What is the Best Substitute for Bourbon?

by Charlie

Liquor is frequently featured in modern recipes. From cooking seafood to preparing sauces, liquor can add a unique touch to your dishes. Among popular liquors that feature in recipes is Bourbon.

Although bartenders and whiskey lovers might prefer it in a drinking shot, Bourbon has a special spot in the culinary space. Bourbon can enhance the flavor of dishes and give your cooking that special gourmet restaurant taste. Bourbon can be very useful when making a pan sauce for your sautéed chicken. It can also add flavor to everything from bruschetta to grilled shrimp.

But what happens when Bourbon is not available?

What is the best substitute for Bourbon? The best substitutes for Bourbon are Rum, Brandy, and Scotch. Other plausible substitutes are Bourbon vanilla extra and Apple cedar vinegar. 

An Overview of Bourbon

Named after Bourbon County in Kentucky (where it was first produced), Bourbon is a distilled liquor made from corn mash. Although Bourbon can be produced anywhere, around 95 percent of Bourbons in the US is produced in Kentucky.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but for a whiskey to be called Bourbon, it must be made of at least 51 percent corn. Although malted barley, wheat, or rye can also feature in Bourbon, they’ll typically be present in small quantities.

Bourbon typically has a high alcohol concentration. It has a minimum of 40 percent alcohol by volume and can get significantly higher, depending on the manufacturer.

In cooking, the level of alcohol concentration in a Bourbon results in varying effects on the dish being prepared. Bourbon with lower alcohol concentration generally gives more room for the flavors of the dish to feature prominently. Conversely, Bourbon with higher alcohol concentration can diminish the flavor of a dish to some extent.

Why Replace Bourbon?

You may end up needing substitutes for Bourbon for a number of reasons. It could be:

  • You need a nonalcoholic substitute: you may be uncomfortable with using alcoholic beverages in your dishes due to health concerns or religious beliefs. 
  • You need a different flavor: although there are different brands of Bourbons in the market, you might not find Bourbon brands with flavor that suits your needs. 

Best Substitutes For Bourbon: Rum, Brady & Scotch

Although there is a wide range of liquor that can be used as a substitute for Bourbon in different cases, listed below are substitutes that can replace Bourbon in general use cases:

Rum 

While Rum and Bourbon are made of different ingredients, the two types of liquor have several similarities. Although alcohol concentration varies by brand, both liquors have similar levels of alcohol concentrations.

They are both sweet and flavorful, although Rum seems to have the upper hand in that aspect since it is usually made from sugar.

What makes Rum even more suitable as a Bourbon replacement is that several Rum brands have acquired a Bourbon taste. Several Rum manufacturers process their products in ways that make the end product feel like Bourbon. 

If the limited variants of Bourbon flavors constrict you, you’ll find Rum to be very exciting. Rum has one of the most varied flavor profiles among liquors you’ll find in the market. Once you find a flavor that you love, directly drinking Rum could even be more pleasurable than Bourbon.

Apart from drinking, you’ll find Rum a good replacement for Bourbon in preparing meat, desserts, and certain seafood. They’re also a great replacement in a dish like Sizzling spare ribs with BBQ sauce. 

In most recipes that call for Bourbon, Rum will almost always be a perfect fit. For every recipe that calls for two tablespoons of Bourbon, you can substitute two tablespoons of Rum of similar Alcohol concentration. 

Brandy

Like Bourbon, Brandy is a strong alcoholic spirit. It is made from wine or fermented fruit juice. If you want an alternative after-meal drink or a digestif, you’ll find Brandy to be a great replacement. In some cocktails that require Bourbon, you’ll also find Brandy to be a good substitute.

In cooking, instead of Bourbon, you can use Brandy for flambéing your desserts. You can also use it as a substitute for Bourbon in dishes like steak Diane, deep-fried crab claws, fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, Classic crêpes Suzette and mincemeat Samosas.

You’ll usually need to substitute an equal of Brandy for Bourbon. This means, if the recipe calls for one tablespoon of Bourbon, you’ll also need one tablespoon of Brandy as a replacement. Brandy is widely produced and available in different flavors. This makes getting a Brandy flavor that has a semblance to your favorite Bourbon easy.

One particular type of Brandy that’s worth mentioning is Cognac. Cognac is produced in France and is made from a specific blend of grapes. They’re great for making chocolate desserts and also fit perfectly in sweet and savory dishes that would otherwise require Bourbon. 

Scotch

Scotch is an immensely popular alcohol for drinking, although a little less popular for cooking. However, that doesn’t make it any less a good substitute for Bourbon in cooking.

Scotch can add a very rich flavor to your dish while getting rid of an unpleasant aroma. There are several brands and styles of Scotch, and most of them can be used as substitutes for Bourbon. However, it is better to stick with lighter and sweeter brands of Scotch.

Irrespective of wherever you are, if you’re a fan of traditional Scottish dishes, you’ll find Scotch to be very useful in preparing a number of them. Some of them include Scotch sauce, Cranachan, and Marmalade and Scotch whiskey bread and butter pudding.

Just like Bourbon, Scotch fits the profile of a digestif. It is also a great after-meal liquor that can be taken after a heavy meal. 

Other Plausible Substitutes for Bourbon (Non-Alcoholic)

Bourbon Vanilla Extract

if you’re not comfortable with Bourbon liquor because of its alcoholic nature, you can get Bourbon’s feel and flavor from Bourbon vanilla extract. You’ll find it to be a great replacement, particularly when baking. It is also a great substitute when preparing soups, sauces, and some seafood dishes.

Typically, similar amounts of Bourbon extracts are used to replace Bourbon liquor. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar is usually a great replacement for alcohol in several kinds of dishes. As a substitute for Bourbon, a mixture of Apple cider vinegar and some peach nectar works well in dishes. The mixture can give your cooking a similar taste and flavor to what you’ll get when using Bourbon. They’re a particularly great replacement for Bourbon in cooking chicken dishes. 

Whichever Bourbon substitute you opt for, always ensure you go for healthy options!

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