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This vinegary barbecue sauce is famed in Denver — and deserves to be everywhere else, too

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
“Daddy” Bruce’s Barbecue Sauce
Total time:20 mins
Servings:Makes 5 cups (twenty 1/4-cup servings)
Total time:20 mins
Servings:Makes 5 cups (twenty 1/4-cup servings)

“Daddy” Bruce Randolph Sr. remains a legend in Denver more than 25 years after his death in 1994, not just for his barbecue but for his humanitarian work. The secret to his ‘cue was his sauce, a recipe that Randolph credited to his beloved grandmother, a freed slave who raised him. Described as a cross between an “eastern North Carolina sauce and a Deep South barbecue sauce,” this thin, vinegar-heavy condiment reflects Randolph’s roots in the South. The sauce’s tangy qualities could divide Denverites who were not raised on a tradition of vinegary barbecue. But as Randolph once told a journalist, it’s the sauce that makes the difference, not the wood smoke.

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The sauce should be stored in a glass container, such as a Mason jar, and should be shaken well before applying to finished barbecue.

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Recipe notes: The sauce is best if made several days before serving. It can be refrigerated in a glass container with a tightfitting lid for up to two months.

Scale and get a printer-friendly, desktop version of the recipe here.


  • 2 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely ground black pepper

Step 1

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper until combined. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and transfer to a lidded jar.

Use right away or refrigerate until needed. Shake well before serving.

Nutrition Information

(Per 1/4-cup serving)

Calories: 58; Total Fat: 0 g; Saturated Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 829 mg; Carbohydrates: 15 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 14 g; Protein: 0 g.

Adapted from “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” by Adrian Miller (The University of North Carolina Press, 2021).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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