As grilling season approaches, BBQ lovers everywhere begin to daydream about summer days filled with crispy wings, juicy burgers, and cold beer. Whether you're the grillmaster who can't wait to dust off your Traeger or the neighbor anxiously awaiting the first cookout of the year, no one can deny the joy of barbecue season.
Although the meat will always be the star of the show, it's best enjoyed with delicious sides and drinks. Big, bold flavors pair perfectly with juicy grilled meat so whiskey is a natural go-to. Whether you're chowing down on ribs or eating a ribeye steak, the warm, bold flavor of whiskey is the perfect accompaniment. For grilled chicken and veggies, our experts recommend a lighter, single-grain whiskey for flavor that is rich yet understated. With the help of master distillers and master blenders, we've put together this list of 7 best whiskey brands that pair perfectly with whatever is cooking on your grill.
Best for Budgets:
Old Forester 86 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Old Forester is a go-to when looking for a smooth, drinkable whiskey that stands well on its own or makes for a warm, easy-to-drink cocktail. This $23.99 Kentucky bourbon whiskey offers a mix of sharpness and fruitiness, with hints of oak, pine, vanilla, and citrus. Old Forester pairs well with any smoky meat, whether you're having pork spare ribs or smoked chicken wings. This tasty whiskey is best enjoyed with a splash of water or ginger ale or in an old-fashioned or manhattan.
Best For Kentucky BBQ:
Four Roses Bourbon, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Beloved for its mellow, subtly sweet flavor, Four Roses is a delicious whiskey to enjoy at your summer cookout. Both affordable and tasty, this $24.99 whiskey is a great option for those who love a single-barrel bourbon with floral and fruity notes.
The mellow and slightly sweet flavors of Four Roses Bourbon do more than pair with the strong and zesty flavors of barbeque, they complement and create balance for a unique, interesting, and delicious combination." Four Roses' Master Distiller Brent Elliott shares, "In particular, a glass of Four Roses is great with the unique Western Kentucky style of barbeque, which accentuates the rich flavors of the meat with tangy sauces that are considerably less sweet than most other styles. The bright and nuanced flavors in the barbeque and the Bourbon find different spaces on the palate, and when they come together, the result is fantastic."
Best for Brisket:
Stars & Stripes TX Blended Whiskey
Nothing is more Texas than barbecue, so it only makes sense that you'd enjoy your barbecue with a true Texas drink. To channel your inner cowboy, pour yourself a glass of TX Whiskey and drink it down with a hearty plate of brisket. This complex $35.99 whiskey has notes of vanilla, pear, banana, and caramel, and tastes slightly sweet, making it ideal to drink on the rocks or neat. Its mellow flavors make it a versatile choice to pair with BBQ, allowing it to blend well with rich, tangy sauces or mild dishes like grilled chicken and salad.
Best For Whole Hog BBQ:
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
This $39.99 premium small-batch Kentucky whiskey is beloved among whiskey aficionados for its full, balanced flavor. The bourbon has notes of spice, fruit, toasted oak, and wood, making it an excellent pairing with smoked meats. If you get the chance, try this bourbon whiskey brand with a pit-cooked meal like whole hog BBQ. This Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey goes well with any BBQ dish that has a rich flavor and an element of smokiness.
Best for Grilled Chicken:
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey
If you're partial to the lighter BBQ meals like grilled chicken, fish, or veggies, an overly strong whiskey can overpower the meal, leaving your pallet unbalanced and preventing you from fully enjoying the flavors of your BBQ. At $52.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Teeling Single Grain is ideal for a lighter touch that pairs well with veggie shish kebabs, smoked fish, or chicken wings. This single grain Irish whiskey has notes of caramel, spice, and fruit, with a medium body and a smooth mouthfeel that goes deliciously with lighter BBQ dishes.
Best for Pulled Pork:
Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
Uncle Nearest is another popular option for a tasty whiskey that brings your barbecue experience to a new level. Uncle Nearest has a smoky oak flavor with some spice and notes of fruit. This iconic $59.99 whiskey brand was created by the first African-American master distiller in the United States, Nearest Green. The history and experience inherent to the company are clear in the whiskey's complex and delectable taste.
When asked whether Uncle Nearest would pair well with BBQ, Victoria Eady Butler, Uncle Nearest's Master Blender describes, "The stone fruit, baking spices and sweetness found in Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey adds depth to pit-cooked meats. It is the perfect companion to the salt and smoked flavors found in BBQ."
Best for Steak:
Since barbecue is all about rich, tangy flavors, you want a whiskey that can hold its own. Booker's Bourbon does just that with its intense, complex flavor that contains notes of leather, caramel, oak, and spice. This $99.99 high-proof Kentucky bourbon is not for the faint of heart and gives a warm, pleasant burn that makes a warm summer day even more relaxing. To counter this, serve your Booker's Bourbon in a whiskey tumbler with an ice cube or two. The bold flavors of Booker's Bourbon whiskey brand match the rich juiciness of ribs or steak.