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Maple, Bourbon and Balsamic Caramel Sauce

Maple, Bourbon and Caramel Sauce

by Barbara Kiebel on December 19, 2013

Caramel Sauce…love it or hate it? Truth is it wasn’t until the other night that I met someone who doesn’t care for it. I immediately put my hand to his forehead to see if he was feverish; that could have been the ONLY excuse right? Why yes, I am talking about you Nate! What I most often hear is that folks hate making it. Do I combine just sugar and heat or go long and add a bit of water? How long should it cook. EXACTLY what color should it be. How big a pot to account for the rolling boil when you put cream into caramelized sugar? The list goes on and it’s clear something simple is not always, so I make it the easiest thing possible for friends and include this sauce in my list for holiday gift giving. How much easier could it get??!!

My secret? Nothing burned here; absolutely no browning necessary. I don’t imagine you have a problem with butter and brown sugar right? Not exactly the same as that slightly burned but wonderful sugary result but equally good and SO much easier to make.

How much easier Barb? Well, easy as in all ingredients dumped in a saucepan and heated to a boil where it cooks for a couple of minutes. Done. Without worrying about burning off your fingertips either!


Of course I have to fiddle with the recipe ingredients occasionally. As in always. Should be no surprise that said fiddling often includes the addition of some booze. This time around it’s Bourbon. Which made me think of Maple. I have this thing about putting maple syrup together with bourbon; I just LOVE the combination. Maple Bourbon Bacon and Maple Bourbon and Bacon Spiced Walnuts can attest to that. I’ve decided a cookbook might be in order. Maple Bourbon Everything. I could do that!!

So I did it. And it was good. But it was swwweeet. Which of course caramel sauce is supposed to be but I wondered what I could do to cut that sweetness just a bit. I spied balsamic vinegar and I’ll be honest, I tested a little bit first. Not one to easily throw ingredients in the trash I wanted some insurance so put a teeny tiny drop onto a teaspoon of the caramel sauce and gave it a whirl. Oh. My. Goodness. Perfect. The balsamic vinegar is not discernible like the bourbon but it made an undeniable difference and darkened it up a bit. LOVED it even if the ONLY ice cream on hand had Oreo cookies in it!

Fair warning; if I give you a gift basket at Christmas; stop reading now. OK, forge forward if you must but know this is it. This WILL be a holiday gift (with a move to my new home soon imminent this might be ALL I get done!). Every year there is something that is just so good that I know it will be part of my holiday gift giving…nice to know so early on what that will be. And no, pandering to me now will not work. Well, actually depends on how much pandering.  :)


This is easy, uses ingredients you probably have on hand and did I mention easy! Uses? SO many. Ice cream, fruits (I love caramel with both bananas and pears), drizzled on cookies or cakes and most definitely would be a fabulous match for some apple pie. I’m drooling just thinking about it!

Now hand me a spoon. I’ve got some further testing to do. :)

Maple Bourbon and Balsamic Caramel Sauce

Maple Bourbon and Balsamic Caramel Sauce


  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar


  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until smooth and thick.
  2. Before serving, remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Reheat in microwave if necessary. Keeps for about a week...but really; think it will be around that long?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate | Food Babbles December 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Whoa! I love each and every thing going on with this caramel sauce. Stunning flavors here! You know how I adore balsamic anything but then the maple and bourbon too? Drool
Kate | Food Babbles Most Recent Post: The Weekend Whisk – 12/28/13


2 Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice December 21, 2013 at 11:45 am

Holy cow batman, this sounds good!


3 Creative Culinary December 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Thanks Robin…err, Claire…it really is! :)


4 Paula December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

You do create some of the best food-gifts ever! Thanks for being so generous as to share your recipes. Though I will still give cookies next year, some of your wonderful ideas will also be given and you will be given the credit.

Sincere best wishes for a very Merry Christmas Barb. May all the good you do come back to you ten-fold in 2014.
Paula Most Recent Post: Santa and the Grinch


5 Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen December 20, 2013 at 11:11 am
6 Maureen | Orgasmic Chef December 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I love it, John hates it. I wonder if he’d change his mind if I said there was bourbon in it? Worth a try! This looks so good.
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef Most Recent Post: Gluten Free Appetizers


7 Creative Culinary December 20, 2013 at 10:47 am

Definitely test it out on him! My neighbor across the street always says he is not that fond of sweets and then devours everything I make!


