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Perfect Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Pairings for Your Next Cookout

Brian Schmidt, ReserveBar Staff Writer
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American whiskey has a long and deeply rooted history in the foundation of our culture. The same can be said about a few other pastimes or products, but barbecue would surely be included in that short list. Luckily, whiskey and barbecue pair perfectly together. This pairing actually pre-dates baseball and hot dogs, road trips and radio station roulette, and peanut butter and jelly!?

Whiskey and barbecue have evolved over the years, and we now have many styles of each native to different regions of the US. Still, the similarities remain — most American whiskey must be aged in an oak barrel, and many barbecue styles rely on oak as a principal wood for their fires. Both are known for smoky flavors but are often coupled with sweet tasting notes. You’ll find pepper is pretty common in descriptions of both. Quality ingredients matter. And they are shared as we gather our friends and family in both celebration and mourning.

Of course, there are many flavors in both whiskey and barbecue. As with most things, some combinations work better than others. Here we present a handful of familiar barbecue dishes paired with a whiskey treatment to perfectly round out your meal.

1. Steak and and Whiskey Served Neat or On the Rocks

Americans consume more than 27 billion pounds of beef each year. We’ll start with one of the staples off the grill - The Steak. Whether you grill ribeyes, t-bones, porterhouses, strips or sirloins (or any other cut), chances are good your seasoning is simple and your cooking is straightforward. A quality steak is often seasoned with just salt and pepper to enhance the flavor and let the meat shine through. A quality whiskey is most commonly served by itself in a glass (neat) or on ice (on the rocks), which helps open up the spirit’s flavors. Take a pour like Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, and you’ve got that classic Tennessee whiskey flavor featuring charred oak notes. “As American as Jack and Steak” isn’t a saying, but it should be.

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2. Ribs and The Old Fashioned

Ribs are a cookout favorite and the topic of a jingle that is probably now stuck in your head. We’re sorry about that, but we couldn’t skip baby backs, spareribs, or St. Louis style as a prime opportunity to pair some whiskey. When it comes to seasoning pork, a lot of backyard pitmasters add an ingredient not often used with beef — sugar. Whether it’s part of the rub or a key ingredient in the sauce that causes caramelization in those final minutes on the grill, this addition lends itself to a sweeter palate. Enter the Old Fashioned Cocktail. Take a high-quality whiskey and a sugar cube or simple syrup, a dash of bitters, and an orange peel for aroma and decoration. Serve cold on a big rock, and you’ve got a perfect balance of sweet and smoky.

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3. Fish and The Whiskey Sour

Whoever decided the only proper pairing for fish is white wine is missing out on this combination. There are many different fish species and even more preparations out there, but let’s focus on a classic grilled fish. Salmon lends itself to a wide variety of seasonings and easily takes on the flavors of the grill. Citrus is a common pairing to balance the fatty fish and enhance the refreshing and subtle taste. Naturally, a citrus-based cocktail should pair nicely, and the Whiskey Sour is just what the food doctor ordered. A sour mix of lemon, lime, sugar and water combines with a smooth whiskey, like Gentleman Jack, and egg whites to create this drink that’s all about balance. Too much citrus and it becomes harsh. Too much sugar and you’ll skip dessert. Paired with Salmon? Just right.

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4. BONUS: Cooking with Whiskey

A little whiskey for the dish, a little whiskey for the chef. In this case, we’re making a classic BBQ cookout food, the cheeseburger, with a classic American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. This recipe marinates your burger patty in Jack while also using the versatile whiskey to cook down the onions. We guarantee this recipe creates your new favorite backyard dish.

Ingredients
• 2 pounds ground beef
• 1 package thick-cut bacon
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
• 1 large white onion
• Salt and pepper
• Cheese (We recommend White Cheddar Jack)
• Your favorite barbecue sauce

Start by dicing a couple of those strips of bacon and mixing it in with your seasoning and ground beef in a mid-size mixing bowl. When seasoning the burger, think 1 tablespoon per pound of meat. This can be a 50/50 mixture of salt and pepper or a barbecue seasoning you already know and love. Be careful not to overmix the beef.

Combine the brown sugar and Jack Daniel’s in a measuring cup and stir to dissolve the sugar. Take a fork and poke a series of holes in the ground beef and pour your brown sugar and whiskey mixture over the top. Refrigerate for thirty minutes to one hour.

While the beef is marinating, cut your white onion into strips and place them in a frying pan on high heat. Stir regularly. As the onions start to cook down, add a pinch of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of sweet barbecue sauce, and a tablespoon of Jack Daniel’s. Be careful! Jack is flammable and will catch fire if exposed to the open flame. This is a fun technique called flambeing, but it is not for those uncomfortable in the kitchen. For a safer inclusion, remove the pan from the flame to add the whiskey and then place it back on the burner to finish cooking. Remove from heat and set aside once your onions are soft and fully browned.

Form the ground beef mixture into six evenly sized patties. You can either put these straight on the grill or put them in the freezer to firm up (about 15-30 minutes) or until you’re ready to use them (we recommend using a sealed container, so they don’t dry out). Cook the bacon, grill your burger, add cheese, and toast the bun. Combine and enjoy!

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Please Drink Responsibly.
Tennessee Whiskey, 40-45% alc. by vol. (80-94 proof), Distilled and Bottled by Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Old No. 7, Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniel's are registered trademarks. ©2021 Jack Daniel's. All rights reserved.