Celebrate the Holidays with Kentucky Bourbon Balls

by BrendaReeves

If you have never tasted a Kentucky bourbon ball, it's time you did. There are two ways to accomplish this: Order a box from Rebecca Ruth Candy or make them yourself.

According to Martin Booe, his grandmother, Ruth Hanly Booe, started a candy business with her friend Rebecca Gooch in 1919 in Frankfort, Kentucky. As the legend goes, Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon made the statement that nothing tastes better than a bite of chocolate followed by a sip of bourbon. This sparked a creative flame in Ruth's mind: Why not create a candy that embodied both chocolate and bourbon? It took Ruth two years to perfect the recipe for the bourbon balls that debuted in 1938.

The confection turned Ruth into somewhat of a culinary celebrity garnering her accolades in Gourmet and by Craig Claiborne in The New York Times in the 1950s. Today, Ruth's recipe is a closely guarded secret. Rebecca Ruth Candy still thrives and sells Kentucky Bourbon Balls made from the original recipe.

Rebecca Ruth Candy Store in Frankfort, Kentucky
Rebecca Ruth Candy Store in Frankfort...

A High Demand for Bourbon Balls

There are as many bourbon ball recipes as there are race horses in Kentucky. Kentucky cooks have attempted over the years to duplicate Ruth's recipe. You'll find varying recipes of the candy on the Internet and in Southern cookbooks. One recipe is made with rolled vanilla wafers. I made this recipe many years ago, but forget how they tasted, but I do know they are cake-like. This is not a true Kentucky Bourbon Ball. Ruth's invention is a candy bonbon.

I present you with one of the recipes for Kentucky Bourbon Balls. My first attempt at duplicating the "Real McCoy" was a combination of success and failure. They tasted great, but were a bit misshapen. Evidently there is a science to making these candies.

The trick is to keep the chocolate at an even temperature. I melted my chocolate chips in the microwave, and the first few were a success, but as the chocolate began to cool, it began to lump up. Re-microwaving it just made matters worse. Therefore, I'm going to order one of the chocolate melting pots seen here from Amazon: most likely the Wilton. If you are also interested in purchasing one, read the reviews first.

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Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Quick and Easy

Prep time 30 min  -  Total time 60 min
Ingredients for 48 servings
1 stick of real butter, softened  • 1 pound powdered sugar  • 1 cup chopped pecans  • 4 tablespoons bourbon  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate


Cream butter and powdered sugar. Add pecans and bourbon, mix well.
Place in freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to chill (don't freeze).
Remove from freezer and shape 1 teaspoon of mixture into balls placing them on a cookie sheet.
Return to freezer for another 20 to 30 minutes to set.

Melt chocolate chips. Remove bourbon balls from the freezer and dip them in the chocolate, place on cookie sheet, and top with half a pecan. Return to freezer until hardened.

Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (1 Votes)

Quips and Tips

I modified the Kentucky Bourbon Balls recipe found in Best of the Best from Kentucky Cookbook. They got the recipe from The Kentucky Derby Museum Cook Book. The original recipe uses 4 ounces semisweet chocolate and 4 ounces bitter chocolate. It also calls for refrigerating the cream mixture overnight after forming it into balls.

The modifications that could be made to the cream mixture are limitless. Leave out the bourbon and use mint chocolate chips or flavor the cream mixture with mint. Try orange, maple or any flavor you like. You could also use white chocolate or butterscotch chips. Some people use rum in place of the bourbon. Experiment around and perfect the bonbons to your liking.

Updated: 09/16/2012, BrendaReeves
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BrendaReeves on 10/02/2012

Thanks Tolovaj. The bourbon is pretty powerful.

Tolovaj on 10/01/2012

I had similar recipe with hazelnuts instead of pecans and rum (or brandy) instead of bourbon. It's a great treat, although I always needed more than four table spoons. Those drinks are so volatile...

BrendaReeves on 09/19/2012

Thank you for the comment, Mira.

Mira on 09/19/2012

That recipe sounds amazing. I will try it sometime :-))

BrendaReeves on 09/19/2012

Katie, they were delicious! My mother and I plowed through that plate of candy. I'm trying to cut out sugar, but I'm dying to make some more.

katiem2 on 09/19/2012

Oh my these sound delicious. I will have to give these a go this holiday season. I'm Scottish and you know we put a bit of Scotch into every day. Sounds right up my alley. I might not be able to wait before I make Kentucky bourbon balls. Thanks for the recipe. :)K

BrendaReeves on 09/16/2012

Arlene, thank you. My waisline disappeared a long time ago.

BrendaReeves on 09/16/2012

Have both Lil. lol Thanks for the comment.

Ragtimelil on 09/16/2012

Now this sounds good. Although I could forgo the cooking and just have the bourbon. hahaha

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