There are few things that go together better than a nice dram of bourbon and a killer slab of barbecued meat. So much so that pairing bourbon and barbecue has become an essential part of the backyard summer experience. You want to win the cookout game? Connect what people are eating with what they’re drinking in a way that resonates.
Here’s the (dry) rub: bourbon is a varied drink and barbecue is not one single thing. Both contain endless multitudes. Bourbons play in sharp flavors of oaky vanilla, rich caramel, piquant spice, and smoky char. Depending on where a particular bourbon lies, it can pair with smoky and fatty meats, herb-infused fish, or even a pile of cold-smoked mushrooms. As for barbecue, well, you can grill pretty much anything. And if you want to get technical and talk about the styles of authentic barbecue, you’ll be at it for a while. KC, NC, SC, Lexington-Dip, Texas-style, Alabama white sauce… the list is long.
With this in mind, we thought we’d give you a guide to how to pair a few of our favorite bourbons with barbecue and grilled dishes for the summer. This isn’t about being definitive, it’s about the feel of a great bottle of booze next to a delicious plate of saucy, steamy meat (and fish!). Let’s go!
Brisket feels like the crowning achievement of any barbecue event. The slab of beef is layered fat and lean with a simple salt and pepper base. When done right, it melts in your mouth with a nice pepper edge and plenty of umami salt next to all that fat and beefiness. It’s simple and a surefire crowd-pleaser.
Drink With: Four Roses Small Batch, $41.99
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon starts out with notes of toffee, nutmeg, cinnamon, and plenty of oaky vanilla. Next, hints of pitted fruits and berries come through with fresh honey and more of that cinnamon mid-palate. Finally, the taste ends with a return to the oak and vanilla alongside a slight alcohol burn with peppery spice.