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Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Recipe Info

Difficulty: Easy
Mess Level: Low
Yield: 1.5 Cups
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 12 min


  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • ¼ Cup Water
  • ¼ Cup Heavy Cream
  • 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) Butter
  • ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar or Lemon Juice
  • Salt to Taste
  • Flake Salt for Garnish (optional)



  1. Get all of your ingredients ready and have a whisk handy, caramels go very quickly.
  2. Chop your butter into four pieces.
  3. Add the sugar, water, cream of tartar (This will keep your caramel from seizing), and a pinch of salt to a pot. Bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Allow the sugar to cook until you begin to see some light brown color appear. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the caramel darkens to your desired color. The darker you go, the deeper the flavor but be careful not to burn it.
  5. As soon as the caramel is dark enough, remove the pot from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, then the bourbon and the cream. It will boil so be careful.
  6. Return the pot to the stove and cook until the sauce is thickened to the consistency of warm honey. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
  7. Pour the caramel into a small baking dish and allow it to cool completely. You may do this in the fridge to speed it up. Transfer to jar and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

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Make It...

  1. Gluten Free: Yes! This dish is naturally gluten free.
  2. Vegetarian: Yes! This dish is naturally vegetarian.
  3. Meal Prep: Follow these steps if you want to prep ahead of time:

    1. Complete this recipe through step 7.
    2. This sauce will hold for up to two weeks and may be reheated or served chilled.

Savannah Says...

  1. Why do I need to add cream of tartar?

    1. Line cooks do love their acid...

      Adding an acid allows you to stir your caramel and keeps it from seizing. You can make caramel without it, but the risk of the caramel seizing is very high.

  2. What happens when a caramel “Seizes”?

    1. It gets harder than a sailor on leave...

      Stirring the sugar causes it to clump, briefly, and it can re-crystalize. If you allow this to mix with the rest of the caramelizing sugar it will crystalize the whole pot. You can typically save it by warming and stirring over low heat till it melts again.

  3. Can I make this without Bourbon?

    1. One virgin caramel coming up!

      You bet, just leave it out or sub in your favorite flavor! Herbs such as rosemary make an excellent flavor to infuse caramel with.

  4. How do I make a hard caramel?

    1. It's more about what you don't do...

      You can make a hard caramel by omitting the heavy cream, bourbon, & butter from this recipe. Just know that once you’ve got it as dark as you want you’ve got a very short window of time to work with it before it hardens. You can melt it again in the pan over low heat if it hardens before you’re done.

Ramblings of a Line Cook

Caramel is a finicky beast. As I put the sugar into the pot and turn on the heat I feel like it’s laughing at me like a lunatic at the gallows laughs, knowing full-well how this will end for him, but leaving you with a prickling uncertainty deep in your gut about you don’t know what. You just know that somehow, despite the caramel being in the pot and despite the fact that you put it there and have full control of the heat beneath it, the caramel, somehow, still has the upper hand.

Caramel is one of those things in life where you can do everything right and still fail. I grew up going to church where every Sunday, a man in a suit would get up in a pulpit, flip open his version of the bible, and repeatedly tell us that the devil would try to tempt us into worldly things and that we must not give in. And I truly think, that if that is true, the devil reached his peak of temptations when he realized you could turn sugar into caramel. And I must say, when my time comes, I will stand happily at the gates of hell and thank that creature for the sinfully, delicious, bronze-colored goodness of burnt sugar.

Since we’re sinning anyway, what’s a little heavy cream? Pouring cream into a dark, bubbling caramel is a beautiful thing. It creates this reaction that almost makes you want to jump away from the pot as those brown & blond bubbles of boiling sugar come crawling up the side like an army. But if you have faith, and if you whisk like mad, the cream will stabilize the caramel and the army of bubbles will fall calmly back into place. And as you stir in that last pinch of salt and take your first taste, you will smile like a fool, for you have mastered the sugar once again and you have made a glorious thing.

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