Fire and fuel: a barbecue without booze is like a… well, in our world, such heresy shouldn’t exist, even as metaphor. When the grill glows, the chef should too — tamer of fire, lit with manly pride, and a slug or two of liquid courage. Sure, some outdoor feasts call for more hifalutin hooch — beachside piña coladas, champagne in the garden. But when the cooking’s cowboy simple — meat plus flame — the drink should be too. Bourbon. So unpack the crate, fire the grill, and grab a glass. First round’s on us; first burger’s for the chef.
Smoked Pepperoni // Vermont Smoke & Cure // Hinesburg, VT
Meat in tube form, spiced and snappy — pepperoni is carnivorous perfection. No wonder it can swing from low-brow to high, a humble slice-topper to this, perfection elevated. As wayward syrup, escaping the pancakes, takes your breakfast sausage up a notch, so the sweet kiss of maple smoke adds a mellowing patina to the pepperoni’s spicy kick. Great as-is, better (of course) with cheese: two pieces of bread, a slice of mozz, a few discs of meat, a basil leaf if you’re fancy, plenty of butter, and a hot skillet.
Hot Georgia Soul Sauce // Southern Soul BBQ // St. Simons Island, GA
In a state that knows its barbecue, Southern Soul is something special: Georgia’s island-bound monument to the barbecue sandwich. Knuckles and burnt ends, chicken and sausage. Turkey? Sure. Pimento cheese? Why not. Tofu? Fat chance. If they can cook it low and slow and stuff it in a bun, they’ll serve it, generously smeared with this special sauce. An old family recipe (aren’t they all?) of smooth brown sugar, warming cayenne and tangy sriracha, we like it best with slow-cooked shoulder: rub with spices, top with onions, soak in stock, and set to low. The hardest part is a six-hour wait. The sauce makes it worth it.
Bacon Jam // Skillet Street Food // Seattle, WA
Slinging his hipster-approved remixes of classic country fare from a refurbished airstream, Seattle Chef Josh Henderson quickly grew a Pied Piper trail of adoring fans, tummies grumbling for burgers, fried chicken, poutine, and, most of all, his signature bacon jam. So he settled down — he’s since opened three Seattle-area restaurants — and, lucky for out-of-towners, started jarring his addictive spread. Brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and, of course, bacon, it’s smoky-sour-sweet, and exactly what your pulled-pork sandwich (or fried eggs, or mac-and-cheese, or…) needs.
Chipotle Barbecue Halfpops // Halfpops // Bellevue, WA
For you popcorn fanatics, craving the partially popped, crackling crisp kernels at the bottom of the pot, Halfpops are exactly what they sound like: half-popped popcorn. With an echoing crunch and high-decibel taste, these munchies make regular-old popcorn taste, and feel, and airy as packing peanuts. They hold up so well, in fact, you can mix the nuggets into soup, a salad, over your ice cream (trust us). Or, since you’ve no qualms about scraping the pot, snack ’em straight from the bag.
Chipotle Cracked Pepper Jerky // Chef’s Cut Jerky // Naples, FL
If barbecue is elemental — flesh meats flame — jerky is downright primordial: all it takes is time. Chef’s Cut is all good, and nothing but: protein-packed Angus beef, loads of spice (pepper and garlic, tamarind and Worcestershire, and of course, smoky chipotle), no faking, no fillers. Satisfy your carnivorous cravings, caveman-style, while you wait for the steaks to char.
Bourbon Barrel Old Fashioned // Bittermilk // Charleston, SC
Cocktail bars, those dim-lit basement dens, are no place to be when summer’s sun beckons you out back. Instead of trundling your bar cart out to the patio, all you need is a bottle of Bittermilk. This mixer has everything but the booze: a classic blend of real-deal herbs and spices like gentian root and cinchona bark, sultry sweet with burnt sugar and a dash of orange, and aged in Willett bourbon barrels. Mix four parts bourbon to one part Bittermilk, fill a couple swing-top bottles, and chuck ’em in the igloo to sip while you grill.