"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Holiday Hell: Bring on the bourbon balls

by Julie Tilsner on December 4, 2007

in Holiday Hell, Sweet!

I come from a long line of Irish alcoholics. My mother’s side of the family has an armory of tales involving  fist-fights, three-week benders, lost weekends, smashed cars and Christmas trees hurled through plate glass windows.

I remember a few such doozies from my childhood. And although this has made me fairly humorless when it comes to dealing with alcoholics as an adult, I can still summon a perverse pride in the knowledge that certain members of my family could easily out-drink any frat brother you put before them. You would think such lineage would equip me to drink early and often. And yet my brothers and I have stepped away from the bottle. It’s only been recently, in the midst of my middle-aged mommy malaise, that I’ve developed a relationship with red wine. But ask anyone. I hold my liquor like a 10-year-old.

Nevertheless, they’re in there: those miserable Irish alcoholic genes. That’s probably why I loved bourbon balls as long as I can remember. They’re the perfect holiday sweet: Little balls of cookie dough with nuts rolled in powdered sugar and spiked with alcohol. It’s impossible to eat only one. I believe I actually copped a small buzz one year after I ate 17 of them in one sitting. Or maybe that was just the sugar high.

When I was old enough to have a functioning kitchen and several
mixing bowls to call my own, I asked my mother for the recipe. She sent
it along (expressing her shock that I was baking at all), and to my
delight, I saw that the making of my holiday favorite involved a gallon
Ziplock bag, a box of ‘Nilla Wafers, and a hammer. Oh the joy of the

To wit:

One cup chopped nuts
2 cups crushed Vanilla wafers (approx. 4 dozen)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. melted butter
1/2 cup bourbon (or rum if preferred)
2 tblsp. corn syrup (lite Karo)
2 tsp cocoa

Put all the ‘Nilla wafters in the Ziplock back and seal it well.
Smash them to a fine crumble with hammer and great satisfaction. Mix
ingredients together and roll into little balls. Roll these through a
dish of powdered sugar. Refrigerate for one hour or longer.

The kids don’t like them. Tony doesn’t either (he was a Tequilla guy
back in his party days and he’s an ice-tea guy now). Luke doesn’t care
for them either (although maybe he’d like Guinness balls? Now there’s
fodder for another post…) Fine, fine, fine. MORE for me!!! ALL MINE!

Jesus Christ. It’s Hanukkah tonight? I’ll be making latkes for my
son’s second grade class on Friday. Stay tuned for that debacle.

And Happy Birthday to the flamenco guitarist! My friend Debbie will
be grilling up some salmon for us tonight on her big butch George
Foreman grill. At least he’ll get a decent birthday dinner.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

LH December 4, 2007 at 5:49 pm

“Luke doesn’t care for them either.” Where on earth did you get that idea? I like bourbon balls. Although, probably not 17 at one sitting.


flutter December 4, 2007 at 7:33 pm

LMAO did you just say, Jesus Christ, it’s Hannukah?


Nomie December 5, 2007 at 4:53 am

We usually end up making these as brandy balls at my house. They’re delicious either way, though! Also, my mom tends to skip the Ziploc and hammer, preferring to throw everything in the Cuisinart. And we usually roll them through granulated sugar instead of powdered – it’s prettier, I think.
Happy Chanukah! My friend and I made latkes last night for all our non-Jewish buddies. It was entertaining.


AGT December 5, 2007 at 8:54 am

I’m with Luke; anything with a nilla wafer and a smidgen of bourbon at the holidays can’t be all bad!?


Julie R December 5, 2007 at 7:28 pm

We made them as Rum Balls – I love them!


Kelly December 5, 2007 at 11:54 pm

Rock on! Thanks for the official Welcome-to-the-blogosphere. Bad Home Cooking is going to be my blog away from blog. You’re a crack up.


Terry B December 12, 2007 at 2:01 pm

I don’t know about Luke, but I could do with about 17 of these babies right about now.


Sandi October 13, 2014 at 1:21 am

Try them with Southern Comfort.


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