Food & Drink

Cooking with Bourbon

Disappearing Dining Club and Back in Five Minutes’ Head Chef Fredrik Bolin explains how to cook with this dominant spirit
Bourbon is an all-American flavour, conjuring images of the South, where it accounts for 15 percent of the United States’ spirits market. Robust and often smoky in flavour, bourbon is a strong spirit that doesn’t lend itself easily – or perhaps, widely – to cooking.

Disappearing Dining Club Head Chef Fredrik Bolin explains how and why bourbon is finding its way into more and more dessert recipes, and earning its place on the barbecue.

How does cooking with bourbon differ to cooking with other alcohols?

Cooking with bourbon is very different to cooking with wine or beer. For a start, it’s much stronger, but it also has a distinct flavour profile, which you really have to respect. When used right though, it can really enhance a dish, adding a new dimension to it and giving it a more mature flavour.


What are your dos and don’ts for cooking with bourbon?

Don’t over do it – the strong flavour can kill other, more subtle flavours, so use bourbon only in moderation. Another must: make sure the flavour notes compliment those in the dish, e.g.bourbons with strong notes of vanilla work perfectly with deserts, such as vanilla ice cream, cheesecake or custard. Other bourbons with more smoky profiles can be great for BBQ marinades.

What sparked your interest in using it as a cooking ingredient?

Barbecuing: the strong flavour of bourbon can really hold up against that of meat and makes a delicious marinade. But my favourite bourbon dish is simple, home made vanilla ice cream. You have to use a really good quality bourbon, avoid the cheap stuff!

Flavour-wise, what does bourbon bring to a dish?

Bourbon lifts the sweet flavours in a dish. Woodford Reserve for example, the flavours are: caramel, vanilla, honey, butterscotch, chocolate, maple syrup and coconut.

Is it then difficult to match wines or other alcoholic drinks with a dish that has bourbon as an ingredient? Does it clash?

Yes, it’s really difficult. The sweetness of bourbon isn’t something you would immediately put alongside wines, unless perhaps a desert wine. The best way to match a dish made with bourbon would be with a bourbon based cocktail, or even neat.