8 vanillasugarblog December 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

See this is what I love about blogging….you truly do learn new food ideas.
I’ve never thought of putting a little bit of balsamic in a homemade caramel sauce, but when you think of it, it’s genius!
vanillasugarblog Most Recent Post: peppermint creme meltaway bars


9 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Why thank you! You know the flip side of genius right? It could have gone either way! :)


10 Claire @ The Black Cat Kitchen December 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I seriously wish I was getting one of your gift baskets!! This looks incredible. The people getting it are seriously lucky, edible gifts are the best :-) Would never ever of paired balsamic with caramel but I can imagine it works so well! Defo one to add to the to make list!! Gorgeous recipe


11 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Thanks Claire! I think one thing I’ve learned is how good balsamic is with a sweeter element; first as an accompaniment to fruits; then drizzled on bread with honey and now with this sauce. A little goes a long way; the desire isn’t to taste vinegar but just to add another element of richness. It worked! :)


12 Sommer@ASpicyPerspective December 19, 2013 at 10:51 am

I couldn’t have dreamed up a better caramel sauce on my best day. This looks awesome!
Sommer@ASpicyPerspective Most Recent Post: Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


13 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

Thanks Sommer…and of course you could have! My recipe development is most often all in the moment so I never know what I’m going to do…might not be the best method of planning but sometimes has great results and I have to admit this is one of them.


14 John@Kitchen Riffs December 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

This looks amazing! As in really, really good. Never had bourbon or balsamic in caramel sauce. But I will, I will! Thanks for this.
John@Kitchen Riffs Most Recent Post: The Kir Royale Cocktail


15 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

I’ve done the booze before…a rum caramel sauce is a good thing! But this…it is over the top good so do make it John!


16 Hannah December 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

Please, please write Maple Bourbon Everything, Barb! This caramel looks unbelievable and I just added it to my gift-giving list. I have a friend who is allergic to sulfites, though, and can’t have balsamic – would the caramel be too sweet if I left it out of a batch for her? I can’t wait to dunk a spoon into this one. I hope you’re enjoying this festive season and that your move goes well! xx
Hannah Most Recent Post: Cranberry Malabi


17 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 10:54 am

I should huh? It’s not all that too sweet; I sometimes think I just need to find something more…as if bourbon and maple weren’t enough! See what you think and if you want a pinch of less sweet; try a tiny bit of white vinegar even; guess vinegar is sort of the lemon in my caramel sauces!


18 Tanya December 19, 2013 at 9:57 am

I love balsamic on desserts! It really adds something extra special to it. This sounds amazing.
Tanya Most Recent Post: Online HR Software – December 2013 Update


19 Holly December 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

Wow you have been busy in the kitchen! Just think how nice it will be to do this is your new home– it’s not long now!
Holly Most Recent Post: Dairy-Free but not Flavor-Free with #WholeFoods #Giveaway


20 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 10:01 am

Not anxious over here at all. Nope. Not in the least bit. I’m also a big, fat liar! :)


21 Karen Harris December 19, 2013 at 6:28 am

Oh my gosh, I find homemade caramel to be such an easy thing to make that I can’t imagine having a problem with it. I agree brown sugar is the only way to go. This look wonderful Barb! I’m holding my breath for you until you get in that new house.
Karen Harris Most Recent Post: Pork, Sage and Onion Stuffing Bites


22 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

I’ve heard the laments over the years…mostly from burning the sugar and water. I think easy for you is subjective because you could make it in your sleep I bet! I’m holding it too; although a big gasp of air might be required. They are taking their sweet time. :)


23 barbara December 19, 2013 at 5:15 am

Wow!!! Gotta make it!!


24 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

It will disappear; make a lot. :)


25 mimi December 19, 2013 at 5:02 am

wow. That sounds and looks absolutely delicious. Great looking ice cream scoop!!!
mimi Most Recent Post: Cranberry Ginger Cake


26 Creative Culinary December 19, 2013 at 9:07 am

Thanks Mimi; I wanted an old scoop and ebay complied!


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