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Bourbon Balls

two gray bowls filled with Bourbon Balls served on a gray surface

From frosty Mint Juleps in the summer to warming drams in the winter, bourbon is a year-round drink. But many people go out of their way to enjoy the complex spirit in the fall, because September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and cooler weather pairs well with bourbon’s baking-spice notes. Observing this bourbon holiday is, of course, voluntary, but strongly suggested. After all, bourbon is delicious on its own, mixed into cocktails like the Old Fashioned and used in some traditional baked goods.

For an example of edible bourbon, witness this simple and delicious Bourbon Balls recipe from Matt and Ted Lee, whose “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook” won a James Beard Award. The best part is that the boozy treats only take about 15 minutes to create.

Bourbon Balls are most often served during the holidays, but the brothers like to make the recipe any chance they get. Once you taste the sweet mix of whiskey, nuts, cocoa and spices, you’ll want to keep a bowl on hand all year long.


  • 2 ounces bourbon

  • 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup, cane syrup, molasses or honey

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 10 ounces vanilla wafer cookies (about 60 wafers)

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon and sorghum syrup until well-combined.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the powdered sugar with the cocoa powder, cayenne, cinnamon, mace and salt.

  3. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir the bourbon mixture into the dry mixture until a smooth, glossy paste forms.

  4. In a food processor, pulse the vanilla wafers into fine crumbs, about 10 (5-second) pulses.

  5. Add the wafer crumbs and pecans to the bourbon mixture and stir until consistently doughy and workable, about 2 minutes.

  6. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl or a plate. Roll each ball in the powdered sugar then place on a sheet of waxed paper.

  7. Store in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid, with a sheet of waxed paper between layers, for up to 4 days.