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Home Recipes Desserts Smoked Cherry Bourbon Sabayon with Fresh Berries

When I appeared on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl, I knew I wanted to make this sweet sabayon if I had the chance. It’s rich, luscious, fresh and kissed with a touch of cherry wood smoke.

Smoked cherry bourbon sabayon over fresh berries.

What is sabayon?

Sabayon is a custard-like dessert made by whisking together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a bain-marie (or double boiler). When whisked over heat, air is introduced to the eggs and they become light and airy as they cook.

The Italian version of sabayon (or zabaione) is usually made with sweet wine like marsala or cognac. The French version is sometimes made by stirring in champagne at the end.

You can make sabayon with any type of liquor or none at all for a non-alcoholic version. This recipe uses bourbon that has been smoked with Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips.

Sabayon next to cherry wood chips.

What happened when chefs on Food Network tasted this recipe

I had the opportunity to compete on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl in Season 4. For the first team challenge, we were asked to create a California BBQ Feast. I prepared the Santa Maria Style Tri Tip, but I also wanted to showcase a dessert.

Because California is known for its amazing wines and fresh fruit, I stepped up to create Sabayon.

Unfortunately when I ran to the pantry, I couldn’t find any sweet wine or dry white wine, so I grabbed the bourbon and fresh berries.

I was excited to show the judges that I could create this classic European dish on a grill. First, I smoked the bourbon on an offset smoker with cherry wood. Then, I whisked the smoked bourbon, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl right on the Santa Maria grill.

The standard formula for sabayon is 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of wine for every egg yolk that is used, so I went with those same proportions.

When my team captain Chef Anne Burrell tasted the custard, she said it was good, and then the bourbon hit her. She said, “That’s got a nice burn to it. I have to say I appreciate that.”

Chef Anne Burrell tastes Pitmaster Christie Vanover's sabayon. Food Network clip from BBQ Brawl.

The judges for BBQ Brawl include Chef Brooke Williamson, Pitmaster Rodney Scott and Tastemaker Carson Kressley.

When they took a bite, the bourbon definitely stood out – maybe a little too much. But Brooke said it was really creative and she loved that I went there with my head.

Based on that feedback, I have adjusted the recipe and reduced the bourbon significantly. Now, this recipe is smooth, rich and custardy, just like I intended.


Ingredients

Sabayon ingredients: eggs, sugar, berries, whiskey.
  • Large Egg Yolks: Use fresh eggs. Save the egg whites for an egg-white omelet or meringue.
  • Granulated Sugar: You will use a 1/2 cup sugar for the custard and 2 teaspoons to finish the top with a brûlée.
  • Bourbon or Whiskey: In place of traditional marsala wine or sweet wine, use bourbon or whiskey. I’m a fan of Gentleman Jack for this recipe.
  • Fresh Berries: Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are my berries of choice for this dish. If you use fresh strawberries, cut them into smaller pieces.
  • Mint: Freshly chopped for a garnish.
  • Orange Zest: Also an optional, colorful garnish.

Add Ons: You will also need cherry wood chips to create the smoked bourbon.

See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.

bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to prepare smoked sabayon

  1. STEP ONE: Place Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips in a smoke box or foil pouch and place that on the grill over direct high heat. They should start smoking in a few minutes.
Cowboy cherry wood chips in smoke tube.
Disclosure: I am a paid ambassador for Cowboy Charcoal.
  1. STEP TWO: Place the bourbon in a small metal bowl. Once the chips are smoking, add the bowl of bourbon to the grill over indirect heat. You don’t want to cook the bourbon, you just need to smoke it for 10-15 minutes. Then, remove it from the grill and let cool.
Bowl of whiskey next to smoke on grill.
  1. STEP THREE: Combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar and the cooled smoked bourbon in a metal heatproof bowl or pot and whisk them together.
Sabayon ingredients in bowl on grill.
  1. STEP FOUR: Adjust the grill to medium-low heat and place bowl or pot on the grill grates over the direct heat. Whisk continuously for 15-20 minutes, until the custard has doubled in size, is thick and ribbony and coats the whisk.
Sabayon thickened in bowl.

