whiskey smoky barbecue chicken plated
Proteins,  Recipes,  Tips & Tricks

Whiskey Smoked Barbecue Chicken

Grilling chicken is one of our favorite “go-to” meals in the summer. It is quick, easy, and just takes a little bit of prep.

This recipe is ideal for chicken drumsticks, but I am not a fan of dark meat.  We substituted skinless, boneless chicken breast and it turned out delicious.

For this Whiskey Smoky Barbecue Chicken, as with any grilled chicken recipe, the most important, MOST CRUCIAL step is the brine.

Whiskey Smoked BBQ Chicken


Chicken is a very lean protein.  Brining the poultry helps maintain moisture and impart flavor.

After trying several “salt” based potions, I have found using a 1:1 ratio of sugar to salt, mixed thoroughly in a large amount of water.  is a great combination.  I never measure brine water.   I just make sure the meat is completely submerged and has plenty of room in the container.

The meat must sit in the brine, refrigerated, for a minimum of one hour, but no more than 90 minutes.

The salt is seasoning the meat and changing the protein structure, reducing its overall toughness, and creating gaps that fill up with water and keep the meat juicy and flavorful.

Brining can be used on most lean cuts of meat, even pork loin, since it adds, versus merely retains, moisture.

Brining is not a good idea for any recipe where you desire a crispy skin, once removed from the brine, the surface will not brown very well.  You can try patting the meat dry with paper towels. Do not brine in salt water for any meat where you want a crust.

Adding a Smoky Rub

McCormick Smoked Paprika

Of course, there are many, many commercial rubs on the market; however, I love playing around with spices at home.

This rub is especially smoky with the use of “Smoked Paprika.”  Most supermarkets carry McCormick’s version.  It’s made from pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire, then ground into a fine powder.

For the rub, you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you like more heat, you can add up to 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

I liberally coat both sides of the chicken breast and allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before adding to the grill.


The Whiskey Sauce

Six and Twenty 5-Grain Bourbon Whiskey bottleIf you are not a whiskey fan, no worries.  This recipe calls for the sauce to be heated before applying, or dipping the chicken – all the alcohol evaporates, but leaves a smoky flavor.

For the sauce, I used Six & Twenty’s 5- Grain Bourbon Whiskey.  Made in South Carolina, it contains corn and wheat from the Upstate, barley, and rye for the Midlands and rice from the Low Country.  It is potent but smooth.

Whisk together the following:

  • 1 cup ketchup (never use ketchup containing corn syrup)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whiskey (you can substitute apple juice)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • juice from one lime = 2 Tablespoons
  • pinch of Kosher salt

After whisking together, place in a small pot.  I just warmed the sauce on my cooktop as you want to watch it closely, so it does not burn or scorch.

Once heated through, sit aside.

Grilling the Chicken

spice rub applied to raw chickenAfter the rubbed chicken has acclimated for 10-15 minutes…

Clean your grill grates and apply a light coating of oil…

Heat the grill to approximately 400º

Place the chicken on the grill and turn burners to medium.

Cook for approximately 7 minutes; flip to cook the other side, also for 7 minutes.

Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of about 150º, dip each piece of chicken in your glaze, turning if necessary, to coat both sides.

Return chicken to grill and cook till it reaches an internal temp of 165º – flipping if necessary.

Remove and tent with foil.  Allow chicken to rest for about 8-9 minutes before serving.



Other Smoke Flavor Ingredients:

I use smoked paprika frequently, but here are a few more ingredients providing a different type of smoke flavor:

Amira Smoked Basmati Rice – this fragrant rice has a smoky edge that is great in stews, roasted meats, nuts, and apricots.          worldmarket.com

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Smoked Sugar – besides being JoAnn’s favorite bourbon whiskey, Woodford has developed this aromatic sugar which can add a sweet smokiness to a peach cobbler or rim your favorite cocktail glass.  The sugar is smoked with wood from the barrels that Woodford ages the bourbon in.        atasteofkentucky.com

SmokraRicks Picks Smokra – adding smoked paprika to pickled okra can accompany ham for a quick appetizer.              rickspicks.com

Hot Cakes Smoked Chocolate Chips – cold smoked over alder wood, these chips turn ordinary ganache into smoked chocolate ganache and takes cookies to a whole new place.    getyourhotcakes.com

Gran Luchito Smoked Chilli Ketchup or Mayo – made with smoked pasilla Oaxaca peppers (chipotle’s smokier cousin), these condiments fire up burgers and sandwiches.

What products do you use to acquire a smoke flavor? Comment below!  


finished whiskey sauced smoky rubbed chicken breast

Whiskey Smoked BBQ Chicken

Smokin J's Barbeque
Classic barbecue chicken recipe with a twist. Using a cooked whiskey au-jus sauce for basting.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Brine Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 servings


For the Brine

  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2-3 chicken breast, boneless, skinless you can use thighs if you prefer

For the Chicken

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup ketchup Make sure it contains no fructose syrup
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whiskey you can substitute apple juice if you do not want alcohol
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lime juices squeezed out
  • Kosher salt


  • Combine the brine ingredients, add your chicken and refrigerate for one hour.
  • Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Combine all ingredients for the rub and apply liberally on the chicken.
  • Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Clean the grill grates properly and oil with olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Place on medium heat. Stir occasionally, making sure the glaze does not burn or scorch. Set aside.
  • Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes, flipping every two minutes. Dip each piece of chicken in your glaze, turning as necessary to coat the entire piece.
  • Place each piece of chicken back on the grill. Cook until an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • Remove from grill. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve.
Keyword barbecue, chicken



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