Whether it’s wine, beer or liquor, each type of alcohol offers its own specific flavor profiles, and it is said that even a jigger or a splash can intensify the flavor perception of a dish in a way that stocks and juices simply can’t. We’re not going to go into the science of it, but to put it simply, it has to do with how alcohol evaporates and how its molecules bond with food molecules.
Today, we are going to focus on cooking with bourbon. So, we turned to food scientist-turned-chef Whitney Fontaine. After earning a degree in Food Science from Purdue University, Whitney worked for General Mills, spent five years at Louisville-based Paradise Tomato Kitchens developing sauces for restaurant chains, and lastly, was an application scientist at Brown-Forman, where they produce fine bourbons like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Coopers’ Craft, among other bourbons and liquors. Whitney loved working with spirits but missed food terribly, so she earned a degree in Culinary Arts from Sullivan University, and she now is the Executive Private Chef of La Belle Du Sud.
“So often people use stock or wine to deglaze, but bourbon, specifically Coopers’ Craft, is perfect for a bourbon pan sauce,” says Whitney. “It’s a great cooking bourbon because it allows the flavor of the food to shine through without the proof interfering — alcohol coagulates meats and fats quicker than you would like, so the lower proof is Coopers’ advantage here.” Whitney explains that the lower proof bourbon also takes less time to cook off.
Brown-Forman’s own on-campus chef, Josh Wiese, adds, “If you are using bourbon in sauce, be sure to bring the sauce to a simmer to cook out the alcohol. If you pour the bourbon into a pan over an open flame, it can ignite and create a fireball.”
Lower proof bourbon also has advantages as a marinade. “Bourbon ‘cooks’ meat and eggs and curdles dairy,” says Whitney. “Using bourbon in a marinade can therefore have a nice effect on flavor, but using a lower proof bourbon helps to prevent toughening of the meat prior to cooking.”
Lastly, just as with any good cooking wine, you should use a bourbon that you would actually drink. Don’t use too much or too little in your cooking, and that rule goes for drinking it too! Here are three fun bourbon-spiked recipes to get you started.
3 Bourbon-Infused Recipes
Coopers’ Craft Smoky Chicken Wings
“I love this recipe because it really is a simple, low-cost recipe that you can put together in a matter of minutes and let it set overnight, or you cook them in about 30 minutes,” says Coopers’ Craft Chef Josh Wiese. “You can use any type of bourbon, but Coopers’ Craft is the best one in my opinion, because of the Beech and Birch charcoal-filter finishing.” Josh recommends serving this dish with a side of carrots and celery and your choice of dipping sauce. It’s ideal for a tailgate or sports game party at your house.
- 2 dozen whole chicken wings
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¾ cup BBQ sauce, plus more for serving, optional
- ¼ cup Coopers' Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, cut each wing in half to separate the flat from the drumette; cut off and discard the tip or save it for stock. Wash the pieces well, pat them dry, season liberally with salt and pepper, and set them aside in a large zip-top freezer bag.
- In a small saucepan, whisk the sauce with the whiskey and sugar and bring just to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the mustard. Cool completely. Pour the mixture in the bag with the chicken wings, seal the bag, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
- Prepare a smoker with soaked wood chips and heat it to 250°F. Alternatively, prepare a charcoal grill or gas grill or smoker and heat it to medium-low heat.
- Remove the wings from the marinade and discard the marinade. Place the wings in a large, shallow aluminum pan in a single layer. Place the uncovered pan in the smoker and cook, for 2 hours. Remove the wings from the smoker and serve with more sauce on the side if you like.
Bourbon-Spiked Sweet Potato Casserole
StyleBlueprint staffer and Louisville, KY, native Wesley Ware developed this bourbon-spiked sweet potato casserole. “If a sweet potato could taste like Kentucky, that’s what this recipe tastes like,” says Wesley. “It has a really nice balance of sweet that complements the smoky acidity of the bourbon really nicely.” This crowd-pleasing dish is great for potlucks.
- 5 sweet potatoes
- ½ pound of brown butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 7 shots Coopers' Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- 1¼ cup, plus 5 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1¼ cup chopped pecans
- Marshmallows, optional
- Cook potatoes in oven for 1 hour.
- Once cooked, remove skin and place sweet potatoes in a food processor.
- In a small pot, melt your butter until it's browned. Pour into processor with sweet potatoes, salt, 5 shots bourbon and 1¼ cup light brown sugar. Process until smooth.
- Combine chopped pecans, 5 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 shots of Coopers' Craft and marshmallows, if desired. Toss to coat. Layer on top of sweet potatoes in a casserole dish.
- Place in broiler for approximately 3 minutes or until golden-brown.
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We couldn’t resist sharing a drinkable bourbon-spiked recipe, and this bourbon slushie created by food scientist-turned-chef Whitney Fontaine is perfect for the dog days of summer. Plus, it serves 12, so it is perfect for an al fresco gathering. Enjoy!
- 3 cups brewed tea, cooled
- 1 cup bourbon (Coopers’ Craft recommended)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 oz. orange juice concentrate (frozen)
- 6 oz. lemonade concentrate (frozen)
- 6 oz. limeade concentrate (frozen
- Mix tea and sugar in a blender.
- Add concentrates to the blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a freezer-proof container, and add bourbon. Mix thoroughly.
- Freeze mixture well (24-48 hours).
- To serve, scoop into glasses.
Now go impress all of your friends with these creative, easy and delicious bourbon recipes!
And when you’re ready to whip up some other tasty dishes, check out our recipe section. It’s filled with all sorts of amazing flavors!