The first time I encountered chicken lollipops was at a barbecue festival with some friends. They looked so delicious that I went home and made some myself. I have created about half dozen recipes for these lollipops but these smoked maple whiskey chicken lollipops are my favorite by far. You start by removing the bottom section of the chicken legs to make them into perfectly-trimmed drumsticks. My biggest tip is to use paper towels for this process—they help grip the meat to get it all off the bone. Seasoned, smoked, and slicked with a simple maple whiskey glaze, these lollipops are epic for tailgating, barbecue nights, or any summer celebration.
To make the seasoning: in a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Store any unused seasoning in an airtight container, in a cool dry place, for 1 to 2 months.
To make the chicken: Make a cut about one-third of the way down the drumstick toward the knuckle side. Cut all the way around the drumstick and pull off the excess meat and skin until the bone is clean. Trim off any excess tendons. Press the meat on the drumstick down to form your “lollipop.” Repeat this step for each drumstick.
Place 1 cup seasoning in a medium bowl and, one by one, season each lollipop inside the bowl. Set the drumsticks aside and discard any remaining seasoning.
Preheat the smoker for indirect cooking over medium heat (325°F). Add some oak or cherrywood chunks or chips to the smoker for more smoke flavor.
Place the chicken lollipops in the smoker, on a drumstick hanger (if using). Cook for 1½ to 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 175°F.
To make the glaze: When the chicken is close to being done, preheat a grill or fire pit for direct cooking over medium heat (300°F).
Pour the whiskey into a saucepan and place it over the fire. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining glaze ingredients and cook until the glaze is warm and the sugar dissolves.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully dip each lollipop into the glaze until it is evenly coated, letting the excess glaze drain back into the pan.
Placed the glazed chicken back on the smoker and cook for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with any extra sauce on the side.