Anybody who loves chocolate and high-quality spirits shouldn't be surprised that the two make a great combination. In fact, one Southern delicacy that has stood the test of time is the bourbon ball. If you've never heard of bourbon balls, you're missing out... 

bourbon balls recipe

Bourbon balls are usually bite-sized confections with a dark chocolate exterior and soft boozy interior. While these candies come in a variety of shapes and flavors, one flavor is most prominent: bourbon.

The History of Bourbon Balls

For decades, bourbon has played an important role in Kentucky's culinary world. It's for this reason that Kentucky has played such an important role in drawing attention to some of the best confections and cocktails. Take the mint julep, for example. The perfect derby drink requires the perfect bourbon. While most people may be familiar with the mint julep, not everybody may be so acquainted with the famous bourbon ball. Still, both hold an important place in bourbon history.

Bourbon balls were invented in 1938 by Ruth Hanly Booe, who operated a shop called Rebecca Ruth Candy. The history behind this candy shop is actually pretty notable. Initially, Booe founded the shop with her friend, Rebecca Gooch. In 1919, the two were both unmarried teachers with a skill for molding chocolates and other treats. The women set up shop at the former Frankfort Hotel, which had been closed due to Prohibition. They got to work in the bar room.

Booe and Gooch were undoubtedly trailblazers — two women starting their own business in a time when this was not common at all. While Gooch and Booe left the business to pursue other ventures, Booe would return after her husband died. She was trying to keep the business running with few resources, especially because the Great Depression had hit. People simply weren't buying chocolate like they used to. Ultimately, she decided that the way to success would be to add a bit of alcohol to her confections.

Booe's original recipe used a creamy, soft candy center mixed with bourbon. She covered the center with dark chocolate and punctuated each with a full pecan half. The original candies were made with 100-proof bourbon, which would provide an earthy and woody counterpart to the chocolate. While there is some debate as to who inspired the idea of combining bourbon and chocolate this way, one thing is clear: People loved it.

In fact, these loyal customers loved bourbon balls so much that they were willing to step up and help Booe. When the country was rationing supplies in the wake of World War II, she had little access to some of the resources she needed to make bourbon balls. Sugar was especially hard to get. Locals who loved Booe's bourbon balls came together and offered some of their own sugar rations so she could continue to make her famous candies.

The Best Way To Make Your Own Bourbon Balls

Bourbon balls definitely aren't the kind of candy you feed the kids. One thing you need to know if you attempt to make them at home is that the bourbon is not cooked out. In fact, the chocolates aren't cooked at all. The bourbon is a key component in the flavor of the candy. While this isn't really enough to get you tipsy, you'll taste the alcohol.

While you certainly can make your own bourbon balls, the original recipe seems to be a closely guarded secret. That's not surprising considering the success of the candies. You can still make your own, thanks to a variety of other recipes for bourbon balls.

You really don't need many ingredients to get started. You'll use pecans, salt, honey, vanilla wafers, confectioners sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder. You'll need bourbon too, and you can increase the amount of bourbon you use based on how bold you want the flavor to be. You'll mix most of the ingredients before chilling them. Once chilled, the mix is ready for shaping. Some people like to dip their bourbon balls in melted chocolate after shaping them, but this is entirely based on your own preferences.

Some people like to play with the filling to create their own versions of the bourbon balls. You can choose your own adventure, swapping the dark chocolate for milk chocolate or swapping vanilla wafers for gingersnaps. You can even add a cherry or toffee center.

Storing bourbon balls is easy. They don't need to be refrigerated, but you can keep them in the fridge if you want to avoid melted chocolate. Find a cool place to store them in the kitchen, and they should last a couple of weeks.

Some people wonder what kind of bourbon they should use if they make their own candies. Honestly, there really is no "best" option to use if you make your own bourbon balls. If you have a favorite bourbon, that's always a great choice. There's no official bourbon for bourbon balls, but a Kentucky bourbon seems like the most fitting choice.

The Best Time for Bourbon Balls

Bourbon balls are a staple in Kentucky and for any bourbon lover. In fact, there's no wrong way or time to eat them. Of course, there are some occasions that straight-up call for them. For example, you can't watch the Kentucky Derby without a mint julep and bourbon balls. In fact, some bourbon balls are even made with mint so they can be enjoyed alongside your julep.

Bourbon balls are also a great holiday treat. The spicy flavor of the bourbon is perfect for the cooler weather, not to mention the fact that the alcohol will warm you up a bit on a cold night. If you're showing up to a holiday party, bourbon balls are the perfect gift.

The Best Way To Enjoy Bourbon Balls

If you want a truly authentic experience, visiting Kentucky might be the closest you'll get to trying one of Booe's original bourbon balls. Going back to the source gives you the opportunity to try bourbon balls as they were meant to be enjoyed. In fact, you can still enjoy treats from Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, which continues to make bourbon balls to this day.

Of course, you can enjoy bourbon balls anywhere, preferably right next to a glass of your favorite bourbon, neat or on the rocks. Take a bite and slowly savor the flavor of the chocolate confection, getting a taste of bourbon history.

Related Posts

The time to go to a Holiday Party
The time to go to a Holiday Party
Now that I’m out of college and in the “real world,” I’ve been getting invited to formal events . . . but I never know w
Read More
Cafe Martin, New York
Cafe Martin, New York
New York City at the turn of the 20th Century was a town brimming with possibility, connecting the old world with the ne
Read More
The History of Angostura Bitters
The History of Angostura Bitters
A traditional Old Fashioned cocktail recipe calls for whiskey, sugar, ice, a cherry, orange peel, and a quick dash of on
Read More

Go down the @rabbithole