OPTION: Instead of cooking this on a grill, you can also use the traditional method. Place the ingredients in a metal bowl and place that over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Whisk as described above.

Sabayon ingredients in bowl over pot of simmering water.

PRO TIP: The bowl will get hot to the touch. Use an oven mitt or towel to keep a grip on the bowl, but be sure to keep the mitt or towel away from the flames.

  1. STEP FIVE: Place half of the berries on a rimmed platter or large shallow bowl and pour the cooked egg mixture on top.
Pouring sabayon over berries.
  1. STEP SIX: Top with the remaining fresh berries and 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Sprinkling sugar on berries.
  1. STEP SEVEN: Use a kitchen torch to caramelize or brûlée the sugar, so it becomes crispy. Garnish with fresh mint and orange zest.
Using kitchen torch to brûlée sugar.

How to serve sabayon

This sabayon recipe should be served immediately. Otherwise, it may start to separate.

You can serve it on a large platter as a dessert centerpiece, or you can assemble it in small glasses for individual desserts.

Smoked cherry bourbon sabayon over fresh berries.

Storage

Technically, you can refrigerate sabayon for a couple of days, but it’s best served and eaten immediately because the custard will start to separate and lose its volume.


GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Smoke the bourbon with cherry wood for added flavor
  • Allow the bourbon to cool, so you don’t overcook the eggs
  • Use a grill for heat, instead of a pot of water
  • Layer the sabayon with berries for brightness
  • Finish with torched sugar for added crunch

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between hollandaise and sabayon?

Hollandaise is a rich egg sauce made with egg yolks, melted butter and lemon juice. It’s often served on savory dishes like eggs Benedict. Sabayon is made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine and is usually served as a dessert.

What do you do with sabayon?

Sabayon is a rich custard dessert often served over fresh fruit.

Can sabayon be served cold?

Yes. If you want to serve sabayon cold, remove the bowl of fully whisked eggs from the heat and place it in an ice bath (a larger bowl of ice water). Continue whisking until the custard cools. Be careful not to get ice water in the custard.

Is it safe to eat sabayon?

Sabayon is made with egg yolks. The USDA recommends cooking eggs until the yolk is firm. This recipe doesn’t take the yolk that far. It’s more like eating a sunny side up or over easy fried egg. Because of that, this recipe is not recommended for young children, older adults, pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems.

Spoonful of berries with sabayon.

More Dessert Dishes

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5 from 1 vote

Smoked Cherry Bourbon Sabayon

Discover the smoky allure of bourbon-infused sabayon cascading over luscious berries. A tantalizing treat that'll ignite your taste buds.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips

Ingredients 

  • 2 tbsp bourbon or whiskey
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups berries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Instructions 

  • Create Smoke: Place wood chips in a smoke tube or foil pouch and place on a grill over high heat.
  • Smoke Bourbon: Place the bourbon or whiskey in a small metal bowl. Once the wood chips start smoking, add the liquor to the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid and smoke for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  • Adjust Grill: Reduce the grill temperature to medium-low heat.
  • Whisk: Place the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and smoked bourbon in a metal bowl or pot. Place the bowl on the grill and whisk continuously for 15-20 minutes, until the sabayon becomes frothy, thick and about double in size.
  • Plate: Place half of the berries on a rimmed platter or large shallow bowl. Pour the sabayon over the berries. Add the remaining berries on top.
  • Brûlée: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar over the berries. Brûlée with a kitchen torch to create a crackling topping.
  • Garnish: Sprinkle with fresh mint and orange zest.

Notes

Instead of whisking the eggs and sugar in a bowl on a grill, you can also place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. 
The brulee step is optional. It adds a nice sugary crunch and enhances the smokey flavor. 

Nutrition

Calories: 178kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 4gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 259mgSodium: 12mgPotassium: 49mgFiber: 1gSugar: 21gVitamin A: 372IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French, Italian
Did you try this recipe?Be sure to rate it, leave a comment and save it so you can make it again. Show off your awesome results on social by tagging @girlscangrill

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christie vanover standing against wood wall.

Hey BBQ Family

Hi. I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and have dozens of top ten category finishes. People know me as the girl who is forever hovering over a grill, smoker or campfire with tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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