The Best Bourbon Balls.

By: Jen Shoop

By the time you are reading this, I will be nearly finished preparing the three desserts I am making for Thanksgiving tomorrow: Garden and Gun’s bourbon balls (from this cookbook), Jesse Szewczyk’s lemon-thyme shortbread squares (from this cookbook), and Stella Parks’ peanut brittle (from this cookbook). I personally love pumpkin pie but know it’s polarizing, and I do find that everyone is stuffed by the time the proverbial dessert cart rolls around, so I thought offering a trio of not-too-sweet bites would be a fun twist on things. I am envisioning sitting around the table, sipping the last of a glass of wine, reaching for a little nibble — a perfect fare la scarpetta moment.

I want to spotlight the festive and decadent bourbon balls, which I have made before, to great effect. I found them absolutely delicious and delightfully (shockingly!) easy to make, especially since they do not have you melting the chocolate over a double boiler (chocolate can be finicky and for years I had trouble with it seizing) but rather melting it beneath a nearly-boiling blend of cream, corn syrup, etc, which is a more fool-proof approach. There is something fetchingly retro and slightly naughty about them (no one needs to know you’re having a little midday nip of booze in the form of a chocolate truffle). We served them as dessert at a dinner party last winter and sent our guests home with a little bundle. I received a text a few days later: “How much bourbon are in these? We’re currently contemplating breaking into them while sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on 95.” HA.

Bonus: they can be made several days ahead and they keep wonderfully. We also froze some and they were wonderful as a surprise treat in mid-March, too. They are booze-forward so do not undertake if you’re not into bourbon. Last year, we mixed bourbon with Grand Marnier because we were short bourbon (gasp! my Virginia husband is appalled at that admission) and it was absolutely delicious, too, so feel free to toss in other liquors that appeal. It’s possible you could decrease or omit the bourbon but…just go for it.


1 cup pecan halves, toasted and finely chopped

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (about 8 oz.) — I used the food processor, but be careful because you can turn them into a paste if you over-blend…just buzz a few times.

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup light corn syrup

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I love the cinnamon from Spice House)

1/3 cup bourbon

Optional coatings: finely ground vanilla wafers, chopped pecans, dusting of cocoa powder or cinnamon sugar


Combine the crushed wafers and pecans in a large bowl. Place the chopped chocolate in a separate bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, corn syrup, and cinnamon and place over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk to blend in the cream as the chocolate melts. Let cool for 1-2 minutes, then whisk in the bourbon.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the crumb-nut mixture and stir well to combine. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. Form the mixture into balls with a small melon baller (about 2 teaspoons), roll in coatings as desired, and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week. Yield: 48.


+My favorite baking gear.

+My favorite festive holiday cocktail.


Shopping Break.

+The coupes I use to serve the aforementioned cocktail are these. LOVE.

+With shopping season here, trust me: you need this. It’s changed my life. Haha. I like that the blade is ceramic, too, so it’s not as dangerous an implement to have in the house (though I always keep mine up high anyhow).

+I cannot stop thinking about these heels.

+Cute faux fur topper to wear over all your festive attire this season.

+This $120 top is gorgeous, festive, sexy, all the things!

+This $35 fleece looks a lot like the more expensive styles from J. Crew, Sea, and Loeffler.

+How FUN is this poinsettia red dress?! I’d feel like a little Christmas gift in it.

+Adorable stationery for an NYC little — I met the founder of this stationery line briefly while in NYC last week!

+Stow your holiday cookies in a fun cookie jar like this or this.

+A great $22 gift for an acquaintance. More Secret Santa gifts (under $30) here.

+This dress is just beyond fab.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Bourbon Balls.

  1. I’ve made these annually for years using the G&G recipe—my only change, I up the flavor with making homemade short bread cookies. Omg! I’ll even add roasted pecans into the cookies which really brings them to a new level!

    1. OMG! I’m dying over this. I might need to up the ante next go around with your suggestion. I also toast the pecans! Delicious!!


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