Food: Backyard Ribfest: Dry Rub and Bourbon BBQ Sauce

This week, let’s roll back to our very first food post where we made a simple bbq sauce to welcome the long awaited spring that moved on to the season of summer sunshine, beach time, vacations, patio nights and delicious bbqs.   Our bourbon community continues to grow, friendships are made via social media networks and the world is enjoying bourbon more today than they ever before. This is a wonderful thing to be a part of and it’s also fitting that I write this post on Labor Day, because our network efforts are truly a labor of love.  Bourbon love.

I don’t know about you, but I like to bbq all year round and right now it seems like every weekend there is a ribfest happening.  So this week, I’m bringing the ribfest to you. Everyone has their own methods, some use dry rubs, or a smoker and some have secret ingredients in their sauces but I like using a dry rub and a bbq sauce while finishing up on the grill.  I find that I seldom use the same combination twice. Usually I’ll change up the ingredients to discover different flavor combinations but more often than not, it’s because I forgot my shopping list on the kitchen table at home and can never remember what I need so I use what I have on hand.  

This rub takes mere minutes to make and apply.  The bbq sauce is a bit more work but definitely worth the effort.  The bonus is that you can make it a day ahead or even a week ahead or even double the batch and have it on hand for whenever you want to fire up the bbq.  Play around with the ingredients and create a flavor you like. Make it sweeter, more tart, add some heat or bump up the bourbon to make it more bourbonlicious.  It’s your bbq sauce, so customize it!


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Rib Dry Rub:   

*honestly, I add a handful of this and that but these are ingredients that I usually have on hand; add what you like, omit what you don’t like!

2 tbsp Garlic Powder

2 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp bourbon salt (see previous post for recipe) or kosher salt

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp thyme

Combine ingredients, rub over ribs, cover and refrigerate for minimum 2-3 hours,  preferably overnight

BBQ Sauce:

1 tsp olive oil

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1 tbsp water

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 oz bourbon, plus 2oz

1 ½ to 2 cups of ketchup (start with smaller amt and add to taste)

¾  cup of brown sugar

2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

2 tbsp soya sauce (and yes, I did use packets from our last Chinese order – sometimes you gotta improvise)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and Pepper to taste


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  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Pre-bake the rubbed ribs for about 45 minutes.

  2. While pre-cooking the ribs, add olive oil, onions and water to a medium saucepan over medium heat until onions are translucent.  

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust to your liking.

  4. Transfer what you need to a basting bowl and refrigerate the rest for another time. This makes about 2 cups of sauce and it’ll keep for a couple of weeks.

  5. Fire up your grill to medium low.  Pour the 2 oz of bourbon to enjoy while you are bathing your ribs with your homemade sauce.  Make sure you get both sides for optimal coverage.

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This tangy sauce is delicious on chicken and pork chops.  If you are not pre-cooking your meat, I suggest waiting until the last couple of minutes of grilling before applying the sauce to avoid flare ups.  You can alter the flavor greatly by substituting tomato paste for some of the ketchup or molasses for the brown sugar or Worcestershire sauce for the soya sauce.  If you like a smokey flavor, add some liquid smoke – starting with a small amount (1 tsp) and adjust the taste to suit, less is more with liquid smoke. If you like heat, add more cayenne or hot sauce.   The point is, is that there are no hard and fast rules when making your bbq sauce. After a few attempts, you will be zero in on a flavor you prefer. Keep tasting as you go and adjust as needed. Make it your own!

Cheers and enjoy the fruits of your labor!  

Maureen LInehan


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