Make It!: Undergrounds’ Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Food lies at the heart of our bodies and our culture; it is there for celebrations and sustenance. NOMaste features a local fierce foodie each month, in four weekly segments. First, an interview, then a top 10 list, followed by a recipe to share, and finally a food review. This food corner will not just feature local chefs but also restaurateurs, buyers, suppliers — any woman involved in any aspect of the food chain, from farm to food truck. Join us each week as we get to know another Foodie in the city. Part I of this month’s series can be found here, and part II can be found here.

This week I was lucky enough to be given Undergrounds’ very own special recipe for their deliciously sweet and tangy Bourbon BBQ Sauce. The same delectable sauce that they use on their very own Grover Cleveland sandwich!  “We picked this recipe as it highlights a product from another local Buffalo business, The Buffalo Distilling Company. We have a drink on their menu using our Sumatra Roast, and in turn we have the Grover Cleveland on our menu which is a Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich with Gouda and Honey Aioli!” said Bridget Morris, co-owner of Undergrounds. This is just another great example of how Undergrounds is tying in as many local businesses in their ever-increasing web of local companies and people.

Sitting here in my kitchen, waiting for this magical sauce to thicken, I am astounded by the aroma. It is so strong, simmering on my stovetop a mere 5 feet away from me. The acidic vinegar and punch-you-in-the-face bourbon is permeating the air. When I went outside to grab something from my car, I could smell it at the base of the stairway before I came back into my house. This is how all good cooking should be — it should take over your senses, your home, and your time. This sauce has been sitting for almost 2 hours on a slow simmer on the stovetop.  I must admit, I am not sure exactly how far down this should reduce, because I am not quite sure how high the liquid was to start!  But while I wait for my sauce to thicken, here is the recipe:

Bourbon BBQ Sauce Recipe


1 cup water
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
½ cup Bourbon (we use Buffalo Distilling for our sauce)
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup ketchup
⅓ cup blackstrap molasses
½ tbsp onion powder
½ tbsp garlic powder
½ tbsp salt
½ tbsp pepper
½ tbsp chipotle


Combine all ingredients into a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil; stir frequently until brought to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is thick and reduced by half.

Now my magical sauce is done!  I did not go super creative with this one and opted to have some very traditional pulled pork. I just mixed up some pulled pork with this delectable sauce, and ate it on some small toasted bread rounds. Mini Open-faced Sliders, if you want a classier name. It was so delicious!

The sauce came out nice, thick, and ultra sweet. You could barely taste the bourbon, which for me, with my lightweight palette who was making a face just smelling the bourbon, was a good thing. You could tell that it added flavor, but it didn’t add that specific kind of alcohol flavor you get in things where the liquor hasn’t burned off yet. I will also be honest and let you know that I did not add any black pepper to my recipe. I do not allow ANY black pepper in any of my food.  If my husband didn’t enjoy black pepper so much, I wouldn’t even have it in my house — that’s how much I hate it. So obviously, for me, I did not add it. I can’t say it was missed! Sorry ladies, but it’s one of my quirks. Dear readers — please feel free to add as much black pepper as you like!

I mixed the sauce in with the pulled pork, and then added a few extra drops to the top of each mini open-faced sandwich. It was SO GOOD. I am sure this would make a great dipping sauce for whatever you want to dip as well — from veggies to french fries. Or glaze this on top of some roasted brussels sprouts — must be heaven! I can see this being a great glaze to a meatloaf, or instead of ketchup on a juicy, thick burger. You could probably add this to a spice cake, maybe as a swirl in the batter, or possibly added to some cream cheese frosting for a next-level dessert spread. If I had more time to do more experiments, I would. Good thing I have a big batch left over to use the rest of the week, so I can putter around with ideas to my heart’s content.

The gouda cheese they add at Undergrounds to the Grover Cleveland is a nice way to cut the sweetness and add different flavor notes to the sandwich. Mine I kept plain, so I could taste the sauce more than anything else and really focus on that flavor.

The batch made enough sauce to put on 4-6 full-sized pulled pork sandwiches, depending on how dripping with sauce you like your sandwiches. Basically, this makes a good sized batch to use however you like. Unless you were having a big party and were serving this as part of a main course, there should be no need to double this recipe. These proportions are good for a nice amount of sauce. You could cut it in half if you like, but you’re already doing the work, so why not make the full recipe and store the sauce in the fridge?