Friday, December 4, 2015

Bourbon Balls

Bourbon.  It's so much more than just another distilled spirit.

Bourbon is history.  Bourbon is heritage.  Bourbon is a key ingredient in a great little Christmas confection I like to make, and if you're in a hurry, scroll below to the recipe.  But bourbon is interesting, so I hope you read on a bit.

What's so special about bourbon?  It's just whiskey, right?  Well, to be called whiskey, a spirit must simply be distilled from grains (wheat, rye, corn, rice, barley, you name it...) then stored in oak containers and distilled to no more than 190 proof.

To be called bourbon... well, that's another matter.

Bourbon is
  • made from various grains, but must be at least 51% corn,  
  • aged in new, never-before-used oak containers that have been charred on the inside and seasoned for months before use, 
  • distilled to no more than 160 proof, 
  • made in America.  Period.  
  • And to be great bourbon, it needs to be distilled from iron-free, limestone-rich spring water, and that means Kentucky.

In fact, jazz and bourbon have a shared history.  In the 18th century, bourbon makers shipped barrels of spirits down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to markets in Louisiana, and then journeyed back home on foot.  What happened to all those oak barrels?  They were disassembled and used as building materials.  In essence, bourbon barrels made New Orleans, and New Orleans made jazz.  See what I mean by a shared history?  (Today bourbon distillers continue the tradition of single-use oak barrels, and if you're wondering what happens to those barrels nowadays, the answer is, they sell them to other distillers.  The ones who make just whiskey.)

The history and heritage of bourbon making in America is such an interesting story that, honestly, I could go on for pages.  And, honestly, you don't want me to!  So, let's leave that for another time and get on with the recipe for 

Bourbon Infused Chocolate Truffles,
a.k.a. Bourbon Balls

Bourbon balls are a special treat for grownups that I like to make at Christmas time.

The ingredients are few:
  • 3 cups of crushed vanilla wafer crumbs (i.e., Nabisco Nilla Wafers or their equivalent)
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 cup of finely chopped or ground pecans
  • 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, plus a bit more set aside
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (the good stuff if you please, not maple-flavored syrup)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of bourbon *

* A note about the bourbon:  It is okay to buy inexpensive, diluted bourbon that is 50 proof or less.  It's kind of made for this purpose.  But I'll tell you:  one year I went a little crazy and made the bourbon balls with Maker's Mark.  People are still talking about it.

The instructions are simple:
  • Start by crushing or processing the vanilla wafers into fine crumbs.
  • Combine the wafer crumbs in a large bowl with the other members of the dry team -- the cocoa powder, pecans and confectioner's sugar -- and mix well.
  • Add the maple syrup and 1/4 cup of bourbon and combine into a moist, but crumbly mixture.

Alright, now stop here for a moment.  The trickiest part of this very-much-not-tricky recipe is getting the consistency of this mixture just right.  If it's too dry, your balls will crumble.  If it's too wet, they'll be slimy and gross.  So, take about a tablespoon of your mixture and roll it into a tight little ball.  If it holds its shape, you're good.  If it seems too dry, add more bourbon a tablespoon at a time until you think it's right.  If it gets too wet, you might be able to save it by mixing in a bit more confectioner's sugar, but don't let it get too wet.

  • Once you're happy with your mixture, roll it by tablespoons into balls.
  • Place 2 or 3 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar into a plastic bag.  Place bourbon balls into the bag a few at a time, and gently shake the bag to thoroughly coat the balls with sugar.

Don't be fooled by their humble appearance.  These little bourbon balls are always a hit.  Just nestle the kiddies all snug in their beds, and while visions of sugarplums dance in their heads, you can enjoy a grownup treat.

These will keep for a few weeks stored in a cool location in an airtight container.  Perfect for hostess gifts, unexpected guests, or any reason at all, really.  Enjoy!

For a list of all the great parties where this post has been shared, click here.


  1. My hubby has been asking me to make these for years. Maybe this is my sign to give it a try!

    1. Yeah, he asked me to post this so you would see it. (Just kidding!) I hope you make them, and he loves them!

  2. Grownups deserve some Christmas treats too!
    Thank you for sharing, and thank you for linking up! Your post has been pinned to the party's Pinterest board ( Feel free to link up other posts too, and stay tuned for the features on Friday!

    1. I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for pinning my post! I'll try to drop by on Friday...

  3. These look and sounds so good and perfect for the holidays!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe at Cooking and Crafting with J & J.

  4. These sound so pretty!

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  5. My ex-SIL used to make something similar to these and they were so good! PINed and Tweeted :)

    1. You're awesome! Thanks for your support! Now, go make some bourbon balls. ;)

  6. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and thanks so much for sharing your awesome post with Full Plate Thursday. I sure appreciate you!
    Miz Helen

  7. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop

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