Bourbon-Caramel Sauce

Don't tell anyone I just ate a spoonful.

Vanilla Custards with Bourbon-Caramel Sauce and Bourbon-Praline Cheesecake
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop styling: Lydia Pursell
Active Time:
20 mins
Cool Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
30 mins

Bourbon and sugar, reduced into a sticky-sweet sauce that we can pour over anything and everything? Sign us up. This Bourbon-Caramel Sauce is the stuff of dreams. Our Test Kitchen developed this sauce to top our silky-smooth Vanilla Custards, but let's face it, the caramel is truly the star of the show.

If you've never made caramel before, it's not as intimidating as it may seem. You start by combining sugar and water in a saucepan. At this stage, it's okay to mix until the sugar and water are homogenous, but as soon as the sugar has dissolved, you'll want to stop stirring to allow the sugar to properly caramelize. Once the caramel reaches your desired color (we prefer a dark amber), add the butter and cream, then the bourbon and apple juice. Let it reduce for a few more minutes on the stove, then voilà. You've just made caramel. But this is not just any caramel: It's bourbon-spiked caramel. It doesn't get much better than that.

Once you've made your very own homemade caramel, you'll never go back to the bottled stuff. This Bourbon-Caramel sauce is great to stow in the fridge to drizzle over ice cream (or even better: homemade ice cream), brownies, cupcakes, pie… you name it. Is there any dessert that can't be improved by a drizzle of caramel? We didn't think so.


  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) bourbon

  • 2 tablespoons apple juice


  1. Heat sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan over medium-high, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Bring melted sugar to a boil over medium-high (without stirring).

  2. Continue boiling, undisturbed, until sugar reaches a dark caramel color, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add butter, and whisk until melted. Add cream, and whisk until smooth. Add bourbon and apple juice. Cook over medium-high, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

  3. Pour mixture into a small heatproof bowl, and cool 10 minutes. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days.

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