It’s no secret that in Bourbon Country, the state’s signature spirit is a favorite ingredient in a slew of recipes, but perhaps none is more popular (or sweeter tasting) than the bourbon ball.
The bite-size sugary treat was created by Ruth Booe of the Rebecca Ruth Candy Co., in 1936, in Frankfort, the state capital just north of Louisville. The story goes that the bourbon-filled chocolate balls were born as a result of a comment by the Kentucky governor, who remarked that there was no better taste than a bite of chocolate followed by a sip of bourbon.
Booe’s recipe has been hailed over the years by Gourmet magazine and The New York Times.
Kentucky’s most famous candy in its original version is a melt-in-your-mouth combination of pecans, bourbon and chocolate. Most families have their own adapted recipes, much like “Derby Pie” and local chocolate shops have infused their own spins with added flavors from cayenne to mint or peach flavors.
You can find the bourbon-spiked bonbons at a variety of local candy shops, who have whipped up their own special varieties, including Cellar Door Chocolates, DB Bourbon Candy, Art Eatables and Happy Balls, which claims to use three different aging processes to make its bourbon balls that take a minimum of 56 hours and two minutes to create.
Bourbon Balls (Courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Museum Cookbook):
1 stick butter
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons bourbon (any kind will do, as long as it’s from Kentucky!)
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
One day ahead: Cream the butter and sugar. Add the chopped pecans, mixing well. Add the bourbon and quickly shape into balls using 1 teaspoon of the mixture for each ball. Refrigerate overnight.
Next day: Melt both the chocolates in a double boiler until the chocolate has a smooth consistency. Dip the chilled bourbon balls into the chocolate. Place the candy on waxed paper in the refrigerator to harden.
Makes 4 dozen.