For the sauce:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch-wide strips
1 yellow onion, about 5 ounces, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons dark steak sauce
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
For the burgers:
8 slices bacon
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80% lean)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated
4 hamburger buns, split
4 leaves romaine lettuce, shredded
8 slices ripe tomato
SOAK the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
IN A HEAVY, medium saucepan over medium heat on the stove, warm the oil. Add the bacon strips and fry until browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and cool, leaving the drippings in the saucepan.
ADD the onion to the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until soft and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bourbon, increase the heat to medium-high, and boil to reduce slightly, about 1 minute. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture thickens and is reduced to about 2 cups, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the fried and cooled bacon. Cover and keep warm.
MEANWHILE, in a skillet over medium heat on the stove, fry the eight bacon slices until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.
MIX the ground chuck, salt and pepper, and then gently form four patties of equal size, each about ¾-inch thick. With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1-inch wide in the center of the patties to prevent them from forming a dome as they cook. Refrigerate the patties until ready to grill.
PREPARE the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (about 400°F).
DRAIN and add the wood chips to the charcoal or to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions, and close the lid. When smoke appears, grill the patties over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until cooked to medium doneness (160ºF), 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. During the last minute of grilling time, place one-quarter of the cheese on each patty to melt, and toast the buns, cut side down, over direct heat. Build each burger on a bun with lettuce, tomato slices, a patty, bacon slices and sauce. Serve warm