After successfully running one of Montana’s first modern craft distilleries, married duo Lisa Cloutier and Brian Anderson of Whistling Andy Distillery wanted to bring more Montana spirits to the community table. The couple already had two restaurants in Bigfork, Montana, under their belt, but Montana Bonfire directly paired Cloutier’s chef skills with Anderson’s distilling prowess.

“We wanted to create a place where people can eat, drink, gather,” Cloutier says. “All the while trying new and exciting craft cocktails and local beers in a casual environment.”

Communal tables reach 10-feet in length inside the restaurant’s “Living Room,” a light and airy space touting 20-foot ceilings and a living plant wall. The cozy bar is inviting for guests to snuggle up in while the the outside seating deck allows folks to take in the expansive Montana night sky with fire pits and outside lighting.

Here, Cloutier shares her recipe for one of the eatery’s most popular items: smoked brisket slathered in Whistling Andy bourbon cherry sauce. Bringing it in even closer, the chef uses cherries from her own backyard and bourbon made by her husband. One of the only whiskeys in the state to use local grain, the batch is mashed, fermented and distilled on-site at the distillery, just five miles down the highway from the restaurant.

“We found that using whiskey in BBQ sauce gave [it] a smoother texture and enhance the honey and vanilla notes of Whistling Andy bourbon,” Cloutier adds.

When it comes to cooking with bourbon at home, the chef had a hot tip. “You have two choices,” she says. “Add the bourbon at the end for a little extra flavor or add in early in the process to allow the bourbon to cook out, which needs to be at 173° F or flambé it before hand to burn off the alcohol.”

Montana Bonfire’s Brisket in Bourbon Cherry BBQ Sauce

Serves 4-6

SAUCE
¼ cup garlic
½ onion, roughly cut
¼ cup chili powder
¾ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
6 ounces crushed tomatoes
3 ounces Whistling Andy Bourbon
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ cup pitted cherries
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup brown sugar

Place all the ingredients in saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool. Place in a blender or using a hand mixer, blend until smooth, adding water if it’s not to the consistency you want. Allow to cool in the refrigerator before use.

BRISKET
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup hickory or apple wood chips
½ whole brisket, trimmed, about 7-8 pounds

Soak wood chips in apple cider vinegar and set aside until your smoker is ready. Score the fat cap of the brisket then rub salt and pepper around the entire piece, no earlier than 30 minutes before smoking process begins, or the meat will dry.

Place the brisket in the smoker, directly on rack with the fat cap up to help it cook into therest of the meat. Place the soaked wood chips inside the smoker. Smoke for 10 hours at 185° F for 10 hours, then 215° F for four more hours when it should read an internal temperature between 180-195° F.

Allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes. Slice and serve with the bourbon cherry BBQ sauce.