I have a confession to make: whiskey isn’t my drink of choice. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate its flavor, but I prefer to enjoy it in a different form. That being said, there’s one exception that I’ll gladly make – Uncle Nearest Whiskey BBQ Sauce. This sauce is a combination of smokiness, a hint of spice, and a touch of sweetness. Made with robust molasses, caramel-y brown sugar, and a blend of spices like cumin, it strikes the perfect balance between sweet and savory. And let’s not forget the star of the show: the charcoal-sugar cookie vibe of Uncle Nearest whiskey. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water.
But before we jump into the recipe, let’s take a moment to learn about the man behind the whiskey – “Uncle Nearest” himself. Nathan Green, also known as Nearest Green, was an enslaved man who stayed on to work for his former master, Rev. Dan Call, even after Emancipation. Call, a preacher and distiller, took young Jack Daniel under his wing and put Nearest in charge of teaching him the art of whiskey making. Nearest’s knowledge and skills played a significant role in the success of Jack Daniel’s distillery. Despite his invaluable contribution, Nearest’s story remained untold until historian Fawn Weaver uncovered the truth. Inspired by this remarkable tale, Weaver started the Uncle Nearest 1856 Whiskey brand to honor Nearest’s legacy.
Now, what sets this whiskey apart? According to Hector, Uncle Nearest has primary notes of cinnamon and brown sugar, with a smoky, woody finish. It also has hints of honey, vanilla, and a meadowy-floral touch. But it’s not just the flavor profile that makes it special; Uncle Nearest 1884, the whiskey used in this recipe, is filtered through sugar maple charcoal and aged in charred oak barrels. It’s a small-batch blend curated by a descendant of Nathan Green himself. With such attention to detail, it’s no wonder that this whiskey elevates the flavors of the BBQ sauce.
Speaking of BBQ sauce, let’s delve into what makes it so tantalizing. BBQ sauce is a tangy condiment typically made with tomato or vinegar as its base. In this recipe, both tomato paste and balsamic vinegar take center stage. The paste contributes a thick, concentrated tomato flavor, while the vinegar adds a touch of sweetness with hints of figs and molasses. And of course, we can’t forget the star ingredient – Uncle Nearest Whiskey. While some BBQ sauce recipes consider whiskey optional, this one demands its presence.
Now, let’s gather the ingredients needed to create this delectable Whiskey BBQ Sauce: bay leaf, kosher salt, pepper, celery salt, cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin, molasses, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, Uncle Nearest Whiskey, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, and onion. With this flavorful lineup, your taste buds are in for a treat.
To start crafting the sauce, heat a small amount of olive oil in a saucier over medium-high heat. This pan’s sloping sides ensure that the thicker ingredients won’t get stuck. Once the oil shimmers, add minced onions and garlic, sautéing them until they turn a slight brown tint.
Now, let’s talk about brown sugar. It’s a key ingredient that adds a rich sweetness to the sauce. If you don’t have brown sugar on hand, you can substitute it with turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw. Just avoid using granulated sugar, as it won’t contribute much to the flavor.
Next, it’s time to bring in the star of the show – Uncle Nearest Whiskey. Carefully add the whiskey to the pot and stir it into the sugar mixture. Be cautious not to let it come in contact with any flames. Let the liquid simmer for a couple of minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
After the initial simmer, it’s time to introduce the remaining ingredients into the pot. This includes kosher salt, thyme, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, celery salt, bay leaf, tomato paste, molasses, balsamic vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and water. Stir everything until the mustard and tomato paste break up and smooth out. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it has reduced by half.
If you prefer a smoother sauce, now is the time to puree it. An immersion blender works best for this task. If you don’t have one, carefully transfer the sauce to a blender, remembering to vent it to release any pressure that may build up. Once pureed, assess the thickness of the sauce and add a bit of water if necessary.
Safety note: While cooking with alcohol, most of it cooks off, making it safe to serve to kids. However, be transparent with those who are abstaining from alcohol, as the whiskey flavor remains.
Now that the Whiskey BBQ Sauce is ready, let’s discuss how to use it. This sauce pairs perfectly with grilled, baked, or seared meats. Whether you’re slathering it on pork pinchos, grilled double-cut pork chops, or air fryer chicken wings, this sauce adds a bold and flavorful punch.
When it comes to storing the sauce, allow it to cool completely before transferring it to a mason jar. Keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you’re into canning, you can extend its shelf life for up to a year using your preferred canning method.
If you want to savor the sauce for longer, freezing it is an option. Simply spoon the cooled sauce into a freezer-safe bag or container, making sure to press out excess air. Freeze it for up to 6 months and thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready to enjoy it.
To get your hands on Uncle Nearest Whiskey, use the Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ store locator. Remember to share this enticing recipe with your friends and family, and let me know how it turns out in the comments below.
With this Whiskey BBQ Sauce in your culinary arsenal, your meals are about to level up. Get ready to indulge in the smoky, sweet, and spicy flavors that will make your taste buds dance with delight.