Omnivore - Getting sauced at D.B.A. Barbecue

Making sauce is easier than it sounds


I am not a cook. Outside of boiling water or plugging in the George Foreman, the thought of making edible things out of multiple ingredients overwhelms me. So imagine my terror when I was invited to preview D.B.A. Barbecue's new barbecue sauce-making class.

I arrived at D.B.A. Wednesday night with a plan: make my dad a sauce for his birthday.

My dad is a Memphis-born, self-proclaimed connoisseur of all things barbecue, so the pressure to produce the perfect sauce was on. Yeah, Memphis barbecue is known to have a dry-rub, but the sauce that's become associated with Memphis 'cue is dark and sweet.

I looked up recipes and tried memorizing what I could (I didn't really want to cheat, per se), but by the time I got to D.B.A., I had forgotten everything except ketchup, molasses, and garlic. I was doomed.

But then, upon entering the covered patio where several group dining tables had been set up, I noticed something awesome ...

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Booze. One opening cocktail and one moonshine and bourbon flight are included in the price of the class. (Pro tip: Whiskey is the cure for sauce-making inhibition, so drink up!)

Once we (there were around 30 of us) took our seats, D.B.A. owner and overall barbecue cheerleader, Matt Coggin, greeted us with a spirited introduction to sauce and how to go about making. Armed with new knowledge (and a healthy buzz) we started mixing and experimenting with more than 30 ingredients - from ketchup and molasses to white pepper, mustard, and vinegar. Luckily, Coggin was with us every step of the way to offer suggestions and helpful tips.

And he's good. All we had to do was tell him what we were going for - sweet, spicy, tangy, etc. - and Coggin would advise us on how much of the main, base ingredients to add (your ketchups, mustards, vinegar) and then whatever else we'd need to add to achieve our desired result. Stuff like molasses and white or brown sugar syrup were simple enough, but then there were more complex ingredients like Jack Daniels (to mix or to drink - your choice!), Coca-Cola (apparently it's good for thinning and sweetening), chipotle paste, and more, plus all kinds of dry spices from garlic to cayenne pepper.

At one point I was freaking out because I thought my sauce would suck, but good old Matt was there so it was OK! Matt tasted everyone's sauce and guided them on how to make it great. He wouldn't settle for anything less than great.

Once my sauce was great (it took a while and a lot of hand-holding), I got to pour it all over a platter of pulled pork, dry-rubbed ribs, smoked chicken wings, and brisket. And it was damn good! (Grub is also included in the price of the class).

But we weren't finished yet, we had to come up with a name. And surprise! It was a competition. OH GOD. As I carefully poured my dark and lucious, sweet-but-tangy-and-also-spicy concoction in to a plastic bottle, I settled on Brother Christian's Loin Sauce. And surprise, again! My stellar sauce name won second place. Hooray!


We all had a good laugh at some of the suggestions, a salty and peppery sauce called "You Make Me Wanna Shoop," and the big winner "Moist Maker." We finished our cocktails and flights of boozes and went on a tour all the meat-cooking contraptions and called it a night.

All in all, the two and a half hours of making new friends, drinking moonshine and bourbon, and walking away with a $10 D.B.A gift certificate, goodie bag, and a sauce I made all by myself amounted to one awesome Wednesday night.

I felt accomplished and proud, but it doesn't really matter in the end. My dad will eat anything.

If you want to go to a future sauce-making class, they'll be held at 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of every month at D.B.A. The cost is $40 for a single person and $70 for a couple.