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Grilled Chicken Drumsticks with Bourbon-Cherry BBQ Sauce

Photo: Jennifer Causey
Active time 1 hr
Total time 1 hr, 40 mins

Serves 8 (serving size: 2 drumsticks and about 2 tbsp. sauce)

This fruity, boozy take on barbecue has all the characteristics of your favorite sauce—caramel notes, a savory backbone, and a pleasant vinegar tang. Sour cherries are mellowed by the honey in the sauce. If using sweet cherries, start with about half the amount of honey, adjusting with the rice vinegar to taste. Honey will also give the drumsticks a pretty lacquered coat on the grill. You could also use 1 cup unsweetened cherry juice in place of the cherries, water, and sugar, though the sauce may be a bit darker. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the drumsticks for a messy affair, or serve alongside.


  • 3 cups fresh or frozen sour cherries, pitted and thawed (about 20 oz.)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup unsalted ketchup
  • 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 4 pounds chicken drumsticks, skinned (about 16)
  • Cooking spray

Nutrition Information

  • calories 389
  • fat 9.9 g
  • satfat 2.5 g
  • monofat 3.3 g
  • polyfat 2.3 g
  • protein 45 g
  • carbohydrate 28 g
  • fiber 1 g
  • cholesterol 206 mg
  • iron 2 mg
  • sodium 585 mg
  • calcium 39 mg
  • sugars 23 g
  • Est. Added Sugars 17 g

How to Make It

  1. Place cherries in a food processor; pulse until almost smooth. Bring cherry puree, 1/4 cup water, and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl to yield about 1 cup liquid; discard remaining solids.

  2. Add cherry liquid to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in honey and next 9 ingredients (through ground red pepper). Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Cool. Place 1 cup sauce in a bowl; reserve.

  3. Preheat grill to medium-high (about 450°F).

  4. Coat grill grate and drumsticks with cooking spray. Arrange drumsticks on grill; cover and cook 8 minutes, turning occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Brush drumsticks with remaining sauce; cook 12 minutes or until done, turning and brushing every 3 minutes. Serve with reserved 1 cup sauce.