sauce. However, if you plan on using this sauce on chicken, a pinot noir is a nice option.
Of course, if you want to stick with the bourbon theme, I have you covered with lots of cocktails. For something fruity to counter the spice, my cherry bourbon smash and blueberry bourbon smash are tasty options. Some warm spices would also make a good match, so feel free to pair this sauce with my apple cider old fashioned or chai-cranberry bourbon smash.
If you're ready to step up your grilling game, I hope you try this coffee-bourbon BBQ sauce. It's sure to be a hit at your next backyard party.
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Bourbon-Coffee BBQ Sauce
- Medium-size saucepan
- 1 (15-ounce) tomato sauce can
- 1 (6-ounce) tomato paste can
- 3 garlic cloves grated or minced
- ¾ cup brewed coffee preferably dark roast
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup unsulphured molasses not blackstrap
- ¼ cup real maple syrup
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar packed
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder can substitute regular chili powder
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup bourbon
- In a medium saucepan, stir together the tomato sauce and paste until it becomes one cohesive mixture.
- Stir in the garlic, coffee, apple cider vinegar, molasses, maple syrup, dark brown sugar, chipotle chili powder, espresso powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, smoked paprika, cumin, onion powder and salt.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer until the mixture slightly thickens, stirring often to prevent burning. If necessary, you can turn down the heat but maintain a simmer. Cooking time generally takes about 15-20 minutes.
- Turn off heat. Stir in bourbon. Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
- For the coffee, use an actual brewed cup of coffee, not coffee grounds.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If stored properly, it should last several weeks.
- Serve at room temperature. I like to let the sauce come down to room temperature or spoon what I plan to use in a separate container and zap it in the microwave. The refrigeration chill naturally dilutes some flavors, so you'll miss out on the sauce's complexity if you serve while cold. This isn't much of a problem if you baste the sauce onto meat while grilling, but it is if you drizzle the sauce onto pulled pork or use as a dipper.
- If basting, pour a small amount of the sauce into a separate container to avoid cross contamination.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.