Whiskey Kitchen: Bourbon Chili

  • by Mike Wargo
Whiskey Kitchen: Bourbon Chili

With the drop in temperature, I find myself more and more tempted to stay in every night and cuddle up in cozy sweaters with a drink and binge watch The Following (once autumn rolls around, I become a basic bitch. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be drinking anything pumpkin spiced. I hate pumpkin).

But one of my most enduring fall traditions is making big pots of spicy, bourbon chili. Once a month, I take my stockpot and make a huge batch of chili. My girlfriend and I eat two bowls each after I make it, then I dump the leftovers in plastic bags in meal-sized portions and freeze it. Now I’ve got an easy lunch to take to work that I thaw out the night before.

This particular chili recipe was a crowd favorite at a 2018 chili cook-off. It didn't win. It's all political. I'm not bitter. It's stupid. They're stupid.

A spicy bourbon is ideal for this recipe. One with plenty of rye flavor and a kind of oaky taste. I used Woodford Reserve for this recipe, partially because I knew it'd be good in it and also because it was the only bourbon I had left.

I like to mix in a bunch of peppers to add more textures and flavors, but it’s completely optional if you don’t want peppers in your chili.

Now, when it comes to chili, I typically don’t measure my spices. I just toss in what looks right and then adjust accordingly after it’s been boiling awhile. But for the sake of cooking up and writing this recipe, I measured for you guys. You’re welcome.

There will probably be some chili purists who will angrily exclaim that beans don’t go in chili. Well, to quote the Dude, “Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion man.” I like beans in my chili. It makes it hearty and delicious. But you don’t have to have beans. It’s your chili.

Serves 8


1 lbs. ground beef

1 cup of bourbon

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange), chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds are optional)

3 tbsp. oil (I used olive, but use what you prefer)

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 cans black beans

2 cans kidney beans

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 tbsp. cumin

3 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. black pepper

Let’s get cooking:

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, then pour in 1 tbsp. of oil and sauté about half of your minced garlic.

2. Add beef and ½ tbsp. salt. Cook everything, breaking up the meats with a wooden spoon and mixing the meat and garlic together. Let it cook until your meat is brown, usually 6-7 minutes.

3. Toss in a splash of bourbon and let it cook down for two minutes.

4. Optional: take a swig of bourbon.

5. Take a slotted spoon and move your beef to a bowl and set aside. Dump the juices.

6. Crank up the heat to medium high and, in the same pot, pour the rest of your olive oil in. Then add your chopped onions, bell peppers, jalapeno, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften and the onions are translucent. This can take anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes.

7. Dump in your cooked beef, chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently for a minute or two.

8. Add the rest of your bourbon and reduce your heat to medium. Stir occasionally and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, which takes about 7 to 9 minutes.

9. Optional: take a swig of bourbon.

10. Add the crushed tomatoes and beans, then bring the heat up to medium high. Get the mixture to boiling.

11. Let it boil for a few minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for an hour and a half to two hours. Stir every ten to twenty minutes; scraping the bottom to make sure nothing has burnt to the bottom of the pot.

And you’re done. Serve the chili however you like. I like mine topped with crushed tortilla chips. My girlfriend likes it with a ton of shredded cheese mixed in and topped with sour cream. Or you can put it on top of some pasta to make it Cincinnati chili (makes one hell of a meal prep with some whole wheat penne).

Let us know how the chili turned out in the comments!


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