When it comes to cooking and baking with liquor, bourbon is one of our favorites. Its smoky caramel and vanilla flavor adds a special nuance to savory and sweet dishes alike. It pairs particularly well with brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, chocolate, mint, apples, pears, peaches, ham, and pork. It’s great in sauces, marinades, brines, glazes, cakes, pies, truffles, and cookies. And it’s an important ingredient in many holiday favorites like Crown Roast of Pork with Fennel-Apple Stuffing & Cider-Bourbon Sauce, Eggnog Crème Anglaise, and Bourbon Balls.
Bourbon whiskey, which gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky, is distilled from a grain mash that’s at least 51% corn (but usually 65% to 80%) and may also contain barley, rye, and sometimes wheat (as in Maker’s Mark brand). The distilled liquor is then aged in new charred oak barrels from which it gets its color and smoky, caramelly undertones.
Save expensive single-barrel bourbons like Blanton’s or Eagle Rare and small-batch bourbons like Knob Creek or Basil Hayden’s for sipping. For cooking, a regular bourbon such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Old Crow, or Heaven Hill is fine.