5 Ways to Use Whiskey in the Kitchen

This beloved brown spirit isn’t just for your home bar

April 11, 2024 7:26 am
Baked chicken wings and legs in honey mustard sauce. Serving dishes in the restaurant on a black plate
Whiskey Sour Chicken Wings
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Whiskey remains one of the most popular spirits in the United States, and for good reason. It imparts a unique depth and complexity to any cocktail it meets, which also makes it a fantastic ingredient in the kitchen. Whiskey contributes a distinct flavor profile, and its high alcohol content also acts as a natural solvent, extracting and intensifying the flavors of other ingredients like tomatoes and peppercorns, elevating the overall profile of the dish. From glazes and marinades to desserts and sauces, these five recipes showcase the incredible range of what whiskey can do in the kitchen.

Sauteed cherry tomatoes in a cast iron pan
Whiskey Fried Cherry Tomatoes
Houston Chronicle

Whiskey’s addition to this blistered tomato dish transforms these few ingredients into something magical. As the whiskey deglazes the pan, the flavors intermingle with the natural sweetness of cherry tomatoes, creating an almost wine-like profile. The alcohol also coaxes out unique flavors from the tomatoes, making them exceptionally fruity and savory. Serve as a side to roasted fish, with cut pasta or on grilled bread.

Whiskey Fried Cherry Tomatoes

Servings: 2

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • .25 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. whiskey
  • .25 tsp. salt
    1. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil until it just starts to shimmer, then carefully add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, allowing the tomatoes to blister. Turn the heat to low, salt the tomatoes and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes to soften.

    2. Once soft, add the garlic and toss for 1 minute, making sure it doesn’t burn. Remove the pan from the heat, deglaze with the whiskey and place back over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the resulting sauce has thickened. Serve immediately.

This whiskey-glazed salmon is the perfect fusion of smoky and sweet. The robust, earthy flavors of whiskey beautifully complement the natural richness of the salmon — as the whiskey glaze caramelizes, it imparts both a subtle smokiness and a sweet undertone to the fish. While the ingredient list is simple, this dish is as impressive as it is delicious.

Whiskey-Glazed Salmon

Servings: 4

  • 1 side of salmon, about 2 lbs.
  • 3 Tbsp. whiskey
  • .25 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
    1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine whiskey, brown sugar, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, minced garlic and grated ginger to create the glaze. Set aside.

    2. Prepare the baking sheet by lining with foil and spraying with non-stick spray. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel, season with salt and place onto the baking sheet. Brush the salmon generously with the whiskey glaze, ensuring an even coating.

    3. Roast the salmon in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the glaze has caramelized. Once cooked, let the salmon cool slightly and serve.

A Fried Chicken Expert Shares Her Family Recipe for Wings
Susan Jung was the longtime food and drinks editor for the “South China Morning Post”
Baked chicken wings and legs in honey mustard sauce. Serving dishes in the restaurant on a black plate
Whiskey Sour Chicken Wings
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Elevate your wing game with an unexpected twist — classic, homemade sour mix. The marriage of these flavors creates a truly interesting flavor profile, as the richness of the whiskey contrasts the tangy brightness of the citrus. The caramel undertones of the whiskey also perfectly balance the sweet and sour elements, resulting in a sticky glaze that coats the wings.

Whiskey Sour Chicken Wings

Servings: 3

  • 2 lbs. chicken wings, flats and drums separated
  • .25 cup whiskey
  • .25 cup fresh lemon juice
  • .25 cup honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • .5 tsp. salt
  • .25 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish
    1. In a large bowl, combine whiskey, fresh lemon juice, honey, minced garlic, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Reserve half of the marinade and add the chicken wings to the rest, ensuring they are well-coated. Marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or up to overnight, allowing the flavors to infuse.

    2. Preheat your gas or charcoal grill to medium heat. Remove the wings from the marinade and pat dry. Brush the wings with vegetable oil and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning often, until golden brown and cooked through.

    3. While the wings are grilling, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens into a glaze, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Brush the glaze onto the wings during the last 5 minutes of grilling, ensuring they are well-coated and caramelized.

    4. Once cooked and the wings reach 165 degrees F, arrange them on a platter, garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.

The marriage of fiery peppercorns and rich whiskey creates a pairing that elevates the natural umami goodness of this steak. The peppercorns bring heat, while the whiskey imparts a subtle layer of smokiness, two flavors that are much more similar on the palate than expected. Much like in the tomatoes, the whiskey will also bring out fruity, spicy notes in the peppercorns that add to the boldness of this dish. Pair these steaks with a buttery baked potato for maximum effect.

Whiskey Peppercorn Steak

Servings: 2-4

  • 2 New York strip steaks, about 1-inch thick
  • 2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • .25 cup whiskey
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. thyme, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • .5 tsp. kosher salt
    1. Coarsely crush the black peppercorns using a mortar and pestle (or place them in a plastic freezer bag and use a rolling pin). Salt the steaks, then press the crushed peppercorns onto both sides of the steaks, ensuring a generous coating.

    2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, sear the steaks for 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare, adjusting the time according to your desired doneness.

    3. Remove the steaks from the skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, add half of the butter, minced garlic and thyme. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.

    4. Pour in the whiskey, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Turn the heat to low, allow the whiskey to reduce by half, then stir in the remaining butter until melted.

    5. Return the steaks to the skillet, coating them in the peppercorn-infused whiskey sauce. Serve immediately, drizzling the remaining sauce on the meat.

Homemade Apple Crisp served on a white plate
Whiskey Apple Crisp
Getty Images

Apples and whiskey are a perfect contrast of flavors, and adding warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg further enhance the combo. The oat crumble not only adds flavor, but it also adds textural contrast to the apples, which will be a bit softer than usual because of the whiskey. If you’re feeling bold, spike the apple mixture with a few dashes of bitters (Angostura or walnut work best here) to up the spice and complexity level.

Whiskey Apple Crisp

Servings: 8

  • 6 cups apples, peeled and sliced (a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji work well)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • .5 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • .25 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Salt
  • .25 cup whiskey
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • .5 cup all-purpose flour
  • .5 cup packed brown sugar
  • .5 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9″ baking dish.

    2. In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Add the whiskey and mix well. Transfer the apple mixture to the prepared baking dish.

    3. In another bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar and cold butter. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to mix until it resembles coarse crumbs.

    4. Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the apples in the baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender.

    5. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.


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