Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce & Thoughts for my Dad

From the greeting cards to the gift ideas, Father’s Day tends to err on the side of grilling, golfing, and “man of the family” stereotypes. Perhaps one day, fathers will commonly receive bouquets and mothers will be equally associated with the grill, but in the case of this Father’s Day, I allowed myself to dip into classic gender divides. After all, as a child of the 80s, it was my dad at the grill, and those summer bbq’s are some of my fondest childhood memories. I shared this Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce locally, as gifts for the Urban Farmer’s father and brother, while miles separated me from my own dad.  Though editorial calendars would shame me for a delayed holiday reference, this is real life, and in real life, sometimes you acknowledge birthdays, holidays and worse yet, true feelings, late.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

As the “blessing child” [ie: an “oops baby”], I arrived on this earth significantly later than my siblings, keeping the nest occupied long past its warranty. As a little girl, the age gap was just a number. I had extra attention, more people to read to me and inspire a love of language, more people to take me on adventures and treat me to donuts! As I grew up, the age gap became isolating at times. I felt caught between alliances with my siblings and parents, wanting to defend each. By the time I was in high school, my sisters were settling down and starting families. My parents were grandparents!

Meanwhile, I was a blank slate with an intense need to see the world and carve my identity. I forged a path that took me to various continents, and seeing life through these different lenses changed me dramatically. I returned home a little different each time, a little less relatable. For parents who had literally taken horse-drawn carriages to one-room, country schoolhouses, the divide between our experiences was immense. I tried to remember this, tried to see the world through their eyes, but impatience and fierce independence often convinced me just to distance myself.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

The baby of the family never fully shakes that “baby” role. If I grew up, it meant everyone else was aging too, so it was easier to continue to think of me as young, naive, misguided, weird, in a phase, etc. It was easier just to dismiss my differing opinions, stances I had worked so hard to carve for myself. The woman I had become confused my father more than anyone. Little QT never argued so much. She never objected to his beliefs. It hurt, so we both closed up, and I fled emotionally, until I one day realized, I too was ignoring the passing of time. I risked never saying or hearing the needed words because I was bottling them deep inside me under a stubborn lock. A friend encouraged me to be honest, to seek the exchange I wanted. In one grueling, vulnerable exchange, my father and I bridged generations, mended wounds and slowly moved forward.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

He had wanted me to be tough, to stand on my own two feet, not to need him. He achieved his goal but at the cost of the encouragement a daughter needs every now and then. Had we never confronted our wounds, we both may have let too much time pass and fill with regret. Instead, we were able to sit in a cafe, and I saw and heard what I had so desperately wanted to hear- he loved me and was proud of me. It seemed so simple, but it was everything. For my part, I owed him respect he feared had vanished.

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

I wouldn’t be me without my dad. I wouldn’t have big dreams, a head full of ideas and an intense grammar fixation. I wouldn’t respect the farmers, growers and animal tenders without seeing his struggles and his passion. I wouldn’t see neighbors as part of my community if it weren’t for him, or see complete strangers as people who just need a laugh. I wouldn’t believe in the power of people to change if I hadn’t watched him change so dramatically though the years. He coached me to stand alone, but I’m grateful he’s still there wanting to support me.

Ignore clocks, calendars and prescribed days. Ignore your stubborn side because we babies of the family do age, and time does pass. Listen to that friend who tells you to say what’s on your heart. Celebrate a stereotype if it means celebrating your dad. Fire up the grill, and give flowers to your mom. My dad and I are in different states, and we still differ in so many ways, but I like to think we’ll be eating bbq burgers together soon. Part of me, will forever be his little girl.


-Little QT

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce

About This Recipe: This is a nuanced bbq sauce, with so many flavors emerging with each bite! Smear it on burgers, or dip sweet potato fries in it. You’ll be tempted to eat it with a spoon! This recipe is intended to make several portions for the sake of gift giving. Reduce it if you’re just making sauce for a bbq, or freeze leftovers. To make it vegan and gluten-free, be sure to buy organic Worcestershire and Liquid Smoke, and double check the labels. I might make this again without Worcestershire, since so many of its ingredients are already part of the sauce. I added the bourbon at the last minute, to retain as much flavor as possible. The residual heat from the sauce should cook out the majority of the alcohol content. I used Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon for an extra special touch!

Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce
yield: approx. 6 cups


2-3 Tablespoons organic avocado oil
1 medium organic red onion
1-2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced thick
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled & cut in half
1 teaspoon Yakama smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
a dash or two of cayenne, to taste

1 cup organic apple cider vinegar

2  cans organic tomato paste (16 oz total)
6 Tablespoons organic Worcestershire
4 teaspoons organic liquid smoke (recommended: Colgin)
1/2 cup molasses
2/3 cup local wildflower honey
2 (15 oz.) cans organic diced tomatoes

3/4 cup bourbon (Blanton’s Original Single Barrel)


Coat the bottom of a large skillet, or thick-bottomed pan with the avocado oil (or a mixture of oil and butter). Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium or medium low if the onions start to burn. As they cook, add water, in half cup increments, to prevent the onions from drying out.

As the onion begins to soften (after about 10 minutes), add the ginger, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika and cayenne, stirring to combine.

Reduce the heat to medium-low if you haven’t already. Add the apple cider vinegar. Let the onions continue to caramelize for another 10-15 minutes, stirring, scraping the pan and adding water as needed to prevent burning.

Add the tomato paste, worcestershire, liquid smoke, molasses, honey and diced tomatoes, stirring to combine.

Simmer over medium-low heat (uncovered) for 20 minutes, until all the ingredients have combined and thickened.

Remove from heat, and stir in the bourbon.

Allow the sauce to cool slightly, and then transfer to a blender or food processor to blend to desired consistency.

Use the sauce immediately, or store in a sealed container for up to a week.


Homemade Bourbon BBQ Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Linda

    Love the whole presentation of the bbq sauce! Great photos!! 🙂

  2. Loved reading this post. And such delicious barbecue sauce too.. I can imagine it tastes just as amazing and flavoursome as it looks.

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