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Cooking With Fire: Canadian Whisky

Justin Cary

Canadian whisky simply doesn’t command the attention of the U.S. market like it once did.

Imported whisky from Scotland and Ireland and our own local bourbon have continued to crowd out the spirits from our neighbors in the north, but at one point in time Canadian whisky was the most popular spirit in America.


Prohibition hit Canada a few years earlier than it did the U.S., and in 1915 and 1916 Canadian distillers were told to either distill alcohol to be sold exclusively to the export market, or to start distilling industrial alcohols and other chemicals.

When Prohibition hit the U.S. in 1920, distillers like Canadian Club were set up to continue to sell export whisky to the U.S.

But who would be buying this alcohol?

Well, Al Capone was the No. 1 importer of Canadian Club whisky during the U.S. Prohibition. Canadian Club is in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which borders the city of Detroit, and Capone imported through Detroit and then to Chicago where his criminal enterprise would move these products to underground bars and speakeasies.

By the time the U.S. Prohibition was repealed in 1933 American distillers were a decade away from having any real product to sell and Canadian whisky continued to dominate the now legal market.

Canadian Club was still a popular choice, and continued to be one of the best selling whiskies in the U.S. for decades to come.

In this episode of Cooking With Fire, we wrap up this series on using spirits when grilling, and we prepare poutine with Canadian whisky-infused gravy.


Poutine with Canadian Whisky Infused Gravy


  • 2 lb potatoes, sliced into steak fries
  • 4 oz white cheese curds
  • 2 oz pancetta, small dice
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp Canadian whiskey
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream
  • Smoked salt, to taste
  • Montreal steak seasoning, to taste


  1. Preheat your frying oil to 275ºF. Fry the potatoes until softened, about 5 minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate. Transfer to the refrigerator. 
  2. Increase the temperature of the oil to 350ºF. When the fries have cooled, fry again, just until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or spider. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Immediately season with the steak seasoning and salt, to taste.
  3. To make the gravy, place the pancetta and thyme in a medium cast-iron skillet. Cook until the fat is rendered out and the pancetta is browned. Remove the pancetta from the skillet, leaving the fat and thyme in the skillet. 
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the whiskey. Let the whiskey reduce until nearly gone. Return to the heat. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
  5. Combine the cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of cool water and whisk until dissolved. Slowly add the cornstarch slurry to the simmering chicken stock, whisking continuously. The gravy should quickly begin to thicken. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  6. Whisk in the heavy cream. Taste the gravy and adjust seasonings, as needed.
  7. To build the poutine, start with a big stack of fries, topped with the cheese curds. Pour the gravy all over the fries and curds. Sprinkle the browned pancetta over the gravy.
Josh Cary may be the eCommerce Director at All Things Barbecue during the day, but at night he takes on the mantle of an award-winning Pitmaster, who has cooked on the competition barbecue circuit under various team names including ATBBQ, Yoder Smokers and the Que Tang Clan.
All Things Barbecue Staff Chef Tom Jackson is a Kansas native, born and raised in Wichita. In 2008 he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, where he attended Oregon Culinary Institute. Tom studied both general culinary skills as well as baking and pastry while working as a cook in a variety of restaurants. After graduating from Oregon Culinary Institute he began working as a bread baker and pastry chef at the renowned Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland. He spent more than four years honing his skills under James Beard Award winning chef and owner Ken Forkish. In that time he and his wife had their first child, and the draw of home and family grew stronger. Longtime friends of the Cary family, owners of All Things Barbecue, they returned to Kansas to help All Things Barbecue continue to excel in their cooking classes. Tom has been further developing and building cooking classes and private events at All Things Barbecue since March 2014.