Keep Calm and Eat Caramels


Early fall in the Bay Area is often regarded as the most beautiful time of the year, our Indian Summer. Unlike the often cold and foggy months of summer, September and October generally bring sunny days, warm enough for outdoor adventures and dining al fresco. It’s also the time of year when everything in my grocery store is available in pumpkin spice and my Instagram feed is full of friends eagerly anticipating fall festivities. This juxtaposition leaves me torn between holding onto the fleeting feeling of summer and embracing the coziness of fall. On a recent patch of colder days, the fall bug finally got me. I set to making one of my fall favorites, caramels. Bourbon, sea salt caramels.

One of my very favorite caramels are the Salted Pumpkin Caramels I featured here a few years back. They have actual pureed pumpkin in the candy and rest atop roasted pumpkin seeds, how can anyone resist? And while this would be the perfect time to make pumpkin caramels and carve a jack-o’-lantern I decided to try a new recipe. Caramels with bourbon.

A uniquely American whiskey , bourbon’s popularity has dramatically increased over the years. Trendy bars that specialize in whiskey and bourbon have been thriving. Rickhouse, Rye, and Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco are just a few that come to mind. It seems that any bar I go into these days, patrons are ordering Manhattans, Old Fashions, and Juleps. I partially credit Don Draper for bringing these delectable cocktails back into fashion.

But why stop at cocktails? Bourbon is also an unexpected treat in the ever popular Secret Breakfast ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. If bourbon is delicious in ice cream, why not caramels? Sweet with a burst of salt, these caramels have bourbon to thank for a hint of smokiness that make them completely addictive. Since the bourbon is added right before pouring the caramel into your pan to set, the flavor is left intact. These caramels would make an excellent treat for the adults handing out candy on Halloween!

Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels
Adapted from Bon Appétit, makes about 50 large caramels

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 stick sweet butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon (for stronger bourbon flavor, add another Tbsp!)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Maldon sea salt for sprinkling


Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper allowing the paper to overlap the sides. This will help once your caramel is set to pick it out of the pan.

Place sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Once boiling, continue stirring until mixture is a dark amber color, about 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and condensed milk until smooth. Return to stove and reduce heat to medium-low. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer reaches 240°, soft ball stage. Immediately remove pan from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt.

Pour mixture into your baking pan. After 10 minutes, sprinkle with sea salt, and let cool completely. Transfer the caramel to a cutting board and cut into rectangular pieces. Greasing the knife before cutting the caramels will help make a smooth cut.

Wrap each piece in waxed paper. Caramels can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. If you prefer your caramels firmer you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Enjoy!


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