Congregating for fireworks or parades may be out this Fourth of July, but across the country adult consumers will be firing up their grills and raising a glass to our nation’s independence with American Whiskey, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

DISCUS reports that in 2019, more than 26 million 9-liter cases of American Whiskey were sold in the U.S. Additionally, over the past five years, U.S. sales of high-end premium and super-premium American Whiskey brands were up 37 percent and 147 percent, respectively.

According to Elizabeth Karmel, chef, author and cooking with spirits expert, the rich round vanilla notes of a good bourbon and spiciness of a rye whiskey complement meats, vegetables and sweets.  “A splash of whiskey is a very easy way to up the flavor ante and elevate your home BBQ for Fourth of July,” says Karmel.

“Bourbon is America’s native spirit and as such, I think it should be the official Fourth of July drink to toast America’s independence.  Whether you are grilling or barbecuing, bourbon pairs perfectly with your holiday menu—both in your glass and in your food.  So, celebrate this summer by making your favorite Bourbon cocktail and my Sassy Bourbon and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce,” continues Karmel.

Aside from sipping neat or enjoying responsibly in your favorite cocktail, below is a recipe from Karmel to bring American Whiskey into your backyard BBQ this Fourth of July.

Sassy Bourbon and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce

The sweet pairing of brown sugar, molasses and bourbon is balanced by the savory tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and tangy apple-cider vinegar. A touch of unsweetened cocoa powder is your unexpected secret ingredient. Mixed with the Bourbon, it creates a rich depth of flavor for a sauce with a lot of sass! This easy-to-make-from-scratch barbecue sauce is versatile and can be used as a dipping sauce, or slathered on your favorite barbecue and grilled foods. 

Makes 4 cups

  • 1     28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1     cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2     tablespoons molasses
  • ½    cup bourbon
  • ½    cup ketchup
  • ¼   cup Heinz Chili Sauce
  • ¼    cup apple-cider vinegar
  • ⅛    cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼    cup of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2     teaspoons of your favorite spice rub
  • 1     tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large sauce pan on the stove, add tomatoes, sugar, molasses, bourbon, ketchup, chili sauce, vinegars, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring after each additional ingredient to combine.  Bring to a low boil and reduce to a simmer.  Add the classic spice rub and simmer until the flavors have blended and the sauce has thickened somewhat, about 30 minutes.

Let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes or until it is warm but no longer “boiling” hot. Puree using an immersion or traditional blender.   Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, about 1/2 teaspoon, and pepper.   Add the cocoa powder and mix well to combine.  Let sit 5 minutes and stir again to make sure cocoa powder is well distributed.  Let cool and pour into a clean glass jar or airtight container for storing.

The sauce can be made in advance and kept for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the leading voice and advocate for distilled spirits in the U.S., advocating on legislative, regulatory and public affairs issues impacting the distilled spirits sector at the local, state, federal and international levels. DISCUS members are committed to responsibility and encourage adults who drink to do so in moderation.

The distillers take special pride in their products as well as in their commitment to encourage responsible beverage alcohol consumption by adults who choose to drink. If you choose to drink, consume sensibly and responsibly and never drive impaired.  An important part of responsible drinking is understanding the standard drink-equivalent that regular beer (12 oz.), distilled spirits (1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits) and wine (5 oz.) each contains the same amount of alcohol.

Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling, barbecue and Southern foods expert, and the author of four cookbooks, including the newly released “Steak and Cake.” Her website is


Media Contact: Maggie Quinn (267) 979-2135 [email protected]