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Adults Only Christmas Cookies: Bourbon Balls

Santa and bourbon balls. Agnes Badertscher made the winking Santa Mug in 1968.

Santa and bourbon balls

These are the only cookies on my list that are labeled “adults only.” And they are the cookies that must be made at least a week before they are going to be eaten, so hurry–you’re just getting here in time to make Bourbon Balls for Christmas. The winking Santa Mug  was made by Agnes Badertscher  in 1968.

Don’t worry, Bourbon balls are simple to make–no baking–and they make your kitchen smell heavenly. Bourbon and chocolate and pecans.  Yum.

Everybody loves Christmas Cookies, but everyone also has a favorite.  I’ve talked about my late father-in-law’s favorite cookie, Pfefferneuse; about my three boys favorite when they were small, their Grandma Badertscher’s  Butterscotchers; about my husband’s favorite, Double Crunchers and about everyone’s favorite, Emily Dickinson’s Black Cake. Since you have to check driver’s licenses before you hand out Bourbon Balls, pretty much everybody wants to get their hands (or mouths) on these little flavor bombs, too, but the one person who really kicks up a fuss if he doesn’t get his yearly Bourbon Balls is my brother, Bill (Paul William) Kaser.

The recipe is below, but the first step in the directions should really be “Take off any rings you are wearing and wash your hands well.”  Because you are definitely going to dig your hands into the dough on these. There’s no other way to make them.

Christmas Cookie: Bourbon Balls

Serves 5 doz. small cookies
Allergy Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Christmas


  • 2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (11 oz box)
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup (Either light or dark)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup bourbon (See note)
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 4 tablespoons powdered unsweetened cocoa


1. Mix wafers, pecans, cocoa and corn syrup. Add in enough bourbon to make a sticky dough. It will still be somewhat crumbly.
2. Scoop up the dough by scant spoonfuls, press together with hand. Roll between palms into a ball about 1/2 " in diameter.
3. Mix well the confectioners sugar and 4 Tablespoons cocoa in a small bowl.
4. Roll each ball in the sugar mixture until coated.
5. If you want a more dense covering of sugar/cocoa, let stand an hour or so then roll again before storing in airtight container to ripen for at least a week.


Although I traditionally make these as bourbon balls, they can also morph into rum balls, chocolate liqueur balls, or even anise-flavored ouzo balls. Don't be afraid to experiment. However, just as when you cook with wine, the better the quality of the liquor, the better the taste of the finished